The Miao in Hosie's Three Years in western China


Alexander Hosie.- Three years in Western China; A narrative of three journeys to Sichuan, Guizhou, and Yunnan. London, 1897. (See the full book)

"The following pages are intended to present a picture of Western China as the writer saw it in 1882, 1883, and 1884."

We select here the pages related to the Miao in Hosie narrative.

pag. 24- It was near the Guizhou border that I first came in contact with the Miao, the aboriginal inhabitants of that province. I was sauntering along in front of my followers when, at a bend in the road, I was suddenly confronted by a couple of neatly-dressed figures which turned out to be two Miao girls, about fourteen and sixteen years of age as far as I could guess, arrayed in short jackets and kilts of a greyish-black woollen material, with turbans to match. They were very good looking, and, although somewhat coy, did not show that abject terror which, under similar circumstances, would have betrayed the Chinese female.
With heads erect and black eyes lighted up with astonishment, they passed me by with no uncertain gait. Although the Miao are generally supposed to be confined to Guizhou, not a few families are settled in this corner of Sichuan. Those who are interested in this people will find another chapter specially devoted to them.

pag. 28 - With the exception of the Miao, who have been driven into the south of Guizhou, the inhabitants consist of immigrants from Sichuan, Hubei and Hunan, who, for the most part, are satisfied with scratching small parts of the ground

pag. 32- Barren, treeless peaks, on the same level as ourselves-three to four thousand feet- lay before us, cheerless, uninhabited, lifeless. What a picture! Where are the Miao that used to till these fields and tend their herds on the mountain sides? They were butchered and their bones are rotting underneath.
Northern Guizhou is a huge graveyard, with no monuments to mark the fierce struggle against extortion and oppression, of rude weapons against foreign arms of precision. Justice is a fine thing to talk about and inculcate, but a hard thing to practise.

pag. 37 - Truly, the land of the Miao was devastated, and its inhabitants butchered and scattered.

Pag. 38- Anping has not yet recovered from the ravages of the civil war; the walls are in a state of decay, and many of the houses which they encircle are represented by heaps of ruins. The surrounding country is almost entirely inhabited by Miao, whose hamlets are perched on inaccessible hill-tops-stone refuges occupying the commanding heights. When hard pressed, they drove their cattle into the latter for safety and, sheltering themselves behind the walls, bade defiance to their assailants.

Pag. 39- Bowls of opium were being hawked about the village, and I was told that the Miao, although extensive cultivators of the poppy, do not themselves smoke the drug.

Pag. 142- Here we found ourselves again among Miao, busy tilling their fields. The women were as usual clad in their native dress, while the men wore coarse hempen clothes in Chinese style.

Pag. 206- Guizhou has not inaptly been called the "Switzerland" of China. The
greater part of the province, which is exceedingly mountainous, was formerly peopled by a non-Chinese race, called by the Chinese, Miao; but some twenty years ago a struggle arose between the aboriginal tribes and the Chinese, in which the latter from their superior equipment proved victorious, and drove the conquered into the southern half of the province, although even in the northern half scattered families may still be found. The struggle, which lasted for years, was a desperate one ; and, at the present time, traces are everywhere to be seen in the shape of ruined towns and villages and lands lying waste and desolate.

Pag. 227- Of late years, the authorities of the province of Guizhou have been endeavouring to compel the Miao to adopt the Chinese dress and learn the
Chinese language.

Pag. 228- There can be no doubt that the Miao are a race altogether different from the Chinese. In physique they are decidedly inferior; in dress, manners, and
customs they stand alone; and their language, although it contains a considerable number of borrowed Chinese words, is undoubtedly distinct. The problem that presents itself to the traveler in Guizhou is not the affinity between the Miao and the Chinese, but the relationship of the Miao to each other. They are divided into a number of tribes whose traits are recognized not only by the Chinese, but even amongst themselves; and, as I have already observed, one tribe is prepared to go to war with the other. In physique they are the same, but in dress they differ. Do they speak the same language?

Pag. 229- The conclusion I have arrived at, after careful comparison and research, is that the Miao tribes of Guizhou are branches of the same stem, speaking somewhat different dialects of the same language.

Pag. 230- What the religious aspect is, it is difficult to say, for deep potations would seem to be the order of the day. The Miao, like the Lolos, are great drinkers, the wine being a native spirit. Art is not wanting among them; the women are exceedingly skilful at embroidery, and the beautiful silver ornaments-rings, clasps, bracelets, ear-rings, brooches, and necklaces -which they wear on fete days, are highly finished. Some of the sterner sex also affect one large silver earring in, if my memory is not at fault, the left ear.

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