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Flower Hmong Woman In Traditional Dress, Sapa Market, Vietnam

The H'Mong people are a subgroup of the Miao ethnic group. It is believed Miao migrated from China during the 19th century, after centuries of Han pressure pushing always more southward. Nowadays, there is an estimated number of 750,000 Hmongs in Vietnam along the borders with China and Laos. They can be found in the highland regions in the provinces of Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Lai Chau, Son La, Cao Bang and Nghe An. The Hmong are quiet isolated, living at altitudes of 1500 meters.

Hmong society is characterized by great solidarity among members of the same family and among villagers. The head of the village assumes the common affairs for the lineage. Young H'Mong men and women are free to choose their partners. Marriages are absolutely forbidden between men and women of the same lineage.The Hmong are spirit worshippers. They believe in household spirits and those of the door and cattle. Every house has an altar, where protection for the household is sought. Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism have left their mark on a number of concepts and social institutions.

The H'Mong live mainly on slash-and-burn cultivation. They also grow rice and corn on terraced fields. Their principal food plants are corn, rice, and rye. Cotton is also grown and the Hmong are known to be good weavers.

Hmong are famous to have helped CIA to fight the Vietcong and the Pathet Lao communist army in Laos. About 15,000 Hmongs were killed during these fights in the late 1960's and a lot more were slaughtered in retaliation afterwards.

© Eric Lafforgue

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Taken on February 1, 2011