Ethnic Minority and Miao Crafts: Quite an Art!

Minorité Ethnique et Artisanat Miao : Tout un Art !

Who are the Miao?

The Miao (meaning "raw rice") are the 4th Chinese minority ethnic group.

It is not a single people in reality, but it is the regrouping of 4 groups: the Hmong, the Hmu, the Kho Xiong and the A Hmao. For many years, this name has been used to designate poorly integrated nomadic populations.

This population countsmore than 9 million people who originate from several mountainous provinces, mainly in Guizhou (northern Vietnam) for 50% and in Yunnan and Guangxi. They are all part of tight-knit communities.

Chinese records confirm that Miao ancestors were present in Hunan and Guizhou 2,000 years ago. They then gradually migrated to southern Sichuan and northwest Guizhou. In the 5th century some Miao groups moved to eastern Sichuan and western Guizhou. Then, some were taken prisoner in Yunnan and others settled on Hainan Island.

Miao item card

This exodus, which spanned several centuries, explains the division of the Miao into small isolated communities. This is why there is a great diversity of traditions, clothing but also languages ​​among the Miao. This makes it difficult for some Miao to communicate with each other.

Great revolts followed one another including that of the Taiping (19th century) which pushed the Miao towards Laos, Vietnam and even in Thailand where they took the name of Hmong.

The language of the Miao

It has 3 main dialects:

  • one in western Hunan;
  • another in eastern Guizhou;
  • and a last one in Sichuan, Yunnan and part of Guizhou.

These are Sino-Tibetan languages. Some Miao use other languages ​​such as the Dong language, the Yao language or even Mandarin.

The character of the Miao

They are people cheerful and optimistic. They have a taste for celebration and love to sing and laugh. It is not by chance that thehe Guizhou is nicknamed "the land of the hundred festivals".

Indeed, the celebrations are very numerous: monsoon festival, sisters' party, New Year's Day, song contest. Each party is an opportunity to wear festive outfits made especially for the event and adorn yourself with the most beautiful silver jewelry : necklaces, earrings, bracelets ...

Jewels that are passed on from generation to generation.

 

What are the Miao traditions?

Clothing

The Miao, not knowing how to write, they testify to their history and their culture through embroidery that adorn the costumes, mainly female.

Embroidery and Batiks have been recognized for millennia since they were already a bargaining chip between Miao and Han.

Women work cotton for the manufacture of clothes, they dye them with indigo to obtain dark colors. This same fabric is then hammered with a mallet to make it more resistant and give it a satin appearance.

According to the traditions of each village, the fabric is finally decorated with ribbons or embroidery. This attention to detail and this variety of patterns are a true testimony to theMiao crafts and art.

For men, clothing depends a lot on the region. Those in northwest Guizhou and northeast Yunnan wear canvas jackets with colorful designs. They wear, above their shoulders, a woolen blanket with geometric patterns.

In other regions they wear a short jacket buttoned up on the front or on the left side with wide pants, a wide belt and a black scarf. In winter, they add "Puttee" leggings.

The dress of the women varies according to each village. In western Hunan and northeast Guizhou, women wear pants with a jacket buttoned to the right side as well as multiple embroidery on the collar, sleeves and legs of the pants.

In other areas they wear a longer skirt (or knee-length) with a short jacket with a high collar.

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Hairdressing

The headdresses of women are decorated with flowers, butterflies or any other motifs symbolizing the clan.

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Jewelry

The Miao love jewelry. The majority of women wear long dangling earrings, multiple necklaces, but also bracelets. Silver jewelry and ornaments are worn in large numbers (up to 50) on special occasions.

 

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Culture

The Miao have developed many knowledge from the same base. They enjoy dancing and singing a lot and have a rich folk literature. There are many popular songs among the community which are very easy to understand.

In terms of music, they are also very fond of Lusheng (reed instrument, made of bamboo). They also enjoy the flute, the brass drum, the xiao (vertical bamboo flute).

The Miao like to create very colorful decorative items. They are particularly recognized for their quality craftsmanship in terms of embroidery, cross stitch, weaving, batik and cut paper.

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Dwelling

Dwellings and houses are built in wood with a roof usually made of fir bark, thatch or tiles. As with other traditions, the style varies greatly from region to region. So, for example, the roofs are covered with slate in central and western Guizhou.

In the mountains, the houses, built on slopes, are on stilts. Other Miao even live without houses made from bamboo branches and strips.

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Food

Thanks to the generous rainfall in these areas, the Miao are good growers. Indeed, this mountain people benefits from many natural resources such as rice, corn, cereals, ...

The basic diet is different, depending on the region.

The Miao mainly eat rice, corn, sweet potatoes and millet in southeast Guizhou and western Hunan. While in northwest Guizhou, Sichuan and northeast Yunan it is more about potatoes, buckwheat and oats.

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Wedding

The Miao are generally gathered in small families. The elderly parents are taken care of by the younger son. The marriages are arranged by the parents, however the single people remain free to be courted.

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Here we are, we have finished our little tour of the main Miao traditions. As you can see, thehe Miao people are primarily recognized for their craftsmanship, whether through the iconic outfits or the jewelry they create.

In addition, thanks to our privileged relationship with artisans and artists of the Miao Tribe, we are able to offer you unique and exceptional products made by them.

We particularly appreciate quality and attention to detail of their creations, that's why we invite you to discover our selection of accessories and handcrafted Miao jewelry.Rich in color, they can be great gift ideas if you are looking for unique and original pieces.


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