The Ma have nearly 26,000 inhabitants settling mainly in Lam Dong province. The Ma are also called Chau Ma, Ma Xop, Ma To. Ma Krung and Ma Ngan. Ma language belongs to the Mon-Khmer Group.
The Ma live in scattered bon (villager). Each bon comprises 5-10 elongated houses, the owners of which belong to generations of the same Iineages. The chief of a bon is called quang bon.
The Ma cultivate rice, corn, cotton and subsidiary crops using slash-and-burn techniques with rudimentary tools such as beams, knives, axes and sticks to dig holes. The Ma in Cat Tien district of Dong Nai province grow rice in submerged fields. To work the soil they send the herds of buffaloes to trample it, then distribute seeds (or called xa lua) over the fields. The Ma rear cattle and poultry. They often release cattle to the forests and only catch them when needed for meat or for trampling the soil.
Ma women are very skillful in cloth weaving with sophisticated decoration in shape of flowers, leaves, birds and animals of various colors. The traditional iron forgery is also wellknown. The Ma refine iron ore themselves to make farm tools and weapons. In the region near Dong Nai, the Ma make boats from hollowed tree-trunks to serve transport or fishing on the rivers.
Their traditional dress are simple. Women wear skirt falling down below their knees, men loincloths. In winter, they cover with blankets. In working days they leave their upper torsos naked. They file their teeth likewise and stretch earlobes and wear a lot of ornaments. The family of the young man proposes marriage, but after the wedding the groom comes to live in his wife's house. Only when he has enough wedding presents to hand over the bride's family, he can take his wife to his house.
The Ma believe in the existence of the genies who include Yang (the Heaven) the Creator, the river, the mountain, the rice and so on. Like the other ethnic groups of the Mon Khmer linguistic Group, every year the Ma organize a ceremony for buffalo-stabbing at their traditional Tet (New Year's Day) which occurs one month after the national Tet. This ceremony lasts several months.
The Ma possess a treasury of folklore including ancient tales, myths, legends. Musical instruments comprise sets of gongs, drums, panpipes with bamboo-box, horns, bamboo string zither and three-hole bamboo flutes attached to a dry gourd.