In 1989 census, the
Ngai population was 1,154 inhabitants who
settled in Quang Ninh, Ha Bac, Lang Son, Cao
Bang, Bac Thai and Ho Chi Minh City. Ngai
community has other names such as Ngai Hac
Ca, Sin, Le, Common denomination is San Ngai
(meaning mountaineers). Ngai language
belongs to the Han Group.
The Ngai live mainly on rice cultivation.
Those who live in sea islands or along the
coastal regions mainly engage in fishing.
The Ngai traditionally used to dig canals,
build dams and water reservoirs and
reinforce sea dykes, Mat-making, bamboo
screen making, blacksmithing, carpentry,
lime, tile and brick-baking are their
The Ngai wear costume in the same way with
the Hoa (or Han), They always wear various
kinds of hats made from palm, leaves and
rattan, or put on scarves and umbrellas.
The Ngai villages constantly settle on the
hillsides, in valleys or along the coast and
on islands. The house consists of three
compartments and two lean-tos. Patriarchy is
the main rule in a family. The boys are
respected by all members of the family. The
girls are not divided inheritance after her
parents' death. She must come to live in her
husband's house after marriage.
In the past, Ngai young people must sit
wherever their parents placed. Marriage
comprises two steps : wedding and nuptial
rite. The boy's family always chooses a girl
for their son. When in pregnancy, Ngai women
must practice carefully many taboos: not
eating snail, beef, goat and sewing or
buying clothes. Sixty days after the first
birth and 40 days with second birth and so
on that the woman is permitted to come back
to visit her parents' home.
It is customary that
if person dies, funeral is carefully
organized. After the burial, a rite is
continuously held on the 21st day, 35th day,
42nd day, 49th day, 63rd day and 70th day.
Three years later, another rite will be held
to leave off mourning.
The Ngai have great respect for ancestor
worship, so do for the souls and genies. All
families have ancestor altars, all hamlets
have temples and pagodas built.
Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have
deeply influenced the life of the Ngai
The Ngai preserve love duet called suong co,
a rich cultural activity. The young couples
can sing in five to seven consecutive night
that the verses are not repeated. In their
proverbs and sayings, the advices of
production experience and ways of living can
be found. Other entertainments are much
liked by the people including lion-dance,
stick-dance and fellow-my-leader game.