A Yao woman, Tiantouzhai, Longji Terraces, China, November 2010
|Regions with significant populations|
Vietnam 751,067 (2009)
|Mienic languages, Bunu languages, Pa-Hng language, Lakkja language, Mandarin Chinese, Shaozhou Chinese, Vietnamese|
|Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity|
The Yao nationality (its great majority branch is also known as Mien; Traditional Chinese: 瑤族, Simplified Chinese: 瑶族, Pinyin: Yáo zú; Vietnamese: người Dao) is a government classification for various minorities in China. They form one of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, where they reside in the mountainous terrain of the southwest and south. They also form one of the 54 ethnic groups officially recognized by Vietnam. In the last census in 2000, they numbered 2,637,421 in China, and roughly 470,000 in Vietnam.
The origins of the Yao can be traced back 2,000 years ago, starting in Hunan Province. The Yao and Miao people were among the rebels during the Miao Rebellions against the Ming dynasty. As the Han Chinese expanded in southern China, the Yao retreated into the highlands between Hunan and Guizhou to the north and Guangdong and Guangxi to the south, and stretching into eastern Yunnan. Around 1890 the Guangdong government started taking action against Yao in northwestern Guangdong.
The first Chinese exonym for "Yao people" was the graphic pejorative yao 猺 (犭"dog radical" and yao 䍃 phonetic) "jackal", which 20th century language reforms changed twice; first with the invented character yao 傜 (亻"human radical") "the Yao", and then with yao 瑤 (玉 "jade radical") "precious jade; green jasper".
Laotian Civil War
During the Laotian Civil War, Yao tribes of Laos had a good relationship with U.S. forces and were dubbed to be an "efficient friendly force". This relationship caused the Laotian government to target Yao tribal groups for revenge once the war was over. This triggered further immigration into Thailand, where the tribes would be put into camps along the Thailand-Laos border.
Immigration to the United States
After obtaining refugee status from the Thai government and with the help of the United Nations, many Yao people were able to obtain sponsorship into the United States (although many remain in Thailand). Most of the Yao who have immigrated to the United States have settled along the Western part of the U.S., mainly in Central and Northern California such as Visalia, Fresno, Oakland, Oroville, Redding, Richmond, Sacramento, but also in parts of Oregon like Portland, Salem, and Beaverton as well as the state of Washington in Seattle and Renton. See Mien American for those identified as Mien.
The typical houses of the Yao are rectangular and they have structures made of wood and bamboo. Normally it has three rooms: a room and two dormitories in the lateral side. Each one of these rooms has a small oven to cook.
The men and the women cover their heads with a black or red scarf. Some women substitute this scarf by a turban that can adopt different forms.
The traditional suit of the women is of bright colors. They also decorate their shirts with decorations made out of silver.
In Vietnam, Yao people celebrate many exciting and meaningful festivals such as Nhơn chung lỉnh (literally: Red rice, Green rice"), Nhiang chằm đao (literally: Jumping Festival).
The Yao, or Iu-Mien, have a religion based on medieval Chinese Taoism, although many have converted to Buddhism and some to Christianity. Though some people have converted to other religions, many still practice their native traditions.
Marriage is traditionally arranged by go-betweens who represent the boy's family to the girl's parents. If the union is acceptable, a bride price is negotiated, typically ranging from three to ten silver bars, worth about $100 U.S. dollars each, a partial artifact from the opium trade. The wedding takes place in two installments, first at the bride's house, followed by a procession to the groom's house where a second ceremony occurs.
Groups and languages
There are several distinct groups within the Yao nationality, and they speak several different languages, The Iu Mien make up 70% of the Yao populace.
