Thursday, December 5, 2019

Costumes of the Sino Tibetan Peoples part 4e. The Yi or Lo Lo of Vietnam and Laos

Hello all, 

The Yi are mostly confined to the Chinese Empire, but a small number live in northern Vietnam and Laos. They live very close to the border, and are mostly called Lolo by the Vietnamese and Lao, although one group is called Phu La. 

Lo Lo in Vietnam

In Vietnam, the group that is called Lô Lô by the Vietnamese live in northeastern Giang Province, mostly in the district of Mèo Vạc. This borders Napo County in Guangxi, and Funing and Malipo Counties in Yunnan. There are three of these costumes. These costumes firmly belong to the Wenxi style that I talked about in my article on the Southeastern Yi. They speak a Yi language called Mantsi.

 There are about 3,100 Lolo in Vietnam, but they have three distinct costume styles. These groups are generally called the Flowery Lolo, the Red Lolo, and the Black Lolo. All three are found in roughly the same district. The costumes are distinct but have much in common.

Flowery Lolo or Lo Lo Hua

The image at the head of the article is of Flowery Lolo. The jacket is similar to that worn in Napo, although the ornamentation is different, and the pants are similar to that worn by the men in Malipo. A cloth is wrapped around the waist from the back, which essentially forms a back apron. There is a great deal of ornamentation on the jackets, pants, and waist ornaments, mostly applique and patchwork. Today commercially produced shirts are often worn under the jacket, where traditionally nothing was worn. 
More information is available at this website by Haute Culture Fashion, which features many stories about traditional attire in Asia.

Here is a video from Haute Culture which shows a little bit about putting on and making a Flowery Lolo costume.

Black Lolo or Lo Lo Den

The Black Lolo wear a very similar jacket, but shorter, and with much less ornament. There is a panel in the center of the back, and narrow stripes of applique on the sleeves. The rest of the costume is mostly plain black. 
For more information about the Black Lolo see here. 

The following image is used with permission of the photographer, Serena Lee. You may find more information on textiles and travel at her website.

Here is a video about visiting a Black Lolo village. Narrated in French.

 Red Lolo or Lo Lo Trang

This group is often lumped in with the Flowery Lolo, but the costume is distinct, having more loose pieces with streamers attached. The headdress is also distinct. 
More information is available about one particular village of this group here. 

The following image is also from Serena Lee



Phu La

This group is found in the next province to the west, Lào Cai. This province borders Hekou County in Honghe Prefecture, Yunnan.

The Phu La are made up of two different groups with very different costumes. Each group speaks a few different languages of the Yi language family, with the two groups not necessarily being closely related.

Phù Lá Hán

This is what the Vietnamese call them. These people live in the northern districts of Lào Cai Province, right next to the Yunnan border. There are perhaps 8000 of these people in Vietnam, with a further 4000 in Yunnan. This costume falls into the Jianshui Style of the Southern Yi. [See my last article] The costume consists of pants, a shirt that fastens on the side, a bib type apron, and a kerchief or wreath on the head. This would look familiar from my other articles on Yi costume.

The full costume is not always worn. Here we have Phu La women at the market. In the background of the first image is a woman of the Flowery Hmong.


Here is a video of some Phu La Han girls singing.

Phù Lá Lão

This group is also called  Xá Phó or Laghuu. There are about 1000 of these people, some of whom live south of the Phu La Han in this province, and others who have migrated further south. The costume, while very ornate and beautiful, is not of any Yi type. It rather resembles the costumes of Khmer and Tai related peoples of the area.

Lolo in Laos

The Lolo of Laos number about 1400, and live mostly in the north of Phongsali Province.This borders on Jiangcheng and Mengla Counties in Yunnan. 

Some of these people are called Alu. The costume belongs to the Yuanyang Style of the Southern Yi [see my last article], and is similar to the costume of Jiangcheng. It includes a knee length gown which may be tucked into a wrap skirt. Pants are worn less commonly, because of the climate and influence of surrounding peoples. The younger women affix ornamental medallions to their turbans. No vest is worn.


Here is a video of a man visiting a Lolo village in Laos and asking to see old clothing. A couple of the women are wearing traditional costume. 

 Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. 

Roman K


Source Material:
Serena Lee, 'Redefining Borders and Identity: Ethnic Dress of the Lolo/Yi Across the Vietnam-China Border', Lincoln, Ne, 2014. See link here:
Unknown Author, 'The Costumes and Adornments of Chinese Yi Nationality Picture Album', Beijing, 1990
Joachim Schliesinger, 'Hill Tribes of Vietnam, vol 2', Bangkok, 1998
Joachim Schliesinger, 'Ethnic Groups of Laos vol 4', Bangkok, 2003
Ngo Duc Thinh, 'Traditional Costumes of Vietnam', Hanoi, 2009
Michael C Howard, 'Textiles and Clothing of Vietnam', Jefferson, North Carolina, 2016
Nguyen Van Huy et al, 'The Great Family of Ethnic Groups in Vietnam', Hanoi, 2011
Deng Qiyao et al, 'The Folk Arts of Yunnan Ethnics', Yunnan, 1993
Chen Hongguang et al, 'Ethnic Costumes Clothing Decorations from China', Chengdu, Sichuan, 1995
Bernard Formoso, 'Costumes du Yunnan', Nanterre, 2013
Shan Ren et al, 'The Cream of Yunling - A Photo Odyssey of Yunnan Ethnic Groups', Kunming, 1998

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