Originally, the Hmong people were immigrants from Tibet, Siberia and Mongolia, before migrating to China
where they settled down in areas around the Yellow (Huang Ho) River, Kwaijoa, Hunnam, Kwangsi and Yunnan. Now,
Hmong people in Thailand have set up villages on the hills, or the lowlands, around Chiang Rai, Payao, Chiang Mai,
Prae, Lampang, Khampang Phet, Loei, Phisanulok, Phetchabun, Tak and Mae Hong Son.
The Hmong language is far from standardized and includes a mixture of many other languages. Most Hmong are likely
to speak to each other in the languages from their surrounding environment, such as Yunnan Chinese, Laos, or Northern Thai.
All three Hmong tribes do share the same set of root words and grammar structure, but the accent varies. The three Hmong
tribes are able to communicate with one another, each using their own tribal language, and be understood. An alphabet
or system of writing, however, are noticeably absent. There is a Hmong tale about how at one time there was an alphabet
and system of writing.
At present the Hmong are able to read and write the Hmong language by way of using Latin characters (Hmong RPA).
Memory and recitation, however, have been the sole form for preserving and passing on Hmong tales of their history
and culture down through the generations.
Lifestyle and House
In the past, Hmong people were not interested in studying because they had to work the fields. The government’s
education curriculum is improving Hmong youths in the village to change their way of living. The children can go to
school to get an education, their environment changes for the better, and they have the opportunity to move on
to higher education, get a good job, and better quality of life. The Hmong can then integrate, adapting themselves
socially and live in the city more easily. This improvement in education is of great importance to their daily life,
but the traditional culture, and language, suffers as a result. This is a very important issue for the new generation
Hmong people - to understand, and continue to practice, their traditional culture.
Hmong people usually build their houses on a hill, especially the group who plant opium as a crop. A royal grace
from the king gives the Hmong the option to move to the plains, but some groups still live in their traditional regions.
A Hmong village is made up of separate groups; each having 7-8 houses in a rough circle, with the group leader’s
located in the center. The village usually has many groups, each one containing members of the same family.
The Hmong use green bamboo wood to make the walls, splitting and tying it together, while the roof is made
from Imperata Cylindrica or Nipa palm. Houses do not have windows because they live, usually, in cold weather areas.
There is a main door close to the stove, and seating for the visitor. The stove is situated on the left and used to make
food for visitors, and also for boiling food for the pigs. Some houses have a mortar for pounding rice, or a millstone
for grinding corn, flour, and soybeans. Further in the house, again on the left hand side, there is normally a bedroom
for the members of the family.
Cultural and Traditional
A husband’s duty involves family leadership and the provision for the physical and spiritual welfare of his family.
Husbands have authority over wives and make major decisions regarding family affairs. Hmong women are responsible
for nurturing the children, preparing meals, feeding animals, and sharing in agricultural labor. Traditionally Hmong women
eat meals only after the Hmong men have eaten first especially if there are guest in the house.
As regards childbirth, Hmong women traditionally have worked up until the day of delivery. Hmong women have
traditionally delivered their babies while standing in a squatting position to facilitate the vertical delivery of the newborn.
The newborn’s placenta or “black jacket” has been, by custom, buried in a very specific location within
the Hmong household---the male’s placenta being buried under the center-post of the household while
the female’s placenta is buried under the bed.
Hmong New Year
Every Hmong village cerebrate the New Year around the same time in December after harvesting and also cerebration
the successful of paddy and vegetables product. During the festival, they will offer food to the sky spirits, forest spirits
and the spirits who take care of them and their houses throughout the year. On the first day of the New Year, the head
of the family will lead a religious ceremony to pray for prosperity in the family. The New Year celebration will last for three days
where all of them do not go to work and will enjoy themselves in a traditional activity. The activity includes a game played
with a ball made from clothes, a top spinning session and sing Hong‚ Aos song.