- Miao–Yao languages
- The Mien speak Mienic languages (Chinese: Miǎnyǔ, Traditional Chinese: 勉語, Simplified Chinese: 勉语), including:
- Mian–Jin languages
- Dzao Min, 60,000 speakers 
- Biao-Jiao Mien, 43,000 speakers 
- Hmongic languages
- The Mien speak Mienic languages (Chinese: Miǎnyǔ, Traditional Chinese: 勉語, Simplified Chinese: 勉语), including:
- Lakkja language (a Tai–Kadai language)
- about 500,000 Yao speak Chinese dialects
In addition to China, Yao also live in northern Vietnam (where they are called Dao), northern Laos, and Burma. There are around 60,000 Yao in northern Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes. The lowland-living Lanten of Laos, who speak Kim Mun, and the highland-living Iu Mien of Laos are two different Yao groups. There are also many Yao living in the United States, mainly refugees from the highlands of Laos who speak the Iu Mien language. The Iu Mien do not call themselves "Yao". Not all "Yao" are Iu Mien. A group of 61,000 people on the island of Hainan speak the Yao language Kim Mun 139,000 speakers of Kim Mun live in other parts of China (Yunnan and Guangxi), and 174,500 live in Laos and Vietnam.
The Bunu call themselves Nuox [no˩˧], Buod nuox [po˦˧no˩˧], Dungb nuox [tuŋ˧no˩˧], or their official name Yaof zuf [ʑau˨˩su˨˩]. Only 258,000 of the 439,000 people categorised as Bunu in the 1982 census speak Bunu; 100,000 speak Zhuang, and 181,000 speak Chinese and Bouyei.
Mao Zongwu (2004:7-8) gives a detailed list of various Yao autonyms (i.e., self-designated names) and the Chinese names of various groups and clans associated with them. The autonyms are written in the International Phonetic Alphabet with numerical Chao tones.
- Autonym mjen31 勉 or ju31 mjen31 优勉: Pangu Yao 盘古瑶, Pan Yao 盘瑶, Panhu Yao 盘瓠瑶, Trans-Mountain / Guoshan Yao 过山瑶, Large-Board / Daban Yao 大板瑶, Small-Board / Xiaoban Yao 小板瑶, Board / Ban Yao 板瑶, Top-Board / Dingban Yao 顶板瑶, Sharp-Headed / Jiantou Yao 尖头瑶, Level-Headed / Pingtou Yao 平头瑶, Red-Head / Hongtou Yao 红头瑶, Arrow-Pole / Jian'gan Yao 箭杆瑶, Cattle-Horn Yao / Niujiao 牛角瑶, Tu Yao 土瑶 (in Hezhou County, Guangxi), Native / Bendi Yao 本地瑶, Flowery / Hua Yao 花瑶 (in Yangshuo County, Guangxi), Ao Yao 坳瑶, Zheng Yao 正瑶, Liang Yao 粮瑶
