The Ethnic Tribe Who Bears Their Ancestors’ Hair

written by Camille Boukortt

There are 55 recognised minorities in China and among those, the Miao people are some of the largest ethnic minorities with a population over 10 million people. However among this group exist many subgroups, including the Suojia, or Longhorn Miao people.

I used not to know much about Chinese ethnic minorities, but when I started learning about them, the Longhorn Miao people left me a lasting impression because of their gorgeous and intricate headdresses. The latter are made with strings of wool and linen interlaced with the woman’s ancestors’ hair, and are passed down from generation to generation, making them an invaluable and precious legacy of one of the oldest tribes in mainland China.

Longhorn Miao Child wearing traditional Miao clothing

Centuries-Old Traditions

Miao people are known in Asia as the Hmong, meaning “free men”. They are ethnically different and linguistically distinct from the Chinese and the other ethnic groups in China and Southeast Asia.

The Miao appear in Chinese history as far as in 2500 B.C., being described as a rebellious tribe banished from China’s central plains around that time.

Miao people have their own language and although the younger generations also speak Mandarin, older tribe members do not understand it and are unable to communicate in that language. Even among Miao people, there are 5 different languages ! Each one of them is associated with a certain sub-groups. They are spoken languages as they had no official script until the mid-20th century, when they started using Chinese characters.

Instead, they wrote about their history and chronicles through their craft, on their clothes and every day items passed down from generation to generation.

Hair With Meaning

It is important to note Longhorn Miao women do not bear the heavy headdress on a daily basis, instead wearing the long hair and wool piece only during festivals or other special occasions.

Longhorn Miao mother helping her daughter put on her headdress

The tradition of wearing one’s ancestors’ hair comes from wanting to honour them beyond death, and wanting to preserve their image for posterity. The horn shape, however, has multiple supposed origins and meanings. One supposition would be that the tribe, living in the mountains, started wearing them to scare off dangerous animals to ensure their safety. Another theory says Miao people wore crossbows and bows behind their head as a send off ceremony after the King Miao died in the war, vowing revenge for their king. Later, these people would replace the weapons with wooden long horns as decoration.

Some say the moon-shaped horns represent Miao’s people worship of the moon, as they often sing to it at night.

Whatever the reason may be, the peculiar and gorgeous headdress is sure to attract curious looks from anyone unfamiliar with their customs !

two Longhorn Miao children

Preserving Their Culture

However, a lot of younger Miao girls and women keep their headdresses away, both for practical reasons due to the long time required to put them on, as well as the will to preserve their fragile family heritage. Nonetheless, globalization and modernisation even in the countryside has started a constant battle for the preservation of minorities’ culture, as those minorities do not have any incentive to learn about them and perpetuate them, and rather move to bigger cities or choose to work factory jobs that pay them more than selling their own produce.

Longhorn Miao mother and daughter

Supporting ethnic minorities is key when it comes to preserving their cultural heritage !

I hope this article has enlightened you about the beautiful culture of Longhorn Miao people, as well as made you want to learn more about them and support their cultural traditions and unique heritage.

 

 

 

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team! 
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!


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China traces health condition of face-tattooed women

Chinese authorities are tracking the health records of the last group of women whose faces were tattooed in a southwestern tribal tradition as they seek to preserve the vanishing ethnic culture.

 
 Chinese Culture

Chinese authorities are tracking the health records of the last group of women whose faces were tattooed in a southwestern tribal tradition as they seek to preserve the vanishing ethnic culture.

The painful tradition of tattooing simple patterns across the nose, mouth and cheeks of women in the Dulong ethnic minority existed for hundreds of years, believed to have started in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

One of China’s 56 ethnic groups, the Dulong ethnic minority has a total population of around 7,000 living in the Dulongjiang Village in southwest Yunnan province.

The custom is believed to have started in the late Ming Dynasty about 360 years ago. The Dulong people were often attacked by other ethnic groups and women were taken as slaves. To avoid being raped, the Dulong women had their faces tattooed to make themselves less attractive.

But after the founding of New China, the tradition began to taper off and the number of Dulong women carrying remnants of the tradition in Yunnan province is dwindling.

In 2007, the number of woman with facial tattoos was 130. Now there remain just 26. The youngest of the 26 is 54, while the oldest is in her 90s.

“We have created records for the 26 women, while doctors check their health condition each month,” said Zhou Lixin, a police officer of the Dulongjiang Village in Nujiang Prefecture, Yunnan.

Doctors have been measuring vital signs such as weight and blood pressure, as well as other physical indices. They also bring medicine to the women and take them to hospital if necessary.

“They are the last face-tattooed women,” he said. “Their stories will become history, but we want them to live longer and healthier.”

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!