Xa pho ethnic minotity came to Viet Nam 200 – 300 years ago. They have about 1.000 people in Lao Cai, concentrate in Sapa and Van Ban dictrict. In Sapa they live mainly in Nam Sai village where far from Sapa town about 35km.
The Xa Pho community is particularly strong and neighbours play an important role in their villages. If a family has no food, they can visit their neighbours for every meal. If both families have no food, they will go to another family together. When no one in the village has any food, they all go to find fruit and vegetables in the forest. When a family kills a chicken or a pig, everyone in the village can come to have some without an invitation.
They are semi-nomadic; they do grow dry rice, but most of the time they live on what nature has to offer. While other minorities may live together in villages, these timid people live in isolation. There is only one tribe who live in Sapa, and they have a very low living standard compared with other minorities in the same valley.
Young Xa Pho have the right to have sexual relationships before marriage. The Xa Pho has a very low population, so the man wants to make sure his partner can have children. The marriage will be organised after the young couple know the woman is pregnant. The future bride starts making her wedding dress while her groom prepares pigs, chicken and other food for the wedding.
The deceased is placed in the middle of the house, with the head in the direction of the household altar. Water used to wash the deceased’s face is left to evaporate. There must be a bowl of rice with a pair of chopsticks and a barbecued or roasted chicken next to the alter. The deceased’s children put straw around the wooden coffin, as they used to use straw as mattresses. The coffin is buried in a grave or a tomb. Lots of people must attend the funeral to ensure that the spirit of the dead doesn’t stay at the tomb or cemetery.
The Xa Pho live in houses built half on stilts and half on the ground. Furniture is very simple and made of bamboo or rattan.