Laos Seung – Laotian Hill Tribe

Lao Seung people

The last group of Laotian people and also the one that has the most severe living condition which is at the height of over 1000 meters. This group only accounts for about 15 percent of Laotian population and is the best representative of Hill Tribe in Laos. They also share some features with Laos Loum and Laos Theung in family, religion, traditional custom, etc.

Family & Lifestyle
Family of Laos Seung is the same with Laos Theung, both of them are extended family. Or all most in South East Asia, people prefer the big family with grandparents, parents and children. The relationship within members of family is much closed and it is even more than the relationship with community. Laos Seung prefers individualism which household often more important than village. Another characteristic of Laos Seung family is patrilineal which consider man is the more important than woman. When a woman get married, she will move to husband‘s house and lives there with his parents and many other generations.
Since being regarded as ethnic groups in Laos, they often don’t have the access to education well, their lifestyle is fogy. Laos Seung still maintain the nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, which means they will stay in an area for cultivating land for a while until the land spoils and move to another area nearby. This practice is not recommended as it is the main cause for soil erosion in mountainous area.

A street life of Lao people on the hill
A street life of Lao people on the hill

Traditional Customs & Practices
The main religion in upland Laos is Animism and rarely Buddhism. They believe in the existence of spirit, the main factor that contributes to illness. There will be an assigned person, who is in charge of curing for villager, chivying all the bad spirit that harm people. They have witches, shamans and their own custom and tradition. A minor religion in Laos Seung is Christian since the invasion of French colonial. Christianity together with French military appeared there.

Ethnic Group
Laos Seung is mainly located in mountainous area in Northern Part of Laos, there are many ethnic groups belonging to this group such as: Hmong, Akha, Phu Noi, the Mien, etc. Specially, Hmong ethnic group is regarded as the dominance in the group (consisting of two third of Laos Seung population). In this part, I will focus on Hmong housing, family, relationship between men and women, community, etc.

A Lao Seung girl in her traditional costume
A Lao Seung girl in her traditional costume

Hmong ethnic group originally comes from China since the late nineteenth century. And now they are living in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Different from Laos Loum and Laos Theung, Hmong house is directly build on the ground with no stilt. The decoration in the house is minimized as possible, the kitchen in put inside the house. There are many bed room for the extend family and the bed is often higher than the ground for 40-50 centimeters to avoid dirty. Hmong altar is also very simple as a place to worship their ancestor.
Although polygyny is restricted in modern society, Hmong still allow polygyny marriage. The reason is that Hmong people work mainly on the field grow rice and corn. An additional wife with more children will increase labor force in the family, therefore, bring wealthy to the family. Nowadays, this custom has been limited by Laotian government. Otherwise, the relationship between men and women in Hmong ethnic group is clearly distinguished. Women will be in charge of all housework and they also have to assist their husband on the field. Since Hmong society is patrilineal, the difference is even bigger.
In Hmong society, they still maintain the social system of a king and sub chiefs. In the village level, there are several clans in one village; therefore, there are several headmen of each clan. One of them will be the one represent for the village and directly relates to the government and represent for their opinion.

The Laos Seung, a Laotian hill tribe, offers a fascinating cultural experience for those embarking on a Laos tour. Interacting with the Laos Seung, participating in traditional activities, and witnessing their traditional crafts and rituals can create memorable moments and foster cross-cultural understanding. A visit to the Laos Seung during a Laos tour offers a glimpse into a world of ancient traditions, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality, leaving travelers with lasting memories and a deeper appreciation for the cultural tapestry of Laos.