A golden souvenir of the hilltribes of Tonkin – Red Dao (Yao) from Lao Cai province

The Red Dao people are a sub-branch of the Yao (Mien) nationality, a non Chinese minority moved most likely from the Yang Tse Basin many centuries ago to the Southern Chinese provinces of Hunan, Guizhou, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan. Possibly around the 13th century they pushed onwards to northern Vietnam then Laos and finally Thailand. Perhaps nine or ten centuries ago they became Taoists and adherence to this religion has helped them survive as a small but sophisticated society based on 12 original clans, with very strong traditions, customs and culture but no country of their own.

During the migration, the different groups incorporated some cultural practices of other nations, creating new, diverse Dao cultures. However, the different groups still maintain a common Dao identity, as they have the same origins and continue to share a common language which is based on 14th century Chinese written characters and shamanism.

The Sapa Valley is home to several Red Dao villages that are very well preserved, and where the excellent traditional textile and embroidery is still thriving.

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