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Ha Nhi

Name of an ethnic group of people, whose members live in the northern Vietnamese provinces of Lai Chau and Lao Cai, and whose population is estimated between 12,500 and 17,500 souls. Their vernacular belongs to the Tibetan-Burman group of languages and their houses, which usually have walls covered with loam and roofs thatched with grass, often have the shape of a rectangular mushroom. The traditional dress of the Ha Nhi differs according to locality. The Ha Nhi women of Y Ty in Lao Cai Province, for example, wear plain black trousers and a black long-sleeved jacket, with a colourful waistband. On the front, back and sleeves, the jacket is decorated with a decorative pattern of embroidery in mixed vivid blue, pale blue and white, and with some silver buttons on the front, that are believed to ward off evil. A piece of jewelry decorated with silver coins, may be worn around the neck. These coins represent a wish for an affluent life. The women's headdress consists of a simple blue scarf, though originally women also wear an eye-catching black piece of artificial hair across the head, which is traditionally plaited from horse hair and sometimes mixed with a piece of plaited black wool. Little children wear brim-less hats made of fabric and with a tassel, and whilst those of boys are rather plain (fig.), the hats of girls are more enhancing as they are in addition adorned with silver coins, pom-poms in various colours, and strings of beads (fig.). The main occupation of the Ha Ni is rice cultivation on terraced paddies. The Ha Ni are also known as U Ni and Xa U Ni, and –though similar in name– they are unrelated to the Hani people from the nearby southern Chinese province of Yunnan. See also SLIDESHOW PICTURE.