Miao minority and the Dong minority are the two major ethnic groups in Guizhou Province. In this article, we’ll gain deeper understanding on their lives, customs, traditions, and way of living.
The Miao ethnic minority
Miao ethnic group is one of the largest ones in Southwest China. The total population is close to 9 million and they are mainly distributed across Guizhou Province. A huge percentage of Miao people live in tightly knit communities whilst the rest live in inhabited areas.
The story of Miao ethnic minority in China started 2,000 years ago. During the Qin and Han Dynasties, their ancestors occupied the western part of the Hunan and east part of Guizhou. However, it was only during the Tang and Song period that they were referred to as Miao ethnic minority.
In the third century A.D., they went to south Sichuan and northwest Guizhou along the Wujiang River. Later on, some Miao groups moved to west Guizhou and east Sichuan. In the 9th century, some lived in Yunnan. In 16th century, some Miaos decided to live in Hainan Island. Because of this, Miaos are now widely dispersed.
Miao people speak three major dialects; the dialect of ChuanQianDian, the one of eastern Guizhou Province, and the dialect of western Hunan Province. However, most of them also know how to speak Chinese because they used to live with the Han and other people. Some also know Zhuang and Dong languages.
Miao people worship the nature and believe that everything in it has spirit. They believe that nature is mighty enough to have control over their lives. When the province is struck by disasters, Miao people would summon a wizard to drive out bad spirits. Aside from the nature, they also worship their ancestors. Every now and then, they make sacrifices such as meat and wine to either say thanks or to ask for help. Some Miao people believe in Catholicism and other Christian religions.
Rice is a staple food for Miao people. They eat this together with a viand and soup. Common dishes they serve at the dining table are meat and picked vegetables. They also use hot seasonings all the time. As for drinks, they serve home-made wine. Glutinous rice is a popular snack and is usually served during celebrations and festivals.
Miao people are very talented when it comes to weaving, embroidering, batik, paper-cutting, and jewelry casting. Their training usually starts around seven years old. Young girls are being taught by their mothers and older sisters. By the time they become teenagers, they are very skilled at handicrafts. The Miao silver jewelry casting and embroidery is very famous around China because of its exceptional quality. The patterns that they usually do are colorful and complicated but with clean lines.
Miao people celebrate different festivals every year. However, the most important is the Miao Spring festival. This is celebrated in many different ways. One of the most fascinating involves young men and women who are asked to climb up the opposite sides of the hill.
Alternately, they will sing verses of their chosen love song using the folk telephone until sunset. This can last up to three days. If some of these men and women are satisfied with the singing voice of opposite sex, wedding will follow.
The Dong Ethnic Minority
The Dong Ethnic Minority in China lives in the border regions between Hunan, Guizhou, and Hubei Provinces. Their populations are about 3 million. During the Tang Dynasty, these people had successfully separated themselves from the mixed minority Bai Yue and named themselves Dong. Many Dong people speak Chinese but their main language is a branch of Zhuang-Dong of the Sino-Tibetan phylum.
Crafts and Economy
A huge number of Dong minority work on industrial arts, forestry, and agriculture. The women are very skilled at embroidering, spinning, and on the brocade. They like to embroider patterns of wares, plants, animals, and sometimes, even legends that is unique to their culture. The clothes they use everyday are mostly self-made and usually in color of black, blue, purple, and white. Aside from embroidering, they are also skilled in the arts of casting of ornate silver work, engraving, and painting.
Dong people also believe in nature; they believe that everything that exists in nature have gods and spirits. Each time calamity strikes, Dong people will summon a wizard to ward off bad spirits or devil. It is also their tradition to make sacrifices; leaving food, drinks, jewelry, and other precious items in the forest or any place they consider sacred to either ask for help or to give thanks.
Food and Dining
Dong people love rice. In fact, rice is something that they cannot do without in their everyday living. Other staple food includes wheat, corn, millet, and glutinous rice. They also love acidic and pickled foods. As for their drinks, they often have tea, which is mixed with various ingredients.
When you go and visit the Dong people into their houses, they will usually serve you with one bowl of tea together with one chopstick. They’ll keep giving you more until you decide to return the chopstick.
Dong people are considered skilled when it comes to architecture. Some of their artistic contributions are Drum Tower and Wind and Rain Bridge. These are great architectural pieces that are famous because of their elaborate structural design.
Just like other minority groups in China, Dong people love festivals. They celebrate New Year’s Day, Dragon Boat Festivals, and Mid Autumn Day.
Festivals that are unique to the Dong people are the following:
Dongnian Festival. This is celebrated on the eleventh lunar month. It’s a festival to thank their gods for their harvest. During this time, Dong people usually serve cooked glutinous rice, pickled carps, and chicken.
New Rice Tasting Festival. The festival begins, as the early rice is ready for picking. The families will harvest some and cook it. Then, they will say thanks to their ancestors for a great harvest. After that, the celebration will continue with wonderful bullfighting activities.
Sisters Festival. Every 8th day of the fourth lunar month, women who already got married go back to their parents’ house to spend time with their sisters. The sisters will then cook and serve glutinous rice and just have a great time. After that, married women will give some of the glutinous rice to their husband’s family on their way home.