Miao Hmong Costume-A History Book Worn on Body

326If you are fortunate enough to visit a Miao Hmong village during festivals or wedding ceremonies, you will be dazzled by the varied and colorful costumes and silver ornaments of Miao Hmong women.

Miao Hmong clothes are appealing not only because of their unique styles and craftsmanship, but also because they reveal the rich Miao Hmong culture and its long history. Their costumes are an integral part of their culture.


Long History

327Mountains and rivers make Miao Hmong villages difficult to access, which reduce the impact of modern civilization and help them maintain old traditions. Some old costumes from Chinese history recorded in ancient books from the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220) have long since disappeared in many parts China, however, such costumes can still be found in the Miao Hmong community. Some foreigners who have visited the Miao Hmong call them “Living Terra Cotta Warriors.”

Great Artistry

Miao Hmong costumes are skillfully made with rich colors and great artistry. The crafts of embroidery, batik dyeing, appliqué quilting, weaving and silversmith technique have been handed down from generation to generation. Miao Hmong girls learn to embroider and do batik dyeing from the age of six or seven. Girls who live near water often use fish and shrimp as motifs, whilst those who live in the mountains use flowers and birds as motifs. The designs are symmetrical flowers, butterflies, birds, animals and geometric patterns. Many motifs used in Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan are similar to those used by the Yao people of Guang Xi and of the Golden Triangle of northern Thailand who are of the same ethnic origin. The designs used in south-eastern Guizhou are similar to the ancient Chinese Chu culture and other designs are similar to those used by the Han, Manchu, Yi, Buyi and Dong people of China, showing their ethnic relationship to those cultures. 328

Strong Culture Message

The Miao people, whose religious beliefs are thought of as primitive, have a strong sense of nation. Without written script, they pass their cultural and traditions not just through oral literature, but also clothing.

The clothes bear strong culture message. Different patterns and designs on the clothes retain rich meaning and refer to legendary stories about such things as their origins, wars and religious beliefs. Therefore, historians view them as the “Wearable History Book”.

The patterns of The Butterfly Mother, which records the origin of human beings, and Jiangyang who shot the sun and the moon, narrate the heroic legend of their ancestors. Many theme patterns such as Yellow River, Yangtze River, the plain and the city portray the tragic immigration history of their ancestors. The Miao Hmong people look to these patterns as history books with which no nationality can compare. The patterns have been passed down through generations as a symbol of the Miao Hmong group to memorize their ancestors and ancient homes. The Miao Hmong costumes speak to the world: “We are the Miao Hmong people and we came from the Yellow River and out of the Yangtze River and through long journeys and rugged paths, we have developed our splendid culture.”


by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

Leave a Reply