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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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Beyond the Great Wall - The Long Horn Miao

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.

Young girl of the Long Horn Miao tribe
Photo Credit: Brian Chan

 It was a happy coincidence that the China travel documentary dvd set we borrowed from the library included an episode devoted to Southwest China, where many ethnic minorities reside,  just as we began learning about the Dai and Miao.

This Globe Trekker episode (Globe Trekker has become our go to for travel shows) includes time spent with the long horn Miao, one of the many Miao tribes. From their singing to their hairpieces, I was mesmerized. I was so excited to stumble across that segment on youtube! You can find the video at the end of this post.

The long horned Miao are a fairly secluded tribe, and it has only been in the last twenty years that they have become known to the world.

As with other Miao, embroidery features greatly in their clothing, and is learned at an early age. 
Long Horn Miao
Photo Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Arts

What is most remarkable is the horn worn in the girls hair. The horn represents the strength of an ox. For ceremonies and festivals, ancestral hair, combined with wool and linen is wrapped around the horn in a figure eight. The hair is then secured with white ribbon.

The ancestral hair is passed down from the girls mothers' ancestors, and is indeed worn as a way to memorialize one's ancestors. The size of the hair piece depends on the wealth of the family, and can reach as much as 7 feet long!

Photographs from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

In this video, you can hear the haunting songs of the Miao girls and watch them get their headdresses ready.

To learn more about the Miao, check out our other posts for Beyond the Great Wall, including an overview of the Miao; the Sister's Meal Festival, a traditional courting festival; and the Lusheng, a bamboo wood instrument.

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