The Eat New Rice Ceremony
This ceremony held annually around October. Hmong people believe that the ancestor spirit must be offered food
because in the old year the ancestor protected them from evil. In the past, villagers favored a large mortar to pound,
and gave boiled rice to the ancestor. Before offering the rice, the villager leaves a male chicken in front of the ghost
gate of the house, and chants to tell the spirit to take the food. After the ceremony, family members can eat the food
that is given to the ancestor spirit. The Eat New Rice ceremony is still passed from generation to generation.
Religious, Beliefs, and Rituals
To determine where to build their house, the Hmong will cast lots. They do this by putting rice grains, equal to the number
of family members plus three grains to represent their animals, in a bowl if the rice remains in the bowl the next day,
it means they can build the house on that spot. This ceremony is still practiced today.
Hmong religious belief requires that the deceased person return to his or her place of birth and recover his or her “black jacket”
before proceeding on to the spirit world to be reborn. By custom Hmong women must not engage in any strenuous
physical activity for thirty days after childbirth. The shaman is the spiritual leader in the Hmong community.
The Hmong have a tradition of relying on black magic to help in correctly diagnosing and treating various sicknesses
and ailments. The Hmong believe sickness and pain is caused by spirits. If one's actions manage to upset the spirits,
then the spirits will take revenge, inflicting sickness and pain. Hmong believe that having a sound and healthy
body is essential to being happy in life. Therefore, they are willing to invest a great deal of energy into keeping
themselves in good standing with the spirits. Below are some examples:
Working with spirits (Oo-ah Neng): This is one type of healing which the Hmong employ. Oo-ah neng basically means
working with spirits, and is divided into three different categories: Oo-ah neng kauy choo-ah, oo-ah neng gray taang,
oo-ah neng sai yai. Each is distinct in the method for healing it employs. Oo-ah neng can be used when someone
in the family falls ill and no one knows the root cause. The Hmong believe sickness results from a person's spirit
leaving their body. It may be that the patient's spirit has disappeared of its own accord or it may have been taken
away by a ghost. Either way, the Oo-ah neng ceremony is performed in order to call the spirit of the sick
person back to their body.
Treating a startled person (sai jeng):
Sai jeng is performed when a patient's body is cold--e.g. cold feet, cold ears,
cold hands. The Hmong believe the person's spirit has either fallen out of the person's body or has frightened a ghost
causing the ghost to retaliate against the person, and making them ill.
Treatment done by blowing water (Cheur dae): The cheur dae method of treatment is used when someone in
the family is sick and cries without ceasing, and/or the person acts exceptionally distressed and no one can
figure out why. Often, the sick person seems to see things that startle and frighten them.
Calling the spirit back to the body (hoo bpree):
Hoo bpree is used when someone in the family is sick or ill.
The Hmong believe that sickness results when a person's spirit leaves the body or disappears. In order
for the person to recover their spirit must be called back to their body.
Sweeping away bad things (gaan or suu): This ceremony is part of the new year's celebrations. In the course
of a year, a family will experience both good and bad things. Gaan or suu is used to sweep away all those
bad things--sickness, disaster, and pain; to wipe it out of the home and out of the individuals within it.
This prepares everyone to welcome in the new year and all the good things that it will bring.
Pig spirit gate (Oo-ah Boo-ah Jawng):
This ceremony is performed as a treatment for the whole family,
setting all members of the household free from accident and disease. The pig spirit gate ceremony
must be performed at night. The most important part of the ceremony is the formal announcement
of the closing and opening of the gate.
Style of dress for the white Hmong or Dao Hmong
Style of dress for the white Hmong
or Dao Hmong
Shirts are made from soft felt, with long sleeves running down to the wrists. The body of the shirt
runs down and covers the waist. In front there are two tabs of fabric that run down the full length of the shirt.
On the back, the shirt is likely to have a beautiful embroidered design.