- Autonym kim33 mun33 金门 or kem53 di35 mun21 甘迪门: Blue-Indigo / Landian Yao 蓝靛瑶, Shanzi Yao 山子瑶, Flowery-Headed / Huatou Yao 花头瑶, Sand / Sha Yao 沙瑶, Level-Headed / Pingtou Yao 平头瑶, Bazi Yao 坝子瑶
- Autonym bjau31 mɔn31 标曼 or ɕi31 mun31 史门: Min Yao 民瑶, "Four Great" Min Yao 四大民瑶
- Autonym bjau31 min31 标敏 or tɕau44 koŋ55 meŋ55 交公勉: East Mountain / Dongshan Yao 东山瑶 (in Quanzhou County, Guangxi), Dog-Headed / Goutou Yao 狗头瑶
- Autonym dzau53 min53 藻勉: Bapai Yao 八排瑶
- Autonym ju21 ŋjɛn24 优念, pjoŋ31 toa53 jeu31 炳多优, or ʂan33 tɕai33 珊介: Red Yao 红瑶 (in Longsheng County, Guangxi), Plains / Pingdi Yao 平地瑶
- Autonym pu53 nu24 布努: Beilou Yao 背篓瑶, Beilong Yao 背陇瑶, West Mountain / Xishan Yao 西山瑶, East Mountain Yao / Dongshan 东山瑶 (in Bama County, Guangxi), Tudi Yao 土地瑶, Tu Yao 土瑶 (in Pingguo County and Mashan County, Guangxi), Mountain / Shan Yao 山瑶, Man Yao 蛮瑶, East Valley / Dongnong Yao 东弄瑶, West Valley / Xinong Yao 西弄瑶, Fan Yao 反瑶, Anding Yao 安定瑶, White Yao 白瑶, Black Yao 黑瑶, Black-Trouser / Heiku Yao 黑裤瑶, Long-Shirt / Changshan Yao 长衫瑶
- Autonym nau35 klau42 瑙格劳 or pou22 nou12 包诺: White-Trouser / Baiku Yao 白裤瑶, Siting Yao 四亭瑶, Situan Yao 四团瑶
- Autonym kjɔŋ33 nai33 炯奈: Hualan Yao 花蓝瑶
- Autonym pa31 ŋ̥ŋ35 巴哼: Dog Yao 狗瑶, Eight-Surname / Baxing Yao 八姓瑶, Red Yao 红瑶 (in Liping and Congjiang Counties of Guizhou; Rongshui and Longsheng Counties of Guangxi), Wood Yao 木瑶
- Autonym m̥n33 nai33 唔奈: Flowery Yao 花瑶 (in Longhui, Dongkou, Chenxi, Xupu, and Tongdao Counties of Hunan)
- Autonym ʑou13 nɔ13 优诺: Red Yao 红瑶
- Autonym lak24 kja24 拉珈: Tea Mountain / Chashan Yao 茶山瑶
Groups considered to be "Plains Yao" (Pingdi Yao 平地瑶) include:
- Autonym Bingduoyou 炳多尤 (Pingdi Yao 平地瑶, Dainaijiang 代奈江): in Jianghua County 江华 of Hunan; Gongcheng 恭城, Fuchuan 富川, Zhongshan 钟山, and Lingui 临桂 counties of Guangxi
- Autonym Yeheni 爷贺尼 (Pingdi Yao 平地瑶): in Jianghua County 江华, Hunan (Jianghua County Almanac). The Yeheni speak a divergent Chinese dialect.
- Autonym Younian 优念 (Pinghua-speaking Red Yao 平话红瑶; ʑou13 ȵen13): in Longsheng 龙胜 and Guanyang 灌阳 counties of Guangxi
- Autonym Shanjie 珊介 (Shanzi Yao 山仔瑶): in Fangcheng 防城, Guangxi
- Autonym Youjia 优嘉 (Yaojia 瑶家): in Guanyang County 灌阳, Guangxi
- Jingdong Yao 景东县瑶族 (autonym: Lewu people 乐舞人): Jingdong County 景东彝族自治县, Yunnan
The Yao of Guizhou are found in the following locations (Guizhou Province Almanac 贵州志).
