Yunnan and southern China has a large variety to offer when it comes to ethnic minorities. The Miao ethnic minority is very present in southern China (especially in the provinces and autonomous regions of Guizhou, Yunnan, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hunan, Hubei, and Hainan). The majority of the Miao people living in China are located in Guizhou province where in total over four million people have Miao roots. But also in adjascent countries in southeast Asia like Thailand and Vietnam, the Miaos are present. Miao people are furthermore scattered all over the world where the diaspora has also reached countries like France, Canada, and Australia. Many Miao people can also live in the US.
Guizhou Province is often referred to as the Miao homeland. Southeastern Guizhou Dong and Miao Autonomous Prefecture is the major base of the Miao population. They account for over 25 % of the people living in the southeastern Guizhou region. The Tai County in Guizhou is home to the largest concentration of Miao people in the world with a 97 % of the total population. Other Miao people are spread all over the other counties of the province. The majority of Miao people live in mountanious areas that are rather rural.
The Miao people are great observers of etiquette. They are also very hospitable and pay respect to their guests. When people visit their homes, families will often sacrifice a chicken to provide poultry for their guests to eat. They also always do their best to entertain guests properly.
Those who have come from far-off places are given a special drink called horn spirit. This is an alcoholic drink served to pay respect to guests.
The poultry ceremony is also a common custom in Miao households. A chicken head is given to the senior member attending the celebration. The leg is given to the youngest person attending. Another common custom is the sharing of a poultry heart. Either a duck or chicken is sacrificed, and its heart is presented to the guest. The senior member of the household presents the heart using a chopstick. The person carefully picks up the heart and presents it to their guest. In return, the guest must share the heart with the person who presented it to them.
People who cannot tolerate alcoholic drinks and meat can of course excuse themselves from this undertaking and the hosts won't look down on their request. It would be more accepted than for example eating too much: over-eating is regarded as a great insult to a Miao host.
The marriage customs of every ethnic group are unique. Those who are interested in learning more about Miao marriage ceremonies should visit the Guizhou Museum of Marriage Customs of Ethnic Minorities in the town of Xingyi.
Another Miao people custom observed is the exchange and eating of rice cake. It is prepared, cooked and eaten whenever a man and woman fall in love. They are also used during Valentine’s Day as an expression of admiration, when Miao boys and girls exchange rice cakes at any time to show their affection.
Weddings also involve eating rice cake with dragon and phoenix drawings. The couples are required to drink jiao bei spirits using special horn cups for the occasion. This is done by crossing their wrists, linking the arms holding the cups.
The Lusheng Festival
Miao people hold a number of festivals throughout the year of which the Lusheng Festival is one of the greater and more popular ones. The lusheng is a pipe instrument made out of bamboo reed. This festival is celebrated from the 16th to the 20th day of the first lunar month (usually February or early March) in the Kaili area of Guizhou Province. This is considered to be the most influential festival that the Miao people celebrate because of its immense popularity in the procinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan.
Traditional music can also be enjoyed throughout a stay with the Miao. Many Miao people are excellent lusheng players, and they are often happy to present it to visitors. Tourists will get to enjoy great music and lots of dancing during festive gatherings.
The Sisters' Meal Festival
The Sisters’ Meal Festival is another favorite among the Miao in Taijiang and Jianhe counties. This is similar to Valentine’s Day. It is also the oldest Asian Valentine’s Day celebration. It is celebrated from the 16th to the 18th of the third month of the lunar calendar (usually in April).
Miao New Year's Day
The Miao people celebrate their own New Year's Day. It falls during the tenth month of the lunar calendar (late October or November). This is the most important festival for the Miao ethnic group. It symbolizes the start of something new and fruitful. However, the holiday does not have an exact date. The date of New Year's Day is only revealed two months prior to the celebration.
The New Year Festival is very popular among the Miao people. As a matter of fact, this is the biggest festival in Guizhou and Laishan provinces. Tourists who are visiting the province can enjoy various shows that embody Miao customs. They can also see different attractions come to life during the festival. Miao women and girls dress up in traditional costumes and there are large parades. Visitors can learn about these costumes and get to know the different stories behind every symbol.
Other festive attractions also include horse racing and bullfights.
Wonders of Yunnan Travel offers various tours including visits in Miao areas or of other ethnic minorities. Please contact us directly for further tour information!