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PostPosted: Wed Oct 22, 2008 1:26 am 

Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:41 pm
Posts: 69
Location: Formerly Taipei -Taiwan, now Shanghai - China
Hello from Shanghai
I'm still focused on the Yao.
-In China, they are named only Yao. Do they have any other names in China itself ?
-It appears to me that they are named Mien in Vietnam, but also Dao, Zao and Dong in that same country.But I guess these Dong (in Viet.) have nothing to see with the Dong in China. Am I right or wrong ?
What about the Yao names in Thailand or Myanmar ?
Something else :
-Why did I read red Yao ? What about Yao of any 'other colour' (pardon my shortcut) ?
Coming back to the textile :
-Most of the garments I have seen from the Yao are made with cotton. Is it recent ? When did they change to cotton ? I suppose they were not using cotton before. Are they still sometimes using hemp, ramie or any other natural fiber ?
-Colors: is there any way to distinguish the country origin of the Yao garment (China, Vietnam, ...) from its colours ?
-Same question with the motives.
Another question :
-I'm surprised by the notable differences between the common garments of the Yao and what is presented as their taoist priest dresses ? The difference is total : motives, colors... Could you give me some elements of explanation ?
Thanks for your answers

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 22, 2008 4:35 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2003 6:34 pm
Posts: 394
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hi Nicolas- You don't ask many questions, do you?!
The best thing you can do to answer your queries is to get Jess Pourret's book on the Yao; it is published by River Books in Bangkok and widely available (I can send it to you if you cannot find it elsewhere). Other books include them as well: Paul and Elaine Lewis' Peoples of the Golden Triangle comes to mind. From Jess' book comes this information: the Yao speak four main languages (Mien, Miao, Zhuang/Dong, and Mandarin Chinese), but the Mien language family can be divided into four dialects: Mien, Mun, Bau Min and Yau Min, with the majority of Yao being Mien speakers. They have migrated from central China and are now present in southern China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand; they no longer live in Burma/Myanmar. The Mun are concentrated in Vietnam, Laos and China (Guangxi, Yunnan and Hainan), and the Mien are in those areas, plus Thailand, and the Chinese provinces of Jianxi, Guangdong, Hunan, and Guizhou, as well as overseas in the US, France and Canada.

In Vietnam they seem to have names relating to their costume: Red Dao/Zao/Yao, White Trouser Dao/Zao/Yao, etc. and the costume materials are appropriate to their location, ie lighter weight cotton in hotter locales vs heavier cotton in the mountains. To my knowledge they only use cotton, with silk reserved for added ornaments and embroidery. I'm not aware of hemp or ramie etc. being used, although in Thailand they do use commercial cottons and synthetics for their coats now. Re distinguishing them by color: it is only one of several factors in their identity. Obviously, the Red Dao/Zao use a lot of red (and orange), but motifs are also an important and meaningful factor, as is style of costume items (coat, tunic, jacket, turban, headdress, apron, pants), and the material. It is a combination of these elements that allows one to identify the different groups and sub-groups, as well as locations.

Re the priest's costume differing from secular attire: I would think that Taoist traditions dictate that, with any variations being related to each group. For instance, the robe you previously pictured is from the Kim Mun Lantien group - other groups use different styles. That said, you are right about the colors differing significantly from those used in secular attire and I would suspect it is a means of separating the worldly from the otherworldly, that the representative to the other world is not held to the same social standards imposed by the community.

I'm no expert on the Yao- merely an observer- but I have handled and seen a lot of their material here and in Vietnam and China. I highly recommend studying the above-referenced texts.

Susan Stem

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