- Libo County: townships of Yaoshan 瑶山, Yaolu 瑶麓, and Yao'ai 瑶埃
- Shiqian County (2,522 people): 9 Yao villages including Leijiatun 雷家屯 and Wurongguan 乌荣关 of Beita Township 北塔乡, and Shuiwei Village of Huaqiao Township 花桥乡水尾村
- Wangmo County: the 4 villages of Shangyoumai 上油迈、Xiaoyoumai 下油迈、Xinzhai 新寨、and Jiaxian 加现 in Youmai Township 油迈瑶族乡
- Majiang County: 23 Yao villages in Longshan Township 龙山乡, including Heba 河坝 (with 6,474 people)
- Liping County
- Shunhua Township 顺化瑶族乡 (1,316 people as of 1992): Gongcun 贡村、Gaoka 高卡、Yibuwan 已补晚、Yishu 已树; Gaozizhai of Gaoshu Village 高抒村高仔寨
- Leidong Township 雷洞瑶族水族乡 (1,576 people, as of 1992): Jinchengzhai 金城寨 and Yibizhai 已毕寨 of Jincheng Village 金城村, Sanshanzhai of Xilao Village 戏劳村三山寨; Cenpangzhai 岑胖寨、Nongbozhai 弄播寨、Yunnanzhai 云南寨
- Congjiang County: 2 subgroups of Red Yao 红瑶 and Pan Yao 盘瑶
- Red Yao 红瑶
- Cuili Township 翠里瑶族壮族乡: Gaomang 高忙、Xinzhai 新寨、Shujiawan 舒家湾、Wucai 乌菜、Jiage 架格、Baiyanchong 白岩冲、Raojia 饶家
- Jiabang Township 加榜乡: Dazhou 达州村
- Pan Yao 盘瑶
- Xishan Township 西山镇: Cengang 岑杠、Gaojiao 高脚、Qiuka 秋卡
- Douli Township 斗里乡: Dengmian 登面、Changka 长卡、Gaoliu 高柳、Beitong 碑痛
- Xiutang Township 秀塘壮族乡: Dage 打格、Yusha 雨沙、Jiujia 九甲、Baidao 摆倒、Wubu 乌布、Xilin 细林
- Zaibian Township 宰便镇: Zezhui 怎追
- Xiajiang Township 下江镇: Huanglang 黄郎
- Yongli Township 拥里乡: Dashan 大山、Laozhai 老寨、Gangbian 刚边、Huangnijing 黄泥井
- Donglang Township 东郎乡: Baidui 摆堆
- Red Yao 红瑶
- Rongjiang County
- Tashi Township 塔石瑶族水族乡 (2,979 people): Zedong 怎东村、Zaiyong 宰勇村、Dangxiang 党相村、Tashi 塔石村、Dangdiao 党调村、Zeba 怎贝村、Qiaoyang 乔央村.
- Pingjiang Township 平江乡: Jijiaoba 鸡脚坝、Balu 巴鲁
- Pingyong Township 平永镇: Sanbuqiao 三步桥、Qiaohai 乔亥
- Sanjiang Township 三江乡: Wuhong 乌洪
- Liangwang Township 两汪乡: Cen'ao 岑熬
- Pingyou Township 平尤乡: Shuangxikou 双溪口、Bakai 八开
- Leishan County
- Dadi Township 达地镇: Longtanggou 龙塘沟、Paisong 排松、Pingzhai 平寨、Laozhai 老寨、Beilue 背略、Pangjia 庞家、Jieli 皆力、Gaolue 高略、Tongwu 同乌、Yeliao 也辽、Xiaowu 小巫、Baimizhai 白米寨、Hebian 河边
- Liuwu Township 柳乌乡: Liuwu 柳乌
- Qiaosang Township 乔桑乡: Xiagaojian 下高枧
- Gulu Township 固鲁乡: Nanping 南屏
- Danzhai County: Pailu 排路、Yangwu 杨武、Jiapei 加配
- Jianhe County: Zhandi Village, Taiyong Township 太拥乡展迪村
- Sandu County: Wuxia 巫不、Pu'an 普安、Jiaxiong 甲雄、Shangjiang 上江、Niuchang 牛场
- Luodian County: Ankang 安抗 of Luotuo 罗妥; Naji 纳吉、Nakao 纳考、Nanao 纳闹、Luoyang 罗羊、Longping 龙坪、Bianyang 边阳 of Fengting 风亭
- Ziyun County (297 people): Tangguan Village, Maoping Township 茅坪塘贯村。
- Guanling County (189 people)
The Yao of Guizhou have various autonyms, such as:
- toŋ55 mo55 (董蒙), in Yaoshan 瑶山, Libo County. The Buyi people call them ʑou21.
- nu55 hou33 (努侯), in Yaolu 瑶麓, Libo County. The Shui people call them miou35 lo55.
- tuŋ33 muŋ33 (东蒙), in Yao'ai 瑶埃, Libo County. The Buyi people call them ʑou21.
- maŋ55 (满), in Youmai 油迈, Wangmo County.
