Mien (North Thailand)

Population and Geographical Distribution

The Mien are a sub-group of the Yao in China, and they originated from South-West China. According to 1995 population figures published by the Tribal Research Institute of Chiang Mai, there are over 40,000 Mien living in 173 villages in North Thailand. Larger numbers are found in Laos (85,000) and Vietnam (474,000) with the majority still in China. According to the 1990 census, there are about 2.1 million Yao living in China. The Yao found in Thailand are the Yiu Mien, one of the major Mien groups.

Language

Linguistically, the Mien language belongs to the Miao-Yao family. It has been rendered in at least three Thai-based orthographies and four romanisations. The Mien, however, have a tradition of writing based on Chinese characters.

Religion and Social Customs

The Mien combine two religious beliefs: animism and Taoism, as it was practiced in the 13th and 14th centuries. The National Statistical Office in 1988 reported 32% Buddhist, 37% Animist, 26% Buddhist/Animist and 5% Christian. The Mien live in large houses that accommodate an extended family of 20 or more members. As with other tribes, construction of the house must be undertaken carefully. The house need to be orientated so that the spirits are not disturbed, and the ancestral altar installed on an auspicious day.

Livelihood and Economic Situation

The Taoist rituals are expensive, and the Mien appear to spend a great deal of their time struggling to save enough money to afford the various ceremonies, such as weddings, merit-making and death ceremonies. The Mien economy was previously based upon shifting cultivation of dry rice, corn, and small quantities of opium poppy. Today, the Mien are establishing farms and are more settled.

Christian Missions

The OMF began working among the Mien in North Thailand in 1952. Today, a team of OMF missionaries continues to work among the Mien. One OMF missionary is currently preparing a new translation of the Bible in Mien. Having completed the New Testament and the Pentatauch, she is now translating the rest of the Old Testament. Mien radio broadcasts are also being prepared.

Christian Church within the group

There are 14 church groups that meet in three districts: North, Central, and South. As the villages are small, the average congregation is around 20 adults. For many years, the main problem in the Mien church has been nominalism. Recently, however, many appear to have come into an understanding faith, but the church groups are still characterized by a general lack of commitment. Promising young Mien Christians leave their villages for the larger towns in pursuit of tertiary education and employment.

IU MIEN: a language of China

SIL code:  IUM

Population 884,000 speakers in China (1999), out of 2,134,013 in the official nationality (1990 census).Population total all countries 1,329,000.

Alternate names   YOUMIAN, YIU MIEN, YAO, MIEN, MIAN, MYEN, HIGHLAND YAO, PAN YAO, BAN YAO

Classification Hmong-Mien, Mienic, Mian-Jin.

Comments Differences from other Mienic languages are in the tone system, consonants, vowel quality, vowel length. Chinese linguists consider the Iu Mien spoken in Changdong, Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County, Guangxi to be the standard. 78% lexical similarity with Kim Mun, 70% with Biao-Jiao Mien, 61% with Ba Pai. Spoken and written Chinese are also in use. The largest language in the Yao nationality. Ethnic groups: Hua Lan, Hua, Hung, Cao Long, Coc, Khoc, Quan Coc, Quan Trang, Son Trang, Sung, Tien (Tiao Tchaine), Yaya. The Laka, Mun, Bunu languages, plus speakers of other Mienic and Hmongic languages, and ethnic Yao who speak Chinese, are officially included under the Yao nationality in China. 'Pingdi Yao' (Piongtuojo, Piongtoajeu) is a variety of Chinese with 1,000,000 speakers, half of whom are members of the Yao nationality, in Hunan-Guangxi border and Guangdong Province. It has 7 tones, and may be closest to Mandarin. Dictionary. Grammar. Roman orthography agreed on in 1984. Minor differences with orthography used in China and western countries. Trial use limited and possibly discontinued. Mountain slope and plains. Peasant agriculturalists: paddy rice; hunters, lumbermen, weavers, embroiderers. Daoist, ancestor veneration, traditional religion. NT 1975-1991.

 

Also spoken in:

Laos   

Language name   IU MIEN

Population 30,000 in Laos (1999 H. Purnell).

Alternate names   MIEN, MAN, YAO, MYEN, HIGHLAND YAO

Comments The language is the same as Thailand and Viet Nam Mien. Not all ethnic Yao speak the language. Almost all refugees in the West have come from Laos. Daoist, ancestor veneration, traditional religion. NT 1975-1991. See main entry under China.

 Thailand   

Language name   IU MIEN

Population 40,000 in Thailand (1999).

Alternate names   MIEN, YAO, MIAN, MYEN, YIU MIEN, YOUMIAN, HIGHLAND YAO, PAN YAO

Dialects CHIANGRAI.

Comments Relatively little dialect variation. All 'Yao' and 'Mien' in Thailand are Iu Mien. Bilingualism in Northern Tai. Swidden agriculturalists: rice; hunters, weavers, embroiderers. Daoist, ancestor veneration, traditional religion. NT 1975-1991. See main entry under China.

 Viet Nam   

Language name   IU MIEN

Population 350,000 in Viet Nam (1999 H. Purnell). All Mien in Viet Nam: 474,000 (1993 Dang Nghiem Van).

Alternate names   YU MIEN, MIEN, MÁN, YAO, MYEN, HIGHLAND YAO, DAO, DONG, TRAI, XÁ, DÌU

Dialects MAN DO, DEO TIEN, CHAM, QUAN CHET, QUAN TRANG.

Comments The language is the same as in Thailand and Laos. Not all ethnic Yao speak Mien; many speak Chinese. Part of the population figure given for Viet Nam may be for Kim Mun. An official ethnic community in Viet Nam. Daoist, ancestor veneration, traditional religion. NT 1975-1991. See main entry under China.

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