It is often assumed that China is made up of one race, but the Chinese people are actually comprised of the Han race (91.5% of the population) and 55 officially recognized ethnic minority groups (8.5%), each with its own language, customs, cuisine, and style of dress. Forty-nine of these groups live in southwest Guizhou, making up 37% of the province’s population.
The Miao people are the largest of these indigenous groups and are believed to have come from Iraq and Syria 7,000 years ago, according to Keith Quincy in Hmong: History of a People. They traveled north through Russia and Mongolia, then migrated down into southwest China where they established the Hmong Kingdom from 400 – 900 A.D.
After the fall of their great kingdom, they fell into many centuries of war and rebellion with the Chinese because they resisted complete assimilation and integration into majority (Han) culture. Eventually, they “were forced to retreat to the mountaintops where the freedom to live as they pleased became the prime consolation for the hard life of the montagnard.”
Although they now look “Chinese,” the Miao have Caucasian Siberian facial features and, until the 1960s, one could still spot an individual with blue eyes or blond hair– tracing them to their Caucasian lineage.
They have since settled peacefully in southwest China, but the pressure to assimilate into the majority culture continues. This is a major reason for the current eroding of their traditional culture. As ethnic minority groups, they are often marginalized and subjected to Han chauvinism and internal racism.
The Atelier ANGEL CHANG collection celebrates the unique culture of ethnic minorities in southwest China and the benefits of keeping their indigenous knowledge intact and alive.