- ʑoŋ21 min21 (容棉), in Rongjiang, Leishan, Danzhai, Jianhe, Congjiang, and Sandu Counties.
Some subgroups of ethnic Yao in Hunan include:
- Pan Yao 盘瑶 (Mian 勉): in Jianghua, Chenxian, Lanshan, Ningyuan, Daoxian, Guiyang, Lingling, Chengbu, Chenxi, Xinning; speak a Mienic language.
- Guoshan Yao 过山瑶: in Jianghua, Lanshan, Ningyuan; speak a Mienic language.
- Huajiao Yao 花脚瑶 (Wunai 唔奈): in Longhui, Tongdao, Xupu, Chenxi; speak a Hmongic language.
- Batong Yao 八垌瑶: in Xinning; speak a Hmongic language.
- Pingdi Yao 平地瑶 (Bingduoyou 炳多尤): in Jianghua, Jiangyong, and speak a Chinese dialect.
- Qixing Yao 七姓瑶: in Chenxi, and speak a Chinese dialect.
The Hunan Province Gazetteer (1997) gives the following autonyms for various peoples classified by the Chinese government as Yao.
- ju21 mien21 尤棉: in much of Xiangxi Prefecture
- tom21 pen21 ju21 董本尤: in Xintian County, Yizhang County, Changning County
- ku21 goŋ55 ju21 谷岗尤: in Lanshan County, Jianghua County
- thou21 ju21 土尤
- dzau21 min21 藻敏: in Shuangpai County, Dao County, Ningyuan County
- Donglixiao 洞里销: in Xinning County; also called Bunu 布努, Donglixiao 峒里俏, or Dong Yao 峒瑶 (Xinning County Gazetteer 2009). Their language is called Donghua 峒话.
- mm21 nai33 唔奈: in Longhui County, Xupu County
- piŋ21 toa52 jeu21 炳多尤 (also called Dainaijiang 代奈江): in Jianghua County, Jiangyong County
The Yao of Shaoyang Prefecture are found in the following locations (Shaoyang Prefecture Gazetteer 1997). Population statistics are as of 1990.
- Xinning County (12,756 Yao persons): Malin 麻林乡, Huangjin 黄金乡, Jingwei 靖位乡 (in Yuanshui 源水瑶族村)
- Dongkou County (8,473 Yao persons): Naxi 那溪乡, Changtang 长塘乡, Dawu 大屋乡; Yuexi 月溪, Zhaping 渣坪, Tongshan 桐山
- Longhui County (6,151 Yao persons): Huxingshan 虎形山乡, Mao'ao 茅坳乡, Xiaoshajiang 小沙江镇, Qingshan 青山, Matangshan 麻塘山
- Chengbu County (2,276 Yao persons): Lanrong 兰蓉, Qingyuan 清源, Dayang 大阳, Tingping 汀坪, Pengdong 蓬洞, Yangmei 杨梅
- Suining County (1,641 Yao persons): Jinta 金趿, Shuikou 水口
The Shaoyang Prefecture Gazetteer (1997) reports that the Yao of Shaoyang Prefecture, Hunan speak the following languages.
- Mienic languages
- Hmongic languages?: Huangjin 黄金 and Malin 麻林 of Xinning County
- Southern Dong dialect: Naxi 那溪, Dongkou County and Lianmin 联民, Suining County
The following population statistics of ethnic Yao in Hunan are from the 1990 Chinese census, as given in the Hunan Province Gazetteer (1997).
After the Eleventh Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (in session from 1977 to 1982), the Guangxi Nationality Institute and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences together created a new Yao writing system which was unified with the research results of the Yao-American scholar Yuēsè Hòu (Traditional Chinese: 約瑟·候/Simplified Chinese: 约瑟·候). The writing system was finalized at a one-day conference in 1984 in Ruyan County, Guangdong, which included Chinese professors Pan Chengqian (盤承乾/盘承乾), Deng Fanggui (鄧方貴/邓方贵), Liu Baoyuan (劉保元/刘保元), Su Defu (蘇德富/苏德富) and Yauz Mengh Borngh; Chinese government officials; Mien Americans Sengfo Chao (Zhao Fuming), Kao Chiem Chao (Zhao Youcai), and Chua Meng Chao; David T. Lee.
