Fig. 26. Map of Vietnam Heger I drums first discoveries (from Trinh Sinh)
Fig. 26. Map of Vietnam Heger I drums first discoveries (from Trinh Sinh)


Vietnam nowadays is an emerging powerful country of about ninety millions inhabitants. Between sea and hilly borders, a country stretched along two thousand kilometers inherited from the colonial era.
Two millenia ago, bronze drums core territories corresponded only to its northern part, after called Tonkin, mainly peopled by Viets (Yue) coming from the north. After an obscure unwritten period of autonomy ruled by many local leaders the area was colonised by central chinese dynasties from the second century bce to the 10th century ce, notwithstanding several attempts at local revolts and fluctuant borders so difficult to appreciate between (future) Vietnam and (future) China.

By contrast, central (Annam) and southern (Cochinchina) parts of modern Vietnam remained distinct and, with other ethnicities and languages, produced gorgeous cultures or States – like Champa in the south, so influenced by India and nearby Archipelagos – until the arrival of western invaders from 16th ce.

“Bronze drums’ speaking” we must therefore first consider Tonkin area, around the Red River Valley feeding Hanoï and its main tributaries (Black river/Song Da, etc.) down to large alluvial plains crossed by local rivers. Of which Mä bordered by a rich village called Dong Son, fathering the famous cultural appellation given by researchers to its multiple artefacts including bronze

drums’ masterpieces.

The last paragraphs will report drums’ presence in central and southern regions down to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) area and the huge Mekong delta. To all Indochina and southern Archipelagos Dong-Son drums, followed by Guangxi ones, became “migratory” as Victor Goloubewnicely said.


Fig. 27. Miniature drums in Thanh Hoa Museum, (courtesy Thanh Hoa Museum)
Fig. 27. Miniature drums in Thanh Hoa Museum, (courtesy Thanh Hoa Museum)



1. Bronze drums (Trong) and Dong Son culture

In 1924 ce, a local farmer, after a heavy rain, accidentally found a number of bronze wares on the shore of the Mä River running through Dong Son village now belonging to Thanh Hoa city. Upon receiving this information, the Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient (EFEO) entrusted Mr. Pajot—an expatriate tax officer for Thanh Hoa province—to carry out an excavation mission at the scene of the discovery before the Swedish Olov Janse from 1930: seventy early living and burial sites were reviewed. But Dong Son had to wait until 1934 when the Austrian archaeologist Heine Geldern first proposed that the name be recognized as a world reference for a culture covering at least all the present Tonkin territory. (Thanh Hoa is at 137km/south from Hanoï)

Dong Son is known for its rich and diverse body of artefacts made from the last millenar bce, including different materials of which the most famous are bronze items including tools (axes, hoes, etc.); everyday accessories (jars, kettles, vases, etc.); weapons (spears, harpoons, swords, etc.); jewellery (bracelets, belts, etc.); musical instruments such as decorated bells and finally bronze drums.

About six hundred drums have been recorded up to now in Vietnam but many more have certainly been unearthed, by chance or not, and quickly smuggled elsewhere.

Dong Son bronze drums were classified Heger I with three main parts (tympan, body, and foot) proportionally designed, so-called mushroom type, but they represent only one third of the total discovered in Vietnam. Coming after from the hills and surpassing those in number are more cylindrical Heger II often called Muong from the name of ethnics using them. Lesser local drums Heger IV, shorter and smaller were found but Heger III, pending new discoveries, were probably brought by merchants or immigrants from Burma/Laos, being generally Karenni/Shan products. (see chapters Myanmar/Laos)

Besides, thousands of very small specimens between two to fifteen centimeters high were found in tombs, beautiful burial items proving how their cult in religious ceremonies was vigorous and largely spread out in Tonkin and elsewhere. (Fig. 27)




General aspects of decoration

As it will be observed below in Museums, the most popular designs were geometric patterns composed of straight or shopped or parallel lines, with concentric circles, points, triangles, comb and saw teeth, fish bones...often already seen on earlier ceramics. The most beautiful and versatile were describing life of inhabitants, of which: houses on stilts, drummers and dancers, rice pounding scenes, rowing scenes, chiefly on big drums. It was mainly the case for Heger I types where pictures of diverse animals could be also engraved, including short or long beak flying birds, fishes swimming around boats, crocodiles or gayals, walking deer or hunting dogs. In relief at each quarter of the tympanum border frogs/toads or other animals were lately added.

