Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Beyond the Great Wall - Miao Ethnic Minority

There are 1.5 billion people who live in China, and approximately 92% are Han Chinese, that is ethnically Chinese. Most of this blog explores the Han culture. However, in the outer regions of China, beyond the great wall,  various ethnic "minorities" abound. In fact, there are 56 officially recognized ethnic "minorities" in China, which accounts for about 125 million people.
The Miao are one of the largest ethnic minorities in China. They are divided into several subgroups. They live mainly in the mountainous regions of the southwestern provinces of China, and also in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Miao are mostly farmers, who generally live in self sufficient villages. They are animists and shamanists - that is their shamans are called upon when ill to rid their bodies of any evil spirits. They also practice ancestor worship.

The Miao have their own language, and a rich folklore that has been passed down through the ages orally through stories, songs, and their embroidery. The women create beautiful embroidery and batik.

The Miao are famous for their beautiful and intricate silverwork. It is said that the Miao have the most elaborate traditional costumes of all Chinese minorities.

Miao folklore says that the Miao originated from the egg of a butterfly.
Over the next few days, we'll be learning about the famous Miao Sister's Meal festival, sometimes referred to as Chinese valentine's day; we'll be listening to the traditional bamboo wind instrument, the Lusheng; we'll learn about the Long-Horned Miao and why they wear horns in their hair; and we'll make our own version of the silver head pieces.
Photographs from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

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