Shong Lue Yang

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Shong Lue Yang (RPA: Soob Lwj Yaj, Pahawh: 𖬌𖬤𖬵 𖬘𖬲𖬞 𖬖𖬲𖬤 (ShongLueYangPahawh.png)[1]) (September 15, 1929 – February, 1971) was a Hmong spiritual leader and inventor of the Pahawh script, a semi-syllabary for writing dialects of the Hmong language, as well as the Khmu language. He is honored as the "Mother of Writing" (Niam Ntawv) among the Hmong people.


Born in the village of Fi Tong[clarification needed], Vietnam, near the city of Nong Het, Laos, Yang grew up without learning to read or write, although he likely observed various writing systems.[2] For much of his life, he subsisted as a farmer and basket maker. From 1959 onwards, he experienced a series of reported divine revelations during which he was taught the Pahawh script by a set of male twins. In his visions, he was instructed to teach the script to the Hmong and Khmu people. He believed that the groups who accepted the writing system would flourish and escape the hardships of the time leading up to the Laotian Civil War. Afterwards, he assumed the title of "Savior of the Common People" (Theej Kaj Pej Xeem) and began teaching the script and his message of redemption across Laos.[3]

Following initial successes, including the building of a school in the village of Fi Kha, Yang was targeted by communist forces for his association with General Vang Pao and his troops. Later, he fell under suspicion of Hmong groups who supported the Royal Lao Government (including members of Vang Pao's army) as well as Hmong who supported the communist Pathet Lao. By the bribe and order of General Vang Pao, Shong Lue Yang was assassinated in 1971 by Nos Toom Yang in the village of Nam Chia shortly after producing the final version of the Pahawh Hmong script. However, Nos Toom Yang never did receive his reward of 3,000,000.00 Lao-Kip (approximately $158.96 during the year 1974; the reward ranges between $340.14 to $377.96 in today's value). In 1974, while attempting to collect the bribe from General Vang Pao in Thailand, Nos Toom Yang was killed by Thai officials ordered by General Vang Pao. Nos Toom Yang was handcuffed, blindfolded, and thrown into the Mekong River. Though Shong Lue Yang died, his writing system survived and was republished into many books. One of these books is Mother of Writing, by William A. Smalley.


  1. ^ Smalley, William Allen, Chia Koua Vang (Txiaj Kuam Vaj ChiaKouaVangPahawh.png), and Gnia Yee Yang (Nyiaj Yig Yaj GniaYeeYangPahawh.png). Mother of Writing: The Origin and Development of a Hmong Messianic Script. University of Chicago Press, May 15, 1990. 1. Retrieved from Google Books on March 23, 2012. ISBN 0226762866, 9780226762869.
  2. ^ Smalley 1990:86–90
  3. ^ Smalley 1990:16–25