Miao Ethinic Group - Festivals
In 2019 we once again traveled to China’s Guizhou Province to visit with the people of the Miao ethnic group. Our guide, Li Mao Qing of Tribal Tours of China would be our guide for the next six days. We met at the High-Speed Train station in Sanduxian, China.
The Miao are a culturally rich ethnic minority that lives primarily in southern China, Laos, Burma, northern Vietnam, and Thailand. Originally from China, the Miao are animists and ancestor worshipers and have traditionally lived in mountain villages located at 3,000 to 6,000 feet level. According to Miao history they lived along the Yellow River and Yangtze River valleys as early as 5,000 years ago. Later they migrated to the forests and mountains of southwest China.
From their earliest days, the Miao practiced primitive farming using slash-and-burn methods. Families never lived in the same house for more than five years. As the soil in one area became depleted, they would move away. The Miao became known for always being on the move. However, most of the Miao have settled down since the middle of the twentieth century.
The term Miao is actually of Chinese origin. They are known in Southeast Asia as the Hmong (roughly pronounced mung). Hmong means "free men." Miao means weeds” or ‘sprouts." Miao subgroups---Red Miao, White Miao (Striped Miao), Cowrie Shell Miao, Flowery Miao, Black Miao, Green Miao (Blue Miao)---are in most cases named after the woman's dress.
The Miao are one of the largest minorities in China. They are widely distributed over Guizhou, Yunnan, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces, with a small number living on Hainan Island and in Guangdong Province and in southwest Hubei Province. Most of them live in tightly-knit communities, with a few living in areas inhabited by several other ethnic groups. The main Miao settlements are in the Southeastern Guizhou.
Wooden Drum Worship
The Wooden Drum Worship we witnessed was in a village named Qingjiang. It is said ancestors rest after rice seedlings are planted till harvest in October. The only sound that can wake the up ancestors is the wooden drum. Today, the sacred drum is worshiped with offerings of fish, pig’s head, egg, and rice. The drum is carried to village square in the afternoon, participants in festive dress are coming from neighboring villages to dance around the drum, while invisible ancestors are believed to enjoy the entertainment with the visible world.
Miao people consider a bull as a symbol of health, power, hard work and bravery, and the Bullfighting Festival epitomizes their fondness for bulls. The holding of bullfighting festival is not for fun, but to worship, show their love to buffalos, and present the inborn characteristics by letting the buffalos fight. There are two kinds of fighting bulls. One is farm cattle which usually goes farming and only fights in Bullfighting Festival; the others are “expert” buffalos that do not go to a farm but are trained to fight.
Common rules for bullfighting amongst the Miao include 6-minute matches. If the bulls are still fighting to a draw the bulls are separated and both declared winners. If at anytime one bull breaks off the fight and seeks to escape the match is ended and the dominant bull is declared the winner. Before each match the bulls are weighed and categorized so as to only fight other bulls in its category. Their horns are sanded and the fight begins when the bulls are released.
Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.Anthony Bourdain
Miao Double Ninth (Chongyangjie) Festival
The Double Ninth Festival is observed on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar, is a traditional Chinese holiday, mentioned in writing since before the Eastern Han period (before AD 25).
We arrived at the parking lot for the festival and took a short cut over the river to the venue. Food stalls were set up and a bullfight was in progress. The weather was scorching hot and the crowds were building. We took a short respite at a local government office and police station that had their air conditioner running.