Anthropologist Jacques Lemoine looks at the Meo (Hmong) who were originally aborigines of northern central China but forced to migrate south to avoid oppression and to preserve their way of life. Today they live in villages scattered over China and Southeast Asia. This program is about the Meo in Laos where they suffered heavy losses in the civil war. Shows the Meo in American backed refugee camps and includes their traditional lifestyle which they are trying to preserve.
The Miao are a group of linguistically-related peoples living in Southern China and Southeast Asia, which are recognized by the government of China as one of the 56 official ethnic groups. The Miao live primarily in southern China’s mountains, in the provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan, Guangxi, Guangdong and Hainan. Some sub-groups of the Miao, most notably the Hmong people, have migrated out of China into Southeast Asia (Burma (Myanmar), Northern Vietnam, Laos and Thailand). Following the communist takeover of Laos in 1975, a large group of Hmong refugees resettled in several Western nations, mainly in the United States, France and Australia.
Miao is a Chinese term, while the component groups of people have their own autonyms, such as (with some variant spellings) Hmong, Hmu, Xong (Qo-Xiong) and A-Hmao. These people (except those in Hainan) speak Hmongic languages, a subfamily of the Hmong–Mien languages including many mutually unintelligible languages such as the Hmong, Hmub, Xong and A-Hmao.
Not all speakers of the Hmongic languages belong to the Miao. For example, the speakers of the Bunu and Bahengic languages are designated as the Yao, and the speakers of the Sheic languages are designated as the She and the Yao.
The Kem Di Mun people in Hainan, despite being officially designated as Miao people, are linguistically and culturally identical to the Kim Mun people in continental China who are classified as a subgroup of the Yao.
Miao or Hmong
Miao musicians from the Langde Miao Ethnic Village, Guizhou.
Miao girls also from Lang De, Guizhou, awaiting their turn to perform.
Young Miao woman in Yangshuo County.
The term “Miao” gained official status in 1949 as a minzu (ethnic group) encompassing a group of linguistically-related ethnic minorities in Southwest China. This was part of a larger effort to identify and classify minority groups to clarify their role in the national government, including establishing autonomous administrative divisions and allocating the seats for representatives in provincial and national government.
Historically, the term “Miao” had been applied inconsistently to a variety of non-Han peoples. Early Chinese-based names use various transcriptions: Miao, Miao-tse, Miao-tsze, Meau, Meo, mo, Miao-tseu etc. In Southeast Asian contexts, words derived from the Chinese “Miao” took on a sense which was perceived as derogatory by the subgroups living in that region. The term re-appeared in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), by which time it had taken on the connotation of “barbarian.” Being a variation of Nanman, it was used to refer to the indigenous people in southern China who had not been assimilated into Han culture. During this time, references to Unfamiliar (生 Sheng) and Familiar (熟 Shu) Miao appear, referring to the level of assimilation and political cooperation of the two groups, making them easier to classify. Not until the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) do more finely grained distinctions appear in writing. Even then, discerning which ethnic groups are included in various classifications can be complex. There has been a historical tendency by the Hmong, who resisted assimilation and political cooperation, to group all Miao peoples together [this claim is unfounded or needs substantial evidence] under the term Hmong because of the potential derogatory use of the term Miao. In modern China, however, the term continues to be used regarding the Miao people there.
Though the Miao themselves use various self-designations, the Chinese traditionally classify them according to the most characteristic color of the women’s clothes. The list below contains some of these self-designations, the color designations, and the main regions inhabited by the four major groups of Miao in China:
- Ghao Xong/Qo Xiong; Xong; Red Miao; Qo Xiong Miao: West Hunan
- Gha Ne/Ka Nao; Hmub; Black Miao; Mhub Miao: Southeast Guizhou
- A-Hmao; Big Flowery Miao: West Guizhou and Northeast Yunnan
- Gha-Mu; Hmong, Mong; White Miao, Green/Blue Miao, Small Flowery Miao; South and East Yunnan, South Sichuan and West Guizhou