THE HMONG PEOPLE
It is not very clear where the Hmong people came from. It is posible that their ancestors lived in Tibet and China. The Hmong people want to stay independent. Chinese authorities have tried to control them and want them to integreate but thís hás caused a big problem. Northern Thailand was the place were Hmong villages established at the end of the 19th century .
Many Hmong fled from Laos to Thailand and were resettled in the United States after 1975.
The Hmong people in Laos, Vietnam and China has a large population,as well as the Hmong that live in the United States in Minnesota, California and Wisconsin.
Hmong Subgroups ( Hmong ethnic Group )
The Hmong hill tribe has lots of subgroups. These vary in the different countries. The sub groups in Thailand are the Black Hmong, White Hmong and Striped Hmong. The Black Hmong are located in Nan, Chiang Rai, Tak, Phrae, Phetchabun and Phitsanulok. They are well known by their costume. The women wear their hair in a bun and wear dark blue and white pleated knee length skirts with embroidered borders. The men wear a black or dark blue jacket without collar and have wide sleeves and cuffs. Both women and men wear a lot of jewelry made of silver.
In the west of Nan we can find the Striped Hmong. They wear Black trousers with a dark jacket with embroidered collars and green, white and blue stripes on their long sleeves. You can find the White Hmong in Nan and Chiang Rai. Their women wear long loose dark blue trousers with plain long sleeved jackets with embroidered collar flaps and a turban. On holidays they wear a white skirt with stripes of embroidery down the front.
The Hmong hill tribe people speaks a language from the Austro-Thai linguistic family of the Miao-Yao sub group.
The Hmong hill tribe people in Thailand believe in a mixture of animism and shamanism with ancestor worship. Villages have spirit shrines to protect them from evil. There are village and house spirits. The Hmong bury their dead and believe each person has three souls, when they die one goes to heaven, one goes to be reincarnated and the other remains in the grave with the corpse.
Culture and lifestyle
The Black Hmong are located in Nan, Chiang Rai, Tak, Phrae, northern Phetchabun and Phitsanulok. They are well known by their costume. Women wear their hair in a bun and wear dark blue and white pleated knee length skirts with embroidered borders. The men wear a black or dark blue jacket without collar and have wide sleeves and cuffs. Both women and men wear a lot of jewelry made of silver. The Striped Hmong can be found in the west of Nan. They wear Black trousers with a dark jacket with embroidered collars and green, white and blue stripes on their long sleeves.
One can find the White Hmong in Nan and Chiang Rai. Their women wear long loose dark blue trousers with plain long sleeved jackets with embroidered collar flaps and a turban. On special occasions they wear a white skirt with stripes of embroidery down the front.
Cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries have taken the place òf traditional rice growing and gardens — which were introduced as a substitute for opium growing. Hmong hill tribe are involved in several royal projects such as the Doi Inthanon Royal Project and the Huay Luek Development Centre near Chiang Dao which focus on crop substitution.
There are many different tribes among the Hmong, they have diferent languages, cultures and ways of dressing, you can identify them by he colours fo their scarfs.
The spoken language belongs to the H’mong – Dao language family. The H’mong writing was Romanized in 1961 but is not widely used today.
Many places are reserved for worshipping in a H’mong house – there’s a place for ancestors, for the house spirit, for the kitchen spirit, even the door spirit. There are different rituals which forbid people to walk into the H’mong house or their villages. For example, a green tree branch on the front door indicates that entrance is forbidden.
The Black H’mong women are famous for making cloth from hemp and dying it a deep indigo blue. They wear long blouses decorated with batik flowers over short trousers, and wrap long scarves around their legs. They wrap their long hair around their head and wear a blue turban. The men wear long jackets with shirts and a long waist coat embroidered at the collar, and a small hat. Today some H’mong wear Viet or western clothes.
H’mong women are respected in their community as being equal with H’mong men. Husbands and wives are very affectionate and do many of their tasks together like going to the market, working on the field and visiting relatives. In this way, they help each other to develop a strong community life.
Like the other minorities, the Black H’mong have lots of different festivals during the year. They ensure that there is always time for community activities, which play an important role in their life. One of the most important festivals is the New Year, which they celebrate for an entire month. It happens about one month earlier than Vietnamese Tet. During this time, boys play flutes and girls play an instrument made from two leaves. They all spend time together playing traditional games.
For the Black H’mong it is important that a girl knows how to embroider and work well in the field. These skills are more important than her beauty. Boys and girls are allowed to get to know each other before they get married. They go to the love market where they eat and sing songs together. After this time, the boy can propose marriage and if the girl agrees, she goes to live in his house. She is put in a small room and visited by the boy’s mother and sisters who give her food to persuade her to accept the marriage.
The boy must give the bride’s family silver coins, pigs, chicken and rice wine for the wedding ceremony. The bride has some time to decide if she accepts the marriage – even after living with her husband for a few days, she can choose to break their agreement. If the boy doesn’t have a dowry to give to the girl’s family, he lives in her house until he is able to marry her.
When there is a death in the family, the deceased’s children fire a gun to let everyone in the area know. People in the village come to deceased’s house with anything they have – chicken, rice, a small pig or rice wine – to help the family. Everybody sings and eats until the deceased is wrapped in a mat and carried to a grave by one group, while a coffin, which has been kept in a cave somewhere near the grave, is carried by another. Both groups have to run very fast to meet at the grave to make the deceased forget the way home. If the deceased’s family is not able to supervise the funeral rituals, they can wait for a few years before organising a special one called ma kho. They invite people in the village to a place by the grave for the funeral for a celebration, at which they sing and dance.