Who are the Hmong?
The Hmong are people who love freedom and would fight for it as necessary. Their original homeland was in the heart of China. However, as you trace their history, you would find that they are a people without a homeland since the early 1800’s. They were driven southward after they were defeated by the Chinese during the Opium War. They settled in North Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and later in Thailand.
There are around 2 million Hmong speakers in China, approximately 200,000 in Laos, 300,000 in Vietnam, and 50,000 in Thailand. More than 30,000 others are in refugee camps along the Thai border with Laos. More than 100,000 have been resettled in Western countries.
It is all about clans
There are 18 clans in the Hmong culture, each with a different name. Children are members of their father’s clan. Women, upon marriage, become members of their husband’s clan, but typically retain their original clan — or, rather, maiden name. Members of the same clan consider themselves family.
Religion & traditions
Many Hmong people, both in Asia and the West, perpetuate traditional spiritual practices that include animism and ancestor worship. According to these beliefs, spirits inhabit animals and other natural objects, but also domestic features, such as doorways. The spirits of deceased ancestors are also thought to influence welfare and health of the living. Individuals perform rituals and supply offerings, including food and spirit money, to appease the spirits and earn their favor.
The Hmong New Year celebration is a cultural tradition. During the New Year’s celebration, Hmong dress in traditional clothing and enjoy Hmong traditional foods, dance, music, and other forms of entertainment. Hmong New Year celebrations preserve Hmong ethnic traditions and culture. Hmong New Year celebrations frequently occur in January and February.
Houses are usually built directly on the ground rather than on foundations. They were traditionally made out of upright wooden shingles notched together or bound with hemp rope and creepers without the use of nails, and thatched with teak leaves or grass. Richer households may be able to invest in zinc or polystyrene roofing, while poorer families may have to construct their houses entirely out of pieces of split bamboo and rough matting. The traditional village numbered only about seven houses, but today, owing to reasons of security and the need for intensive cultivation of the land, villages of between seven and fifty households are more common. They are often arranged in a horseshoe pattern just beneath the crest of a mountain, and are, if possible, sheltered by a belt of forest and located close to a source of water.
Arts & crafts
Hmong are famous for their silverwork, and in most villages there are blacksmiths specializing in the production of farming tools and weapons. Chinese silversmiths also often are employed; there are no full-time craft specialists among the Hmong. Women, however, spend a large proportion of their time spinning, weaving, and embroidering hemp and cotton in the intricate needlework of traditional Hmong clothing.