Home About Xiengkhouang Xieng Khouang Population

Xieng Khouang Population

Xieng Khouang is home to five different ethnic groups. The Tai Dam, Tai Daeng, Phuan, Khmu and Hmong have settled in the province. Their traditional houses, dresses, beliefs and rituals are part of the cultural heritage of Laos. There is also a minority of Laotian Chinese and Vietnamese as well as some international workers and missionaries from Korea and the USA.

Tai Dam

Tai Dam,Tai Daeng and Tai Phuan belong to the Tai linguistic family, by far the most significant family in Laos, comprising 60% of the national population. The Tai Dam migrated from northern Vietnam to Laos 80–300 years ago. They are not Buddhists, instead they practice a form of ancestor and spirit worship. Tai Dam are well known producers of fine quality silk and cotton textiles and many women export directly to markets in Japan and the USA. Old Tai Dam women still wear the traditional blue indigo cotton shirt, skirt and a black turban woven with colored patterns. They produce rice alcohol, called ‘lao lao’, that is consumed socially and used for ritual purposes.

Tai Dam settle in upland valleys near streams and irrigable and accessible plains scattered among Lao and Phuan villages. They built rectangular symmetric houses on piling, foot pounder and rice granary are under the house. The villages are composed of 15¬60 houses and are not fenced. The people mainly live on wet rice, vegetables, poultry, weaving, sewing and hunting.

The ancestors of the Tai Phuan once founded the kingdom of the same name.


Being part of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austro-Asiatic lingusitic family, the Khmu present one of the largest ethnic groups in Laos. They settled in the area several thousand years ago. The Khmu did a rapid acculturation and there is now little in their clothing that distinguishes them from the surrounding Lao, although they speak a completely different language.

Khmu houses are built on stilts; each village has a communal house where men gather for political discussions, or work together on basket making and other crafts. Like many ethnic groups in Lao the Khmu practice their own form of animism. The Khmu are well-known for their skill at making baskets, fish traps, and other objects from bamboo. Their material culture, their tools, utensils, baskets and netbags reflect their continued reliance on the forest. Growing rice, hunting, gathering forest products and producing handicrafts provide some cash income. Take a taste of their famous brew ‘lao hai’(jar alcohol) while visiting one of the many Khmu villages.


Hmong people originate from the high steppes of Mongolia and Tibet. They migrated from China to Laos between 1810 and 1900. Having a strong desire for independence they rebelled against the Chinese attempts to control and settle them and they fled in successive waves southwards. During the Lao Civil war in the 1960s and 1970s Hmong were recruited by the CIAs ‘secret army’, commanded by Hmong General Vang Pao. Hmong villages were relocated in free-fire zones and many died during these evacuations or due to fighting. When the communists came to power in 1975 tens of thousands of Hmong fled to Thailand or emigrated to USA. Today the diaspora is a major economic factor in the province by sending high amounts of remittances fuelling a significant of construction activity.[6]

The Hmong present 6-10% of the total population of Laos and remain most numerous and concentrated in the east of Xieng Khouang. In the province the White Hmong, the Striped Hmong and the Green Hmong can be distinguished. The easiest way to differentiate these groups is by looking at the women’s dress.

Hmong live in forested mountains between 800 to 1,500 meters of altitude and in Laos they are categorized as Lao Soung -the highland people, although today there are a more and more villages located in the low lands.

Hmong live in villages ranging in size from 15 to over 60 houses. They are not fenced and organized by clan. The rectangular houses are beaten on soil, have one room without windows. The walls are made of vertical wood planks and bamboo and a thatch roof. Hmong are known for their knowledge of the forest, herbal medicines and expertise in raising animals. Their agricultural system is based on rain fed slope cultivation with slash and burn techniques. They live on ordinary rice, corn and vegetable production, swine and poultry, gathering, hunting, embroidery and basket work.

Their religion is a form of shamanistic animism with cult of ancestors and spirits, and Their religion is a form of shamanistic animism with cult of ancestors and spirits, and belief in three souls. Certain spirits protect the people within the village boundaries while others maintain their influence over the plant and animal kingdom outside the village.

Hmong women are renowned for their embroidery and weaving. Traditionally clothes are made from hemp and cotton. Batik, used only by Green Hmong for their distinctive skirts is a very long process. Before dying the cloth the pattern is been marked with wax. The wax is then removed to reveal the pattern. The wax is applied with a batik pen and the design is completed square by square. Many geometrical patterns exist and they are passed on from mother to daughter. The material is pleated by running a sharp edged stone along the pleat lines on alternate sides of the cloth, and sewing the poles into place at the waistband. The skirts with many other items of Hmong clothing are also embroided. Embroidery and applique is a social activity, a time for women to sit together and exchange views and news.

The Hmong New Year celebrations in December, starting from the 15th day of the ascending moon, are accompanied by numerous activities including top-spinning competitions, dances, songs and bull fights. It is one of the main occasions used for finding a wife or a husband. The young men and women toss the makkono, a small fabric ball as part of a charming courting ritual. The throwing of the ball can go on for hours. During the festivities the Hmong women wear their traditional dresses which are adorned with intricate embroidery and silver jewelry.