Miao Ethnic Group

The Miao ethnic group has a population of more than 7.39 million (by 1990), mainly scattered in Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, Hubei and Guangdong provinces, forming one of the largest ethnic minorities in southwest China.

The Miao language belongs to the Miao-Yao Austronesian of the Chinese-Tibetan Phylum. It has three main dialects in China -- one based in west Hunan, one in east Guizhou and the other in Sichuan, Yunnan and part of Guizhou. The Miao people used to have their own characters which have long lost. After 1956, the Miao people invented a kind of phonetics characters. Due to their centuries of contacts with the Hans, many Miaos can also speak Chinese.

The Miao's ancestry can be traced back to the "Chiyou" tribe, a tribe in the primitive society in the Central Plains. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties (17 century-256BC), the Miao's ancestors began to construct their kingdom in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Since the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), they gradually migrated to the southern part of China (today's Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Hainan, Guangxi and other provinces).

Such a wide distribution and the influence of different environments have resulted in marked differences in dialect, names and clothes. Because of the different costumes, the miaos can be divided into Long Skirt Miao, Short Skirt Miao, Red Miao, Black Miao, etc.

The Miaos are engaged in agriculture, with hunting as their sideline. Major crops include paddy rice, maize, rape, ramie, oil-tea camellia and tung tree, etc. The weather is mild with a generous rainfall, and the area is rich in precious medical herbs, such asTian Qi, Gastrodia elata, etc.

The Miaos have created a variety of colorful arts and crafts, including cross-stitch work, embroidery, weaving, batik, and paper-cut. Their batik technique dates back to 1,000 years ago. A pattern is first drawn on white cloth with a knife dipped in hot wax. Then the cloth is boiled in dye. The wax melts to leave a white pattern on a blue background. In recent years, improved technology has made it possible to print more colorful designs, and many Miao handicrafts are now exported.

The Miaos are fond of singing and dancing, especially famous for their love songs and wine songs.Lushengis their favorite musical instrument. In addition, flutes, copper drum, mouth organs,Xiao(a vertical bamboo flute) andSuonahorn are also very popular.

The Miao people used to believe in Animism and worship their ancestors or dragons. Now some of them believe in the Catholicism or Christianity.

The Miaos have the New Year Festival, the Flower Mountain Festival (May 5th), the Tasting New Rice Festival (between June and July), and the Tea Picking Festivals, etc.