Name of ethnic group: Phu La (Xa Pho, Bo Kho Pa, Mu Di Pa, Pho, Va Xo and La Dun Dang).
Population: 9,046 people (Year 1999).
Locality: Lai Chau, Son La, Lao Cai, and Ha Giang provinces. The largest settlements are in Lao Cai Province.
Customs and habits
The Phu La worship their ancestors and believe in animism. They live in various villages, each village containing about 10-15 households. The house is built very simply with three rooms and a thatched roof. The oldest men, the village chiefs, and the lineage heads play a significant role in managing public affairs. The young people are not forced to marry. After an engagement the bride comes to live with her husband’s family; the wedding, however, may be held one or two years later.
The Pu La language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman Group.
Men’s garments have unique characteristic such as an open shirt with many glass beads and figures that are arranged in a cross shape. Women’s dresses are embroidered with many colourful motifs. The women often wear square aprons that are embroidered with motifs and attached with glass beads sewn in parallel lines or in an eight tipped star pattern.
The Phu La depend on farming using the slash-and-burn method and planting on terraced fields. They rear buffaloes, horses, and pigs. Basketry is another form of income and they are well known for their beautifully decorated bamboo and rattan articles. The Phu La often sell or barter articles for other commodity goods from other ethnic groups.