The pants would be of the Chinese "guay" style, tight at the waist and then tapering out. There may be a small
pattern on them. A piece of red fabric is wrapped around the waist and over the pants. Another belt made
of silver may also be worn over this for added flair.
Shirts are made from soft felt. The colors of choice have been dark blue or black, but these
days more variations in color are beginning to be seen. The sleeves are long and have a beautiful
design embroidered on them.
In front there are two tabs of fabric that run down the full length of the shirt. A design is embroidered on them.
White Hmong women (Hmong deur) would wrap a solid-white pleated skirt around them, leaving a split where
the fabric meets at the front. This would be covered over by a squared section of beautifully embroidered fabric.
A piece of red fabric would be wrapped around the waist, leaving one end hanging loose down
the back to act as a tail-of-sorts.
As for the woman's head wrap, white Hmong like to wind their hair into a bun toward the front of the head
and wrap it with an embroidered black cloth around the head. These items would be made of silver
and decorated with silver coins of varying sizes, both triangular and circular in shape. Even the shoulder bags
women carry would be decked out in luxurious silver bobbles. The shoulder straps would be placed
over both shoulders with the bag hanging off the back.
Style of dress for the black Hmong & Gua Maba Hmong
Style of dress for the black Hmong
& Gua Maba Hmong
The shirt should hang down to the waist and the sleeves to the wrists. The shirt divides
into two pieces with the top layer overlapping the bottom one over the left breast.
The pants must match the shirt in color. They are quite baggy down to the ankles where they are tapered in.
The crotch of the pants droops down below the knees. A red sash is wrapped around the waist to hold the pants
in place. A beautiful pattern will be embroidered on the front of both borders of the cloth. A belt is often added
on over the red sash for extra eye appeal.
At present, the green and black Hmong continue to introduce an ever-increasing array
of beautiful colors into the spectrum for Hmong dress. The shirt must have long sleeves and be tucked into a dress.
The hem of the shirt will either be embroidered or have a piece of colored fabric sewn on. The dress is dyed
and then decorated with beautiful embroidery, with pleats running all the way around it. The skirt has a part line
running down the front, which is covered by hanging a large, embroidered piece of rectangular fabric down
the front. Next, a red sash is wrapped around the waist with one end tucked in and the other hanging down
the back like a tail. A dress of this nature can be worn any time.
Every tribe has the music in its heart but differs in the detail of singing the song. Hmong musical instruments are unique,
but much has been lost from the Hmong way of living and the new generation now. Hmong musical instruments fall
into two categories:
This musical instrument is beside the Hmong teenagers. This instrument is passed down
from the ancestor generation to generation and Hmong believe that Jang has haunted. They blow Jing-Nong
to express their feelings. Jing-Nong is the Hmong musical instrument that mediates between lovers.
They use Jing-Nong as an instrument of courtship. However, the Jing-Nong has been lost from the lifestyles
of modern Hmong teenagers.
The reed mouth organ or Qeej in Hmong language: It is the one of the Hmong’s oldest musical instruments
that made from bamboo and hardwood. The instrument makes a pleasant sound when played. Each
of the six pieces of bamboo that add up to be a reed organ has its own name. Hmong people use the reed organ
as the main instrument in their funeral ceremony to guide the spirit going to the next world or to the ancestor land.
Therefore, they cannot play or practice the reed organ in their house.
Play the flute:
The flute is the musical instrument of Hmong people that they use to call their soul mate,
as well as for entertainment. The Hmong flute is made from bamboo and PVC plastic. They play the flute
to express their feelings and will play it on important occasions such as New Year.
Drum or Jua in Hmong language: The drum can have either one or two faces. They use animal hide to make the drum’s face.
Holes are made in the hide and string is threaded and tightened with a peg so that the hide is tense.
When they tap the finished drum, it should reverberate and produce an appealing sound. They use this drum during
the funeral ceremony, to allow the spirit to enter the next world.