Cao Lan, San Chay in Vietnam

Cao Lan, San Chay
Photo Source:  Copyrighted © 2023
Operation China, Asia Harvest  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: Cao Lan, San Chay
Country: Vietnam
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 205,000
World Population: 256,000
Primary Language: Cao Lan
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 10.00 %
Evangelicals: 1.30 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Tai
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Vietnam, located on the eastern border of Southeast Asia, is home to many distinct people groups. Historical upheavals have forced the major people groups to intermingle with others, to split up, and to live in scattered locations. Their cultures, languages, and lifestyles were all affected, resulting in a somewhat blurred national character.

Early in the 1600s, the Man Cao Lan immigrated to Vietnam from China, settling in the Bac Bo upland area. Today, many Man Cao Lan live in the provinces of Bac Thai, Quang Ninh, Ha Bac, Cao Bang, Lang Son, and Ha Tuyen. Known officially in Vietnam as the Sanchay, the Man Cao Lan speak a variant of the Thai language.

Since the 1945 revolution in Vietnam, and especially since the rejoining of North and South Vietnam, there have been considerable changes in the lives of the country's various ethnic groups. Attempts are currently underway to raise their standard of living.

What Are Their Lives Like?

After learning how to grow wet rice, the Man Cao Lan quickly settled in the upland areas in villages consisting of 20 to 30 houses. Early houses were built on stilts, but the modern trend is to build them at ground level. At the main entrance of each house is a basket of bran along with a few sticks of incense. This is placed there in honor of a deity who is regarded as the "protector of cattle." It also serves as an altar to the family's ancestors.

Prior to the 1945 revolution, land was privately owned, but French colonization and land grabbing reduced many of the Man Cao Lan to the status of tenant farmers. Social contrasts developed with clear definitions between the landlords, rich peasants, and various groups of laboring peasants. The upper classes were entrusted with administration. However, despite the contrasting positions, there are still some remnants of rural community in the form of self-governing villages.

Villages consist of several families, which are divided into many branches. Each village is headed by a khan thu, or headman, whose job it is to settle differences, represent the village in its relations with outsiders, and unite the community. However, despite the privileges and responsibilities attached to his position, the headman is often quite poor.

Farming techniques in Vietnam have improved in recent years. Besides rice, the Man Cao Lan now grow a variety of subsidiary crops including maize, sweet potatoes, beans, peanuts, vegetables, and sesame. Cattle and poultry are also raised for meat and religious sacrifices.

The Man Cao Lan gather products from the forests, especially bamboo of various kinds, rattan (a type of palm), and mushrooms, which are sold for profit. Fish are often raised in the rice paddies and some fishing is done in the local streams and rivers.

Two unique features of Man Cao Lan society are their literature and their art, both of which have been handed down from generation to generation. They have tales about their origin, a great flood, and stories of human dignity and bravery. Among the common musical instruments are brass gongs, trumpets, flutes, and drums. Their unique folk literature and art play a special role in both religious worship and education.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Man Cao Lan, like most other minority groups in Vietnam, practice ethnic religions. They worship a multitude of gods that are associated with the earth, water, fire, and famous ancestors. They also worship various spirits. Most villages have local temples for worship.

What Are Their Needs?

Over 44 years of war have severely damaged Vietnam's economy; recovery has been slow. Today, Vietnam is one of the few remaining Communist nations. There is a tremendous need for evangelistic materials, Christian laborers, and intercessors to stand in the gap for these precious people.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Vietnam and share Christ with the Man Cao Lan.
Pray that the doors of Vietnam will soon open to missionaries.
Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Man Cao Lan Christians.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Man Cao Lan toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Pray that God will open the hearts of Vietnam's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Man Cao Lan.

Text Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center