This page provides some details about the Ha Nhi people. They are one of the 54 groups of people in Vietnam.

Name Of Ethnic Group

Ha Nhi (also called U Ni and Xa U Ni)

Ha Nhi People Population

25,539 people (2019 Census)


Lai Chau and Lao Cai provinces.

Also called U Ni and Xa U Ni, the Ha Nhi people have about 12,500 inhabitants settling in the provinces of Lai Chau arc Lao Cai. Ha Nhi language belongs to the Tibet-Burman Group. The Ha Nhi mainly worship their ancestors. Ha Nhi people live on rice cultivation of burnt-over land or terraced fields. In reality, they are one of the groups who have a traditional experience in reclaiming terraced fields on mountain slopes, digging canals, and building small dams. They use ploughs and harrows pulled by oxen and buffaloes to work the fields. The gardens are often close to their houses.


Animal husbandry is developed as well as the weaving of cloth, wattling of basketry articles. Most of the Ha Nhi people can produce clothes for themselves. Women’s dress varies depending on the region. The women of Lai Chau have a decorated dress in raw colours, different from the dress of Lao Cai women which is in indigo colour only.


The Ha Nhi people have adopted a sedentary lifestyle. Each hamlet contains 60 households. The Ha Nhi consists of many family lineages. Each lineage comprises many branches. Every year, at Tet (New Year’s Day), the people of the same lineage get together to listen to elderly men speaking about their ancestors. Some lineages recall far back their 40 generation ancestors. The children often take the name of the father or the name of the animal corresponding to their birthdays as their middle names.


The young men and women are free to choose their partners. Each marriage goes through two stages. In the first stage, the young man and women become husband and wife. The bride comes to life with her husband’s family and takes the family name of the husband according to the custom of the Ha Nhi in Lai Chau province. Also in Lai Chau, matriarchy is still available. The second stage is normally when the couple gets rich or has a child.

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Funeral customs vary according to regions, but common practices have prevailed such as when a person dies, the partition making off the bedroom of the deceased is dismantled, as well as the altar to the ancestors. They place the dead body on a bed in the kitchen and then choose good hours and days for burial. To determine the place of burial, an egg is tossed in the air and the grave dug where the egg hits the ground and breaks. There is no cemetery in the whole village. Around the grave, Ha Nhi people pile up stones without building a funeral house or a protective fence. Earth grown with grass is refrained from filling up the grave.


The Ha Nhi possess many ancient tales arc stories in long verses. The young men and women play their own dances according to rhythms and accompanied by musical instruments. In fact, the young couples used to expose their love by playing leaf panpipe, lip organ, and vertical flute. The young girls like to play am ba, met du, tuy huy or nat xi (various kinds of traditional flutes) when night falls. The young boys like to play la khu, a string zither. Besides, the festivals, drums, cymbals, and castanets are performed. The Ha Nhi also have many songs such as lullabies, duet songs, wedding songs, mourning songs, and songs reserved for new houses, receiving guests, and welcoming Tet holidays. Particularly, a wedding song of the Ha Nhi in Muong Te District of Lai Chau province is composed of 400 verses.

For more information about 53 more ethnic groups of people in Vietnam, please follow this link

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