The Yao Nationality

Name: Yao, Mien, Iu Mien

Population: 2,600,000 (only in China)

Localization: Guangxi, Guangdong, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces in China. Also in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.


Yao distribution is as wide as it scattered. Among the Yao there exist manifest mutual differences of language, social organization, customs and practices, religion and even costumes. According to these distinctions other people call them by different names while among the Yao themselves there exist dozens of different appellations. (Fei Xiaotong.- Fifty Years Investigation in the Yao Mountains)

Basic Facts about Yao Culture

Introductory Articles in Ethnic China

The Yao Nationality puzzle: The Yao are dispersed for all the provinces of South China and the neighboring countries.

Main branches of the Yao Nationality: The Yao are extended in a wide area of Southeast Asia, characteristically lived in small, widely-scattered communities

History of the Yao: They consider that Panhu is their ancestor. A mythical figure placed in the center of their most important myths.

Thoughts about the Yao history: further research on the historicity of the Pan Hu myth could unveil the nature and time of the first Yao contribution to the "royal court."

The religion of the Pai Yao: All these spirits originated in the human and animal world; because they think that after a person or an animal die his soul will become a spirit. It the dead were a good person the spirit will be a good one and a bad one if he was bad.

The drum of the clan among the Balou Yao: their economic and productive unity is symbolized in the psychological realm by the bronze drum.

Different marriages of the Yao: there are different kinds of marriage, though all they have some common characteristics.

Free marriage of the Chasan Yao: Interesting folk ways of this branch of the Yao.

Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County: An overview of one of the counties where they are concentrated.

Some webs about the Yao Nationality
: It is difficult to find interesting webs about them.

Academic Materials about the Yao

The Yao language

Daniel Bruhn.- The Phonetic Inventory of Iu-Mien.

Iu-Mien is a language of the Hmong-Mien (formerly Miao-Yao) family spoken by the Iu-Mien people, the largest ethnic group within the Yao nationality.

G.B. Downer.- Strata of Chinese loanwords in the Mien dialect of Yao

Mien possesses many loans which have unmistakably ancient features which are in general not found among present-day Chinese dialects but which are known to have existed in the past.

Yao Mythology and religion

Claudio O. Delang.- Bamboo Paper Production and Religious Use by the Lanten Yao in Northern Lao PDR

This photo essay demonstrates the method of producing bamboo paper by the Lanten Yao in northern Lao PDR and discusses the roles of bamboo paper in religious ceremonies. While in the past bamboo paper is likely to have had several uses in Lanten society, the use of bamboo paper is now limited to religious activities, where it cannot be replace by any other material.

Jiann Hsieh.- Pai Yao's Ethnicity throught their own document - A preliminary study of a Pai Yao religious book.

In the present paper, the author attempts to analyze a religious book of the Pai Yao which he collected in Jingkeng, Liannan during the period of his field study in the summer of 1986. Although the above Book, commonly called the Song-Gui Shu, or. literally, the Book for Driving-Away-Ghosts, is incomplete, it has been exclusively handed down by the Pai Yao as an invaluable part of their heritage

Yao Culture

Diep Dinh Hoa.- Dynamics of Yao Genealogy (A Case Study of a Yen Stream Village)

I try to add to our understanding of the relationship of the nature of the Yao community in the mountain-forest environment.

Douglas Miles.- Yao bride-exchange, matrifiliation and adoption

This paper deals with Southeast Asian Hill People whom foreigners call Yao. It concerns two dominant issues in anthropological discussions: recruitment of matrifiliates to allegedly agnatic descent groups and circular connubium in the Southeast Asian Highlands. I aim to demonstrate a functional relationship between these two phenomena and adoption; that each practice is an aspect of regional commerce.

Sumei Li, Chunlin Longa, Fengyan Liu, Sangwoo Lee, Qi Guoa, Rong Li, Yuheng Liu.- Herbs for medicinal baths among the traditional Yao communities of China.

Medicinal baths are an important traditional way to prevent and cure common diseases among the traditional Yao communities of Jinping County, Yunnan Province.

Yao History

Duncan Campbell.- Kuang Lu's Customs of the South: Loyalty on the Borders of Empire.

Having injured a local magistrate in an accident, he fled to live in Guangxi province amongst the Yao people.

