Thursday, August 6, 2009


The Yao or Mien as they call themselves, are linguistically grouped together with the Meo tribe in the Meo-Yao branch of the Austro-thai family.

The Yao can be found in Kwangxi and Kwagtung Provinces of South China, in Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and North Thailand. In Thailand, the number of Yao in 1995 was estimated at 40,371 and made up 5.81 percent to the total hill tribe population. The major concentration of Yao residents are found in Chiang Rai, Phayao and Nan Province. Nevertheless, there are also a few Yao villages in Chiang Mai, Lampang, Sukhothai, Kamphaeng Phet, and Tak.

Although the Yao grow opium, the cultivation of dry rice and corn is more important to them.

Households with extended families are common, and polygamous marriage is practised. Like the Hmong, Mien boys must choose their wives from outside their clans. When a proper bride price is paid they take their wives to live with their parents and any children automatically become members of the father's patrilineal clan. If a man is poor or a woman is an only daughter, the man may decide to live uxorilocally. He may either live all his life with his wife's family or live with them for just a few years before taking his family back to his parental house. Premarital sexual relationships are common and cross-cousin marriage is preferred. The adoption of children from outside or inside the tribe is widely practised.

Perhaps more than any other tribes, the Yao have adopted many characteristics of Chinese culture. They use Chinese characters to record traditional songs, migratory histories, legends, and the names of ancestors. They also hold their New Year celebration on the same days as the Chinese. The Yao are regarded as pantheists and ancestor-worshippers, and the influence of the popular Toism is evident.

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