Scholars emphasized a common trend for the great musical family of bronze drums and bells: in general early decorative patterns were densely expressed in realistic forms but, later, became more stylised, more abstract, less dense, during half a millennium from the end of bce to the beginning of ce, before a kind of quality decline where the drums survived despite the Han’s invaders.

General Casting

To produce bronze pre-Dong Son cultures used copper/tin alloy without lead much present in Dong Son culture for larger pieces despite a poor sonority, copper/lead/zinc or copper/ lead alloys not excluding arsenic or antimony. Lead comprised up to 30% in some items, lowering the smelting temperature to increase its flexible utilization, making it more suitable to produce recurrent items.

Dong Son metallurgists used at least three-piece moulds made from clay first. For Dong Son Heger I were used basically spacing pieces techniques, already described. They produced holes on the surface of the drum, to be repaired or not, the “spacers” being recovered or not, as visible even on the best drums (Ngoc Lu, Hong Ha, Moulié, Vienna, etc).

About the places of bronze casting in the early times, and about the origins of the ores utilised, the hypotheses are numerous. It has been proved that bronze castings were made locally between the Red and the Ma rivers, in Lang Ca or Lung Khe for example, explaining the quality and the homogeneity of the products. Ores existed not so far-away to supply ingots coming from the diverse surrounding mountainous areas, including for example present-day Vietnam (Truong Son cordillera), and Laos (Sepon province), and present-day Thailand (Phu Lon).

Comparison of two “Dongsonian” drums abroad
Both famous, the “Moulié” drum (Fig. 28 and cover) was discovered in Song Da (Vietnam) and the “Vienna” drum (Fig. 29) in Yunnan (China). Both pertained to the same Heger I family, probably produced in different workshops but with same techniques and may be by closed schools. Both were at large “Red/Mä River valley’s drums”, proving a high degree of exchanges along (future) Tonkin and Yunnan. Comparisons will be made between Moulié and, in brackets when different, Vienna (nowadays in Austria) to better clear their common characteristics; also a way to limit repetitions when examining in Vietnam’ museums similar classical items.


Moulié Drum (Song Da) was presented to E. Moulié (French Vice-Resident in Vietnam) by the widow of a Muong chieftain and sent to Paris where it is now visible in Guimet Museum. Typically “mushroom” type - D78/H 61 cm - Moulié’s tympanum is decorated with a central star of 14 rays (12 for Vienna - D64/H52 cm) with comparable “inter-radial” peacok feathers designs surrounded by geometric bands between which two large ranks (three for Vienna) with designed houses and feathered people and flying birds. Both Moulié and Vienna mantles had four double handles and display a life scene around the upper convex part and, in plaques (cartouches) in the middle, boats, warriors or dancers intermixed with circular geometric bands. More details are interesting about their main decorations, (counter-clockwise):
  • +  Feathered humans (warriors; dancers; musicians) formed lines of three men on Moulié tympan (four on Vienna) and also on mantle’s panels (cartouches).

  • +  Houses were built on poles or stones with large raised platforms on Moulié (smaller on Vienna), humans seen as “in transparence” inside the houses where they seemed to play gongs or drums or thrash rice in the company of perched birds (cocks versus peacocks)

  • +  Boats with sea-prows are sketchily depicted with feathered crew consisting of rowers with one drummer and a man with a hatchet on Moulié (on Vienna: roamers, helmsman and a man sitting at the prow); birds enlivening the seascape in both cases.

  • +  Flying big birds filled a large band as in nearly all Heger I. On Moulié there are 20 birds (16 on Vienna) of which 18 big white herons and 2 small birds may be because not enough space was left for the artist.

  • +  Geometric designs which ornamented most of the circular bands were composed of circles, triangles, dots, along with meanders or spirals, on both Moulié and Vienna.



Very similar in fact, despite their distinct places of discovery, “Moulié” and “Vienna” main components, typical of Heger I, impress by their decorative profusion, their inventiveness, their complexity too, but first by their quality making these “chef d’oeuvres” at once globally magic and realistic with their detailed sceneries.



2. Museums exhibitions in Vietnam

Bronze drums are exhibited in many museums in Vietnam, EFEO first creating five spots from Hanoï to Saigon (HCMC), being named from their place of discovery.

At least two main collections must be visited: in Hanoï where can be seen the more famous bronze drums and, two hundred kilometers south, in Thanh Hoa so touching with its site of Dong Son and its important local collection. A lot was discovered under the surface giving them a bluish/grey patina cover layer albeit blurring their rich decorative patterns.


