Meet the Co Tu ethnic group in Vietnam

By Réhahn

Réhahn often visits the Co Tu ethnic group located at 2h from Hoi An.
Cơ Tu or Katu ethnic people mostly live in the central of Vietnam and the eastern Laos. The population of Cơ Tu ethnic group is about more than 61,588.

Réhahn often visits the Co Tu ethnic group located at 2h from Hoi An.
Cơ Tu or Katu ethnic people mostly live in the central of Vietnam and the eastern Laos. The population of Cơ Tu ethnic group is about more than 61,588. (Source: The 2009 Vietnam Population and Housing Census)

The official language of Cơ Tu ethnic is Cơ Tu (belonging to Môn-Khmer language)

Social Relationship

The village community plays an important role in the life of Cơ Tu. The leader of that village is normally the oldest man who is highly respected. He is well-known as a “Spiritual Leader” who receives a great respect from other people. He is usually a judge in a discussion or serious problems in the daily life. The property of each family is counted on cows, jewelry, clothing.

The wedding

The man needs to pay for the marriage cost. A wedding process includes asking for permission from parents, engagement, and wedding. Some couples make another wedding when they have more money.

The festivals

The biggest event is buffalo stamping once in every 3 years. Tet is also an important festival of the villager.

Zong – A unique tradition of Co Tu group

Zơng is a small house of Cơ Tu people, which is a place for stock of rice, vegetables and where people take rest or create material. Zơng of each family is normally 1 hour of walking away from others’. Despite the long distance between each house, all problems about villages, families go through the village. The community spirit is high in Cơ Tu ethnic group. This is why they usually help each other to harvest or hold celebrations.

In the past, people often took their children to Zơng to educate them how to practice a slash and burn cultivation but now they leave their children at home for academic study.

Zơng is also a place where the men stop and have a small party after a hard day of working.


Rông is a big and beautiful house used to be a place for organizing community activities, holding meetings, events and rituals. Nhà Rông is mainly built from grass, bamboo, wood,… on a large center area of the village. Each minority has their own unique feature on Nhà rông but this kind of house is generally higher than the normal ones of villagers. Nhà rông is also a small museum which reserves the traditional material as gong, drum, and animal’s heads for ritual events.

Village of Co Tu

Village of Co Tu

Apart from Nhà rông, there is another kind of house called Nhà Gươl which is carefully built and carved by Cơ Tu people. The top of two sides of the roof is usually carved cock or buffalo. Inside the house is the carpentry about dancing men and women with their traditional instrument like Gong.

The Cơ Tu worships Giang God (Genie). In Cơ Tu, children’s family name is taken from their father. Only sons have rights of inheritance.

Co Tu ethnic group

Trang and his family became a good friend of Réhahn

The Costume

Loincloths are the traditional costume of men in Cơ Tu ethnic group and skirts with short vests are of women. To protect themselves from the cold of winter, people use a piece of cloth to cover their body. Popular ornaments consist of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

The Economy

The main job of Cơ Tu ethnic group is splashing bush, raising cassava, banana and farming, in which raising cassava play an important role in their economy.

A normal daily working day starts from 8 a.m, people climb up the mountains and cross rivers with a backpack of firewood. The Cơ Tu only chooses areas which can be used to raise many kinds of conifer and fruits as banana or cassava.

The process begins with a clean-up of bush and died cassava. The tree-trunk of those dead cassavas which is cut into pieces will be used to grow in another area, their leaves are for soup and the bulb of cassava is made into different dishes like boiled bulbs, soup, or steamed cassava bulbs.

Because of the dry season, Cơ Tu people meet difficulty in rice farming. This is why cassava and banana are still main foods for all of them.

Co Tu Vietnam

Co Tu Vietnam

A working day ends at 6 p.m. Villagers who work far away from home will not come back at noon but those who work near their houses will return at 11 or 12 a.m. On the way home, if they happen to see firewood or other fruit, they will bring them back home.

Cơ Tu ethnic people are really friendly and helpful. When a guest coming to their houses, they happily welcome him and share with him about their culture.

Even though they are living under the poor line, they always look on a bright side to lead a happy life.

Co Tu Prao

Co Tu Prao

Kitchen of the Co Tu

Cơ Tu people respect their kitchen. The kitchen is considered as a symbol of the women when they not only cook for daily meals but also take time to share personal stories to other women who are their friends, guests, neighbors. In free time, men are sitting in another place to drink and chat. Also, fire in kitchen is to lighten up the house, warm up the family on cold days.

For a long time, kitchen has become a vital part in the life of Cơ Tu ethnic. It’s where the owner can invite guests to have a meal or simply a drink and share with others their culture and customs. In addition, kitchen is where all members of the family sit together and spend time for dinner.

Normally, the kitchen is placed in the center of the house; however, it’s sometimes placed in the left or right side to avoid the afternoon sun. In their opinion, the heat from the sun can meet the fire and create bad luck. Their fire burns for all night, non-stop.

Above the kitchen, Cơ Tu people install hundreds of heads of the animal hunted by them to pray for heath and wealth from the Giang God. Also, there are some working material as gùi, tà lét, rê, chuy, cà vông,… left on the stair above the kitchen. The Cơ Tu never leaves dirty things in their kitchen. To them, it’s an act of disrespecting the kitchen.


On days off, people will gather and chat with each other in which men and women divide into 2 different groups. They also love to share with guests about their life and tradition.

Life condition of the Co Tu people

The life of Cơ Tu people is under the poverty line. They earn about 1,000 or 2,000 vnd per day if the business is good. If not, they can’t get any money. Because of the stricken poverty, Cơ Tu people often find food by themselves from farming, raising cassava or banana. Their main dish is from cassava bulbs and leaves. They only have meat for once a month if they can earn a enough money.

Even though the electricity is available in the village, just a few families are able to afford it. Other villagers are too poor to have electricity or electric stove. This is why Cơ Tu people still use the cooking fire in their house.

How To get there

If you want to visit the Co Tu ethnic people, you can contact the Travel Agency Motaiba Indochina (04 3512 3574)
There are highly recommended if you want a authentic tour.