The Lanten People

The Lanten people migrated from Southern China and Northern Vietnam to Laos during the last two hundred years, they speak a language that is similar to the Mien and the Hmong. They, like the Mien, use Chinese characters in writing their language. The Lanten are well known for making their own paper out of Bamboo pulp, which is poured over cloth stretched in the sun and then peeled off to form paper.

The Lanten build wooden houses that are unusual in that they have three doors, one used for men, one used for women, and one more used for guests. Lanten villages are almost always in valleys next to rivers, the houses are large, because there are often as many as seven families living under one roof. As you can imagine, the Lanten’s homes become very crowded in the evening when all of the family members are home, they also become very smoky because each family usually has their own fire pit in the house.

The husbands are usually the heads of the Lanten families, and young men and women are allowed to chose their own marriage partners. The Lanten men may have as many as five wives if they are wealthy enough to support them all. The Lanten men must pay a dowry for their wives, and it is quite expensive by their standards. The average price for a bride is seventy silver coins, several pigs, a few chickens and many, many bottles of home-made rice wine.

The Lanten hold their new years parties on the 29th of December, they feast and drink for seven days to celebrate, and nobody works during that time. The Lanten are spirit worshippers, believing in a wide array of spirits. The Lanten women wear black calf-length pants and black or blue long sleeved shirts often trimmed with pieces of yarn and silver. They also wear white leggings wrapped from their knees to their feet.

The Lanten people cultivate rice both by wet and dry methods, by irrigating in the valleys or slash and burn farming on the mountain sides. They are also known for their tobacco growing capabilities, and grow many different types of vegetables and spices also. As with most hill tribes, the Lanten are highly skilled hunters and fisherman, but they rarely eat meat, instead preferring a diet of rice and vegetables.

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