Fig. 30. THPM, Cam Giang drum, courtesy of Thanh Hoa Museum (D73/H42 cm)



2.1. Thanh Hoa Province Museum (THPM)

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh Hien is the helpful Director of the Museum. Among the best experts, she co-authored a book about Thanh Hoa bronze drums with nearly 150 specimens.

Her museum beloved masterpiece is the bronze drum discovered in 1992 in his field by Buy Duc Thau, a peasant of Cam Giang (district of Cam Thuy province of Thanh Hoa). The originality of this so-called Cam Giang drum is to support on its tympanum boarder three (initially four) in-relief figurines of ducks-instead of frogs/toads often counter-clockwise. Ducks being, like buffaloes, a classical symbol in rice-field cultures. (Fig. 30).

Heger I typed (D73/H49 cm/weight 60 kg), its central star with 16 rays is surrounded by nine concentric rings including two main ranks, one showing long beak birds (stilt-birds, may be white herons) and the other dancers with feathers on their heads. On the base, also nicely stylised, are the same motifs in two ranks on the upper and central parts only, no decoration downward.

Note: Proposed as a National Treasure, the Cam Giang drum was exhibited in many places and copied for the Asiatic Museum in Singapore.



Another high of the Thanh Hoa Museum is a skull found in a Heger I drum unearthed in 1999 in Nga Va (Nga Son district - Thanh Hoa Province). That drum (D44/ H31 cm) had a twelve rays star; geometric patterns and four big birds flying shapes on the tympanum; only geometric motifs on the upper and central part of the base, no decoration downward. The skull, about 15 cm high, was very well preserved in its hiding place with, inside each orbit, one old Chinese bronze coin not necessarily corresponding to the age of the drum at times when successive burials could prevail, (Figs. 31 and 31bis).

The discovery is supremely interesting – even if its corresponding beliefs or rites are unknown – albeit not unique with other rare examples in Vietnam or in China (Kele- Ginzhou) or in Prohear in Cambodia or far away in Indonesia.

Among the many other Heger II presented, linked to Muong ethnic origin, let us look at two schemas, one classical (Bao Tang drum) with basically geometric shapes, and one exceptional (Lang Chanh drum) with very stylised decorative forms, probably younger. Both bore in-relief frogs or toads on their tympanum but others had instead elephants (six on Ngoc Lien drum) or tortoises (four on Binh Yen drum), probably from beginning ce*, may be in relation with comparable ones from Guangxi (China) with in relief ducks or other animals.



Classical geometric example: Bao Tang VI (Muong drum)

Heger II almost intact (D61/H40 cm/weight 32 kg) its tympan is ornamented with eight rays star, lozenges, flowers with 4 or 8 petals, and square decorative shapes; around which are four in-relief figurines of toads. On the body are lozenges, flowers with 4 or 8 petals and square decorative shapes as on tympanum. (Figs. 32 and 32bis)



More decorative example: Lang Chanh (Muong gorgeous Drum) (Fig. 33)
Found in Lang Chanh district/Than Hoa Province (D50 /H31 cm/weight 16 kg), it is almost intact. Tympan with 8 rays sun or star, dotted lines, bird shapes, lozenges, lotus, Buddha leaf shapes, four statues of toad. On the fully decorated body: upper section with birds, lozenges, lotus, Buddha leaf shapes; middle and lower sections with lozenges, lotus, monkeys and horse.


Victor Goloubew (EFEO) described in 1940 a Muong funeral in Thanh Hoa: “The family drum preceded this procession in great pomp, carried by servants in mourning dress and escorted by several men holding long plumes in their hands. The sorcerers followed in Indian file, quite like the persons on the Ngoc Lu Drum”. (Fig. 35)

New discoveries are expected. Mrs Nguyen Thanh Hien proudly points out that as recently as 2015, fourteen medium or big size drums were unearthed in the region. Alas without counting the smuggled ones offered to the foreigner on black markets.

Based on old traditional methods (not speaking of industrial copies) new bronze drums are always cast from time to time, showing a copper’s original red brilliance before turning into verdigris. In 2010, during a long ceremony, one hundred drums were cast for “1000 years Thang-Long” and showed in Literature Temple (Van Mieu) in Hanoï. (Fig. 34)

Note: In Musée Cernushi in Paris two typical Thanh Hoa drums are exhibited, excavated in 1936 in Dong Son burials with only four very big ying birds surrounding the central (eight and ten rays) star; respectively (D35/H27 cm) and (D35/H31 cm).



