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Ethnic Minorities in Vietnam: Focus on the Bahnar People

25/06/2020 68 Views

Vietnam is a country with a cultural, historical and natural heritage, but did you know that the country also has an important ethnographic heritage? Indeed, the country is home to nearly 50 minority ethnic groups that represent 10% of the Vietnamese population!

Quick look at these mountains ethnic groups and zoom on the Bahnar people…


Mountains ethnic groups in Vietnam

Throughout history, minority ethnic groups have always been pushed aside by Vietnamese strains called “Kinh”. The plains being the domain of the Kinh, it is in the highlands of the center and the north’s mountains these minorities were established, delineating their territory in inaccessible and inhospitable regions.

The Central Highlands of Vietnam include the provinces of Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nông and Lâm Dông. The region is full of natural landscapes with many lakes, waterfalls, caves and remains, with reliefs that are distinguished by their vast expanses. Thus, the Highlands region is the cradle of six ancient ‘Montagnard’ peoples, including the Jrai, the Êdê, the Brau, Gei Trieng, Ro Mam, Xo Trang and the Bahnars. These ethnic minorities hold their own languages, customs, knowledge and traditional crafts. 

Who are the Mountain people?

The Mountain people were the first inhabitants of the highlands. Their way of life is organized on the scale of villages that mark a territory on which its inhabitants exploit the land, cultivate it, fish and hunt. 

Their houses are built on stilts, so as to offer protection against wild animals and heavy rain that can be torrential! These houses surround the Common House which is the heart of the social life of the village.

Also, religion is a central point in the life of the Mountain people, based on the belief that spirits are present in places or objects, marking this belief system as the deep integration of Man with nature.


Traditional costume

Traditional constume


Originally from the Mountain people, the Bahnars are an ethnic group that lives in the central highlands and the province of Kontum. There are now about 150,000 of them. 

Kon Tum is located at the north of the Highlands and this province shares its border with Laos and Cambodia. Kon Tum is full of vestiges and cultural heritage specific to the Bahnar ethnic group. Here we discover the wooden church, built in 1913, which combines with the architecture of the raised houses in stilts of the Bahnar ethnic group. The site has a basilica, an exhibition hall and a communal house typical of the ethnic and rectangular villages. But also, there is the orphanage and a workshop of handicrafts of these minority ethnic groups. 


Kon Tum's wooden church and house builts on stilts

The Bahnars live off their culture, on the mountain grounds. They grow rice, but also green vegetables, spices, sugar cane and fruits, all by using a form of slash and burn agriculture to exploit the environment in a respectful way. But also, they live by breeding buffaloes, oxens, goats, chickens or pigs. 


Rich of their own ancestral traditions, the Bahnars have their own folk songs in their language, dances and parties, such as the traditional Puh hơ drih festival aimed at attracting prosperity, health and avoiding misfortune. Their musical instruments are varied, especially with many types of gongs and tam-tams. Also, they engrave wood and make statues, these being mainly on the tombs or in decoration at the Common House. 


Bahnar people and music

In addition to their own language and traditions, the Bahnars also have their own dress style! The traditional costume is an element that makes the identity of the Bahnars, expressing their cultural and religious identity! Very connected to nature, this translates into costumes whose Bahnars cultivate cotton to make yarns that can be dyed to weave them. Today, the Bahnars mainly use their traditional costumes for events and celebrations.




The Bahnar ethnic group, like all minority ethnic groups in Vietnam, stands out with its own way of life, traditions and customs. This ethnic heritage is considered by the government as a real development asset for tourism in Vietnam, but it is necessary to preserve the cultural identity of these ethnic groups. 


So, if you are fond of human encounters and passionate about mountain areas, it is possible to meet these ethnic groups, in a solidarity and responsible way. 

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