The Miao Ethnic Minority
The Miao ethnic minority has a population of nearly nine million spread throughout several provinces in China. It is one of the largest minority groups, mainly spread across the Guangxi, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan, Hubei and Hainan Provinces. They have many branches including the White, Black and Striped Hmong.
A lady wearing the traditional jewelry of this ethnic group
Their language belongs to the Miao-
group of the Sino-Tibetan phylum although it now has three dialects:
1) Chuan Qian Dian which is spoken in Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan2) The dialect of Western Hunnan.3) The dialect of Eastern Guizhou.
They also commonly speak Mandarin as well as the
dialects through trade and integration with other cultural groups.
The clothing of this ethnic minority varies across regions. Men wear short coats and trousers. Women often wear colourful, patterned skirts with many layers showing designs inspired by flowers and birds. They also wear bright jewels.
The people believe that all things in nature have their own unique spirit. A magician presides over ceremonies to drive out a devil ghost in the event of any kind of disaster. They also worship their ancestors, paying tribute to them with offerings of wine, meat and glutinous rice. Elements of Cathoilicism and Christianity have been adopted in some areas too.
Rice forms the staple part of their diet. Meat, glutinous rice, soups and pickled vegetables are also often combined with hot seasoning. Home made wines are also common.
They are very skilled at handicrafts. These include embroidery, weaving, paper-cutting, batik, and the casting of jewelry. Their embroidery and silver jewelry are bright and elegant. Girls of around seven will learn to embroider from their mothers and sisters, and usually be very skilled by the time they become teenagers.
The people celebrate their festivals at different times because they are spead out across many regions. They include many like the Dragon Boat Festival, the Huashan Festival, the Pure Brightness and the New Rice Tasting Festival (Chixin Jie). Of most importance is their Spring Festival which is held during the ninth to the eleventh lunar month.
There is also a Rice Tasting festival to give thanks for the harvest. This is a good time to sample and view their traditional dishes. Each festival is celebrated with the Lusheng. The Lusheng is a kind of wind instrument which many of them play while dancing and singing.
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