2.2. Hanoï National Museum of History (HNMH)

In front of so many beautiful pieces displayed, and countless mini-ones for burials, the necessarily short selection imposed by editorial limits is also highly subjective.


Ngoc Lu Drum (Nam Ninh Province)

Not excavated during archaeological researches but recovered by chance in 1893, this probably bce drum is a reference studied by all (F.Heger included) and may be the “star” of the Hanoï Museum. Its size is standard for such classical big Heger I drum (D79 / H64 cm) and its state of conservation exceptionally good. (Fig. 35 to 35ter)

The tympan displays a star with fourteen rays and successive bands of naturalistic figured scenes: first are life scenes mixing humans (warriors, dancers), houses, and birds; then a rank with two groups of cervids walking in line, interspersed with two groups of eight and six flying birds; last on a peripheral band, eighteen flying birds (white herons?) interspersed with eighteen perching birds (cormorants?).

On the mantle: boats on the upper section; dancers on the middle section; the lower section remaining undecorated.

In total, a kind of “summing up” of the main patterns to be seen on Dong Son drums. elements of life in rice fields plus possible references to other worlds to be reached by air (birds) or boats (sea or river) or earth (cervids).



Hoang Ha drum (Ha Son Binh province - Fig. 36)
Recovered in 1937, also classical reference for Dong Son drums (D79 / H61 cm), its beautiful tympan had a central star with sixteen rays and successive bands of naturalistic scenes as on Ngoc Lu drum, the last peripheral rank being of fourteen big flying birds. Two pairs of flat handles and many chaplets of spacers everywhere.

Note: None of these Heger I drums mentioned above bore frogs or toads in relief on their tympan, probably because they came before the other ones cited below.



Cho Bo drum (from Cho bo village in 1928-Ha Son Binh Province)
Probably younger (beginning
ce) than the previously mentioned drums in Hanoï national Museum, the Cho Bo was decorated with four toads on the periphery of its tympan ornamented with a very thick central twelve rays star and two main ranks of respectively feathered people and ten flying birds. With only comb-teeth designs and concentric circles on the mantle. (Figs. 37 and 37bis)

By comparison, must be emphasize the presence of in relief toads accenting the aquatic quest but also the increasing stylisation of the patterns, be they humans or animals. Naturalism, albeit always perceptible, seemed to let place to a kind of symbolism, possibly on a way to more abstraction... as in any Art of the entire World across the ages...

The last specimen from the Hanoï National Museum will concern first (for its environment) a drum found in a long wooden boat coffin and second a sculpted kettle/ basin/gong (?), masterpiece illustrating the relationship between drums and other bronze artefacts or music instruments of the same family during the same periods.



Drum in a boat coffin of the burial site of Viet Khe (Haiphong Province) (Fig.38) Measuring 4,76 m in length, the wooden boat contained one hundred seven burial goods giving an interesting idea of the funeral rites involving drums. It held a Dong Son Heger I (tympanum diameter of 23 cm), a bronze situla (H 32 cm), few bronze bells, bronze ustensils (spoons or spittoons...) and weapons (axes, knives, spears...); along with non- metal materials like wooden lacquered objects. Without body remains but only a human figurine, the discoveries were burial goods for a rich person about 2200 years ago. The drum itself with feathered-men, as the situla and the bells decorated with comparable motifs, was the biggest and possibly the more costly artefact belonging to a family to honour and accompany the deceased (maybe buried again posteriorly).



2.3 Museums in Central and Southern Vietnam

These regions of present Vietnam were not under the Viet’s (or Chinese) guardianship during Dong Son ages. They were different entities and received (or asked for) drums cultural items as did the other neighbouring countries of Indochina Peninsula or far away Archipelagos. Nowadays, their collections are key-parts of the country heritage, bronze drums becoming for the Vietnamese Socialist Government a kind of National Emblem.

Binh Dinh provincial museum is the most important of central Vietnam if we consider its eleven bronze drums (or only tympan) of which five are classical Dong Son type.

The small thickset Cat Tan drum (D and H = 20 cm) is specific with its handle on the mid (and not upper) mantle and four three-dimensioned toad motifs over the tympanum (Heger IV)

A rarity: two drums were buried together, one upside down and the other placed as its cover thus forming a double-drum container in poor state (D45 / H35 cm).



Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Saigon History national museum

Only six early bronze drums, of which two big, are exhibited and it is reported with insistence by guides that all were not “native” but came from the north (Dong Son or near) even if some were discovered locally during the last century. A Heger I masterpiece was collected in 1923 at Son Tay (Hanoï Province): around a fourteen rays central star its tympan without frogs is composed of geometric decorated circles with a large central band of eight stylised big stilt-birds, with boats on the upper mantle, dancers on the middle mantle and no decoration underneath. (D59/H40 cm, Figs. 40 and 40bis.)



Binh Duong Provincial Museum (30 km north of Saigon) is little visited even if it contains a very enigmatic drum as well as four others found in Phu Chang settlement and cemetery site, in an alluvial plain near the Suoi Cai River at 12 km of Binh Duong. (Fig. 41 and 41bis)

Heger I, its tympan with ten rays star is classically ornamented with big birds and geometric ranks (no frogs). The mantle had four handles but had been over-restored with the result that its original decoration is no longer visible. Great Enigma: the drum was covering a wooden box, put inside a jar in terracotta, containing other artefacts and textiles, a situation never met in other sites and not explained until now...




Final remarks about casting

a) After so many descriptions it appear, looking at Vietnamese drums with a magnifying glass and not only on documents, that the great majority of them were not “one-piece lost wax made” as at times described in the literature, some famous items included, but involved at least three molds in their casting process. (Fig. 42)

Such tests revealed that discontinuities or misalignments often abounded on the designs or vertical mold lines of the mantle, in addition or not with a visible heterogeneity of “spacers”, not forgetting the presence of multiple “undercuts” when tympan or decoration’s parts were added a posteriori (handles, in-relief animals)

A situation probably linked to the difficulties of a pure “one-piece process”, of which: scarcity of high competences; corresponding highest costs; big size castings not easily “manageable”; risks of waste-goods if the process failed... etc.



b) In Luy Lau ( Bac Ninh Province at 20 km from Hanoï ) for the first time in Vietnam was discovered in 1998 a fragment of a ceramic mold for casting a bronze drum (Fig. 43). In 2015 many other small pieces of early drum’ molds in terracotta were again discovered in Luy Lau, being under examination in the Hanoï National Museum of History laboratory.



A Few Parting Thoughts

Future North Vietnam was undoubtedly, quantitatively and qualitatively, a prominent area for bronze drums from the end of bce to beginning ce, during half a millennium before the arrival of new rules and tastes from the northern colonial Han Chinese Empire.

Relaying our conclusions at the end of preceding China chapter, Red River Basin generally speaking can be considered like the “Cluster no.1” associating (future provinces) Tonkin and Yunnan in the bronze drums odyssey with strong influences in all indochina and southern Archipelagos-preceding a “Cluster no. 2” in Guangxi and nearby provinces.

Dong Son culture was a pinnacle indeed: not only were new sophisticated techniques mastered but the best artists created outstanding designs getting their inspiration from steppes’ fauna to tropics feathered people.

A lot of Chinese old records and modern discoveries were ignored when first EFEO studies, vigorously relayed by Vietnamese scholars after Independence, gave the bronze drum’s primacy and anteriority to Dong Son, as part of a kind of mythic Viet’s culture. It is time to acknowledge that the facts were not so monochromatic and that all inhabitants from north to south of Red River played a win-win role being part of clusters in which the Ma (Dong Son) valley had undoubtedly taken a key place. Obviously the present sino- vietnamese boarder did not apply in ancient times.

More recently, due to wars or political turmoil, many ethnicities (Nationalities) came as refugees in Vietnam from neighbouring nations, China, Myanmar, Laos. Bringing their own specific beliefs which often included devotion and practice of bronze drums it explains the presence of a great number of Karenni Heger III made in Myanmar/Laos, No doubt that these newcomers also played a role of “reminders” for the Viets not always familiar with their early drums’ achievements.

Historical strong bronze drums’ relations between Vietnam and other nations were only studied recently. After periods of ignorance or antagonisms, the coming times will permit a better knowledge of what was probably a “Golden Regional Drums Culture” for all southern Asia as anticipated in the precedent chapter. After so many divisions is given to the Peninsula a rare opportunity to deepen the corresponding ancient trails of common inspiration and devotion, if not political old links. Henceforth the new regional agreements (ASEAN or others) could facilitate more cultural researches.


