Today in the Ethnik Series I will write about the Miao people. They always fascinated me because of their vivid costumes and the amazing silver jewelry.
The Miao people mainly live in the mountain areas of South China, in Guizhou Province, Guangxi, Hunan, Yunnan and Sichuan.
The Hmong people (probably you know), they are a sub-group of the Miao, they have migrated out of China into Southeast Asia.
With a population of 9 million, the Miao people form one of the largest ethnic minorities in southwest China. The Miao are subsistence farmers and rice is their main crop.
For ethnic minority groups, clothes are a big part of their cultural identity. Each ethnic group has its own designs, even in jewelry: silver hats, silver horns, silver combs, silver earrings, necklaces, bracelets, etc.
Each ornament is exquisite. For centuries, it’s been the custom to decorate oneself head to toe, with silver. In fact, a full set can weigh up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and it takes more than one hour for a young woman to put the entire kit on and finish her makeup. The purpose of wearing all this silver is primarily aesthetic, but they are also worn as amulets or as symbols of wealth.
They believe that a supernatural power in everything around them decides their fate and everything that moves or grows has its own spirit. Every time there are disasters, they will invite a wizard to perform ceremonies designed to drive out the devil ghost.
Even they think silver accessories have spirits, isn’t it great? So the more you wear them and the more you clean them it will reward you with more beautiful luster.
Because the Miao silver producing regions have no natural silver resources, the hardworking Miao people used to melt almost all the silver coins and ingots they earned. This led to different levels of silver purity as currencies differed from region to region.
Clothings and Ornaments of China’s Miao People – 1985 by Zhu, Rongda, Wang Guanya
So let’s say that for the Miao ethnic group, silver is their most prized material. ¡Now you understand why!