Cultural characteristics of the Bo Y
Update: Sep 23, 2015
The Bo Y have the smallest population of the 54 ethnic groups in Viet Nam. About 3,000 Bo Y people live in a few hamlets in Quan Ba and Dong Van district in the northern border province of Ha Giang.

The Bo Y, also called the Pu Y, Chung Cha, Trong Gia, or Tu Di, live mainly by cultivating terraced fields and raising cattle and poultry. They forge farm tools and housewares and make wood products and pottery. 

Women grow cotton, weave cloth, and make clothes and accessories. The Bo Y in Ha Giang are patriarchal, which means the husband decides everything. 3 or 4 generations live together in a house.

Ngu Khoi Phuong, a researcher of the Bo Y, said, “The Bo Y now have 10 clans. They have maintained their traditional lifestyle and customs such as organizing New Year celebrations, weddings, and funerals. They have their typical folk songs. About 700 Bo Y people live in this hamlet.”

Each Bo Y clan has a system of middle names of 5 to 9 words. Each word represents one generation and shows the position of that person in the family.

Although they have a small population, the Bo Y have upheld their typical customs and culture. For example, on his wedding day, the groom doesn’t go to bring the bride home.

His younger sister will ride a beautiful horse to fetch the bride. Sons don’t cut the hair of their father and daughters don’t comb the hair of their mother. Only when their parents die, are they allowed to comb their parents’ hair. 

During 3 years of mourning their father or mother, sons don’t drink wine, daughters don’t wear jewelry, neither are allowed to get married.   

The Bo Y celebrate the Lunar New Year, the 1st lunar month of the year, the 5th day of the 5th lunar month’s festival of killing the inner insects, and the new rice festival. 

They prepare steamed glutinous rice and cakes made of pounded glutinous rice to worship Heaven and their ancestors and pray for health, good weather, and a bountiful harvest. At family events and festivals the Bo Y sing their folk songs. 

Mr. Phuong noted, “They have different songs for welcoming, congratulations, weddings, and flirting. To welcome they sing “Where are you from? What is the far away land you come from? Why do you come here?”

The Bo Y wear indigo shirts which button on the right side. Women’s costumes are more eye-catching with colorful decorations and embroidery. Women wear shirts, colorful dresses, and headscarves. 

Luc Suong Minh, Head of the Ethnicity Office of Quan Ba district, said although integrated with other groups, the Bo Y have preserved their culture.

“The Bo Y have benefited from local socio-economic development. But they still uphold their traditions of festivals, weddings, and funerals. The administration has supported them in preserving their culture,” Minh shared.

Ha Giang province has created a project to preserve the folk singing of the Bo Y by documenting songs and encouraging old people to teach the songs to young people.