Annex to Vietnam

 Vietnam before Vietnam /Thap/ Lolo


Vietnam before Vietnam among “southern-barbarians” (main source K.W. Taylor)

Lac is the earliest recorded name for Vietnamese people. If we consider the Dongson’s society it united the legendary Huang Kings’ tradition to the historical Han Empires (206 bce/220 ce)

The lords of the Lac clan ruled a hierarchical society of people living in villages in the northeast of (future) Vietnam, with women enjoying a relatively high status, explaining their future revolts against Han who divided the lands of the so-called Viets (Yue in chinese) into prefectures. The invading Au (Ou in chinese) and the resident Lac (Luo in chinese) soon formed the well-known Au Lac area with its concentric-ring citadel of Co Loa (near future Hanoï). It was too early to speak of a Vietnamese language while Chinese colonial policy at the beginning of ce had two aims after pacification: to receive a maximum of tax revenues from an agrarian economy and to establish Han style patriarchal society and government corresponding to ancestral Chinese values. Han brick tombs soon replaced Dongson graves.

Trung Trac and her younger sister Nhi lost the local revolt (42 ce) against Han general Ma Yuan-a famous user of bronze drums-and their heads were sent to the Han court in Luoyang (central China). It took ten centuries more for the Viets to become independent (939 ce), being profoundly influenced in between by the chinese values including Confucianism, Buddhism, and much more. [It brings to mind the similarities with Europe when the colonial influence of Rome and its “latifundia” was strong over “northern barbarians” including the future french and german people among others]

From Co Loa platform both the gulf of Tonkin (Cheng sea) and the north highland passes leading to the nearby provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi could be controlled, ways of swinging fluxes of bronze drums. (Fig. 44)

In the south Ngang pass near the twentieth Parallel N. long remained the frontier with central Annam above southern Cochinchina where Champa Empire flourished. As emphasized by Academician Professor Phan Huy Lé, present Vietnam was the addition of these three very distinct parts of which only the northern one, later called Tonkin, played an active role as far as bronze drums are concerned.




Thap is a kind of jar supposed to have served as urns for cremation or human reliefs. Indeed not a drum but from the same great bronze family, reason why it is mentioned here as we did for cowrie shells in Yunnan and will do for specific urns or bells in the chapter Cambodia.

Dao Thinh thap (Fig. 45), one of the rare discoveries, was decorated with horizontal zones separated by blank spaces and included drums like geometrical or figurative sceneries (boats, crocodiles, birds). Very interestingly its cover was adorned with in-relief copulating human people (as frogs on drums) adding some kind of similar physical and spiritual backgrounds-and probably feed-backs - inside the bronze family with its fertility concepts, if not basic instincts both expressed for humans or animals.



From Southern Barbarians to nowadays Vietnam: Lolo example

From the Chinese records the term MAN for Southern Barbarians covered all the people living from “south of the clouds” (from Himalayan mountains) down to the “hotseas and hill-sides” of Indochinese peninsula (on modern maps the south-east of China and the northern portions of Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar). They formed a mosaic of ethnical peoples (future Nationalities) not yet colonized, tumultuous but wealthy and inventive inside animist worlds no more tolerated by Chinese Empires. In 2016 ce Nationalities are always alive in Clusters 1 and 2, remaining the majority in Chinese Guangxi (versus the Han) or becoming a very specific minority like in Tonkin where the Viets, also barbarians long time ago, have taken power and multiplied.

At the beginning of the 21th century ce: the Lolo example in Vietnam
In Vietnam, among 54 ethnic Nationalities officially recognized, the Lolo (3134 people

in last 1989 General Census—versus 10 millions yi in China) are specially interesting for us as far as bronze drums always play a great role in their life and particularly during their funerals. Lolo (Yi or La La...) live in the extreme north-east of Tonkin, not far from the frontier with China from where they came, in concentrated villages composed of distinct homes encircled with a stone wall with a gate. Their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese group (Sino Tibetan family) and they work mostly on wet fields and terraces with a tight community structure worshipping their ancestors with a cemetery for all. Drums always played a big role, connected with the legend of Deluge when only two Lolos, the founders, were kept alive in two drums, a wonderful story too long to be related here. Drums are nowadays only used for funerals and create the rhythms for appropriate community dances. Twodrums,amaleandafemale(YinandYang),arehungfacingeachotheronashelfplaced in front of the deceased’s feet: the drummer stands in between and uses drumsticks to beat on both drum’s heads: through the sounds, the deceased’s spirit is supposed to find its way back to the place of its ancestors. Otherwise the drums are buried under the ground, hidden in a clean protected secret place. (Alas, during a trip in Ha Giang Province, beginning 2015, no funeral occurred and photos were forbidden.)