Barend J. ter Haar.- A new interpretation of the Yao charters

The Charters present themselves as imperial writs and contain at least one or two narratives, which tell of the origins of the first Yao groups and legitimate their exemption from taxes and corvee labour.

The Yao in the present world

Eric Cohen.- The Dynamics of Commercialized arts: The Meo and Yao of Northern Thailand.

The dynamics of change as a consequence of commercialization of the arts of the Yao and Meo villagers and refugees of Thailand are comparatively examined within a general theoretical framework providing for multilinear artistic development.

Keiji Iwata.- Minority groups in northern Laos: especially the Yao

I will present some data on the Yao people in the village of Kaisou, their settlement patters, social organization, and religion, then I will show their contacts and interrelationship with the surrounding groups

Hjorleifur Jonsson.- Mien through Sports and Culture: Mobilizing Minority Identity in Thailand.

The recent importance of sports competitions and cultural displays among highland ethnic minorities in Thailand suggests a growing resonance of national forms of sociability and presentability.

Jacques Lemoine.- Social Fabric, Education and HIV Vulnerability Among the Lanten Yao of Muang Long, Luang Namtha Province, Lao PDR.

Lanten is a southern pronunciation of the standard Chinese word Landian that has become the usual ethnonym for the Mun group of Yao in China.

Takashi Masuno and Peter J. Mathews.- Ecological context and socio-economic changes in a Yao mountain village, northern Thailand.

In this paper we consider how Yao people reached northern Thailand, and why they have remained in the mountain areas.

Tapp, Nicholas C.T..- Reflections on field work among the Yao.

A personal reflection on the way recent interest of anthropologists and other international media, is affecting the lives of the Ba Pai Yao.

Tran Hong Hanh.- Local Knowledge of Agrobiodiversity conservation among the Yao communities in Sa Pa district, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam.

This study aims at learning about traditional practices as a knowledge system of agro-biodiversity conservation of the Yao people. In addition, it also tries to refer to difficulties for the Yao people in conserving agricultural biodiversity in transition.

Tu Wen-jing and Mei Jin-ping.- The Investigation of Executive Condition of Minority Regions’ Special Education Policies: The Case of Du’an Autonomous County. Chinese Business Review. Jan. 2007

The paper tries to take Du’an autonomous county, Guangxi autonomous region as a case to analyze the problems in the executive process of minority regions’ special education policies, and gives the suggestion for the government to accelerate the education development of minority regions.

Thesis and dissertations

Nam, Yung, Jane.- A comparative study of Pai Yao and Han Chinese junior secondary school dropouts in Liannan Yao Autonomous County, Guangdong. 1996

Books and references

Free books about the Yao

He Hongyi.- The magical ancient books of the Yao people - A Study of the Yao Manuscripts in the Collection of the Library of Congress.

The documents represent great contribution of the Yao people to the world valuable cultural heritage. They are also the key to our understanding of the Yaopeople and their culture which deserves people close attention of our society.. The collection has immense value in the study of the. minorities, their folklore, religion, linguistics, literature and art.

- Bibliographic materials

A Yao folk-tale: why dead fish do not close their eyes?

Basic Bibliography of the Yao- Books in English, German, French and Spanish languages.

A book about the Red Yao: Maybe the first comprehensive study completely dedicated to the Red Yao, the book is published with the clear purpose of cover all the aspects of The Red Yao life and culture. In the classical descriptive style common to most of the Chinese books about the nationalities and ethnic groups, this book follows a narrative that lead the reader from the simplest facts, as are their names, population and distribution to the complex structures of their religious thought.

The main characteristics of the Yao culture according to W. Eberhard.- The social system of the Yao was marked by absence of tribal organization and chieftaincy. The Yao were organized by clans with fixed patrilinear clan names, some of which could be traced throughout almost 2000 years.

The magical world of the Yao. Jean pierre Cormerais. Along the pages of this book we reader will find a rich iconography, in which the oldest paintings of the Yao tradition, taken out of private collections, share space with more recent works, showing the evolution of this artistic movement from its religious origin.

The Yao in the Art, art of the Yao

Photo Exhibitions

Ethnic China photo exhibitions
Outside Photo exhibitions


Yao music

Films and Video

Documentary Films about the Yao
Available dvds and vcds about the Yao
Image of the the Yao in the cinema


The Yao in the art
Art Exhibitions


Travel to Yao lands

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