American linguist Herbert C. Purnell developed a curriculum and workshop presentations on language learning in East and Southeast Asia, as well as Yao Seng Deng from Thailand. The US delegation took the new writing system to the Iu Mien community in the United States where it was adopted with a vote of 78 to 7 by a conference of Mien American community leaders. This writing system based on the Latin alphabet was designed to be pan-dialectal; it distinguishes 30 syllable initials, 121 syllable finals and eight tones.
For an example of how the unified alphabet is used to write Iu Mien, a common Yao language, see Iu Mien language.
A variety of Yao is, or was, written in Nüshu, an indigenous script.
Officially illiteracy and semi-literacy among the Yao in China still stands at 40.6%, as of 2002.
References and sources
- This article incorporates text from The Chinese times, Volume 4, a publication from 1890 now in the public domain in the United States.
- "The 2009 Vietnam Population and Housing Census: Completed Results". General Statistics Office of Vietnam: Central Population and Housing Census Steering Committee. June 2010. p. 134. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Wiens, Herold Jacob (1967). Han Chinese expansion in South China. Shoe String Press. p. 276.
- The Chinese times, Volume 4. TIENTSIN: THE TIENTSIN PRINTING CO. 1890. p. 24. Retrieved 2011-06-27.From January, 1890, to December, 1890 (STANFORD LIBRARY)
- Independent Lens . DEATH OF A SHAMAN . The Mien | PBS
- Info re the Yao people
- 毛宗武 / Mao Zongwu. 2004. 瑤族勉语方言研究 / Yao zu Mian yu fang yan yan jiu [A Study of Mien Dialects]. Beijing: 民族出版社 / Min zu chu ban she.
- Guizhou County Gazetteer: Ethnic Gazetteer [贵州省志. 民族志] (2002). Guiyang: Guizhou Ethnic Publishing House [貴州民族出版社].
- 湖南瑶族社会历史调查 (2009)
- AsiaHarvest.org: Ethnic group profiles of China
- Forbes, Andrew, and Henley, David, 'Chiang Mai's Hill Peoples' in: Ancient Chiang Mai Volume 3. Chiang Mai, Cognoscenti Books, 2012. ASIN: B006IN1RNW
- Máo Zōngwǔ 毛宗武: Yáozú Miǎnyǔ fāngyán yánjiū 瑶族勉语方言研究 (Studies in Mien dialects of the Miao nationality; Běijīng 北京, Mínzú chūbǎnshè 民族出版社 2004), ISBN 7-105-06669-5.
- Méng Cháojí 蒙朝吉: Hàn-Yáo cídiǎn - Bùnǔyǔ 汉瑶词典——布努语 (Chinese-Yao Dictionary - Bunu; Chéngdū 成都, Sìchuān mínzú chūbǎnshè 四川民族出版社 1996), ISBN 7-5409-1745-8.
- Barker, Judith C., and Saechao, Kaochoy. "A Household Survey of Older Iu-Mien Refugees in Rural California." Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 12.2 (1997): 121-143.
- Barker, Judith C. & Saechao, Kaochoy. (2000). A demographic survey of Iu-Mien in West Coast States of the U.S., 1993. Journal of Immigrant Health, 2:1, 31-42.
- 2003 - Death of a Shaman. Directed by Richard Hall; produced by Fahm Fong Saeyang.
- 1989 - "Moving Mountains: The Story of the Yiu Mien". Directed and produced by Elaine Velazquez
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yao people.|
- The Virtual Hilltribe Museum
- The Yao ethnic minority (on a Chinese government website)
- Yao religious culture - bibliography by Barend ter Haar
- Yao People On-line - in Chinese
- Ethnic Yao subgroups (Chinese)
- The Mien
- The Yao of Thailand