Dao Khau – a typical Dao group


(VOVworld) – “Cấp sắc” or “Quá tăng” meaning “maturity ritual”, is a typical cultural feature of the Dao people. They believe a man that has not passed a “cap sac” ritual can not unite with his ancestors when he dies and will not be recognized as a descendant of the Ban Vuong. An adult man who has not passed a “cap sac” ritual is not acknowledged as mature and is unqualified to practice and attend hamlet rituals and works.

A part of the cap sac ritual of the Dao in Tuyen Quang province (photo: dantocviet.vn)

Dao boys must pass a maturity at some point in their lifetime. For the Dao Khau, the ritual is especially important, because otherwise the boy will find it difficult to get married. The ritual acknowledges the status of a man in the community. The Mong, Tay, and San Chay ethnic groups organize the “cap sac” ritual only for men who want to be shamans, while the Dao consider it a compulsory ritual for all men. The Red Dao hold a “cap sac” ritual for males from 12 to 30 years old, the Long Shirt Dao for males from 11 to 19 years old, and the Dao Khau for 11 and 12 year olds. Tan La U works at the Lai Chau Museum of Ethnic Groups. “The family will organize a maturity ritual for their son at 11 or 12 years old so he is acknowledged as a grown-up and able to participate in community work. If the family can not organize a ritual for him at this age, he can not unite with his ancestors when he dies, unless during the funeral, the villagers hold a special cap sac ritual.” 


The Dao Tien in Cao Bang province organize the cap sac ritual for married men but Dao Khau girls will not marry men who have not passed a cap sac ritual. Tan Kim Phu of Sin Ho township, Lai Chau province, says: Cap sac is a rule for all boys. After the cap sac ritual, a good man who wants to be a shaman will be bestowed the shaman title. A man who has learned the prayers will not be allowed to practice the worshiping rituals if he has not passed a cap sac ritual. No cap sac ritual, no marriage. The man is seen as immature.”

A family cap sac ritual is a hamlet festival at which all the villagers witness the ritual and congratulate the family. The ritual is costly and a family often has to prepare for many years. Mr. Phu said: “The family has to prepare a lot of food, including dozens of pigs and they have to invite a shaman to conduct the ritual. All the villagers attend the event and feast for 2 to 3 days.”



Cap sac ritual of the Dao in Ha Giang province


Before the ceremony, attendees have to follow certain rules: do not eat dog meat, do not kill animals, do good deeds. Mr. Phu elaborates: “There are rules for all ritual attendees. Couples have to practice abstinence from sex. The boy has to follow a strict regimen for several days and when he passes the challenge he becomes a mature man.”

Doctor Vi Văn An, Head of the Southeast Asian Study and Collection Office of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, says the boy is carried to the altar. When the shaman finishes the prayer, the boy is dropped into a net: An says:  “The action marks the maturity of a Dao Khau man. The net, which looks like a spider web, is held by 4 men. The man will be taken home to enjoy a feast, while the shaman will practice other rites such as offering lanterns and ritual dances.”


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