The Miao (Vietnamese: Mèo or H'Mông; Thai: แม้ว (Maew) or ม้ง (Mong); Burmese: mun lu-myo) are a linguistically and culturally related group of people recognized by the government of the People's Republic of China as one of the 55 official minority groups. Miao is a Chinese term and does not reflect the self-designations of the component sub-groups, which include (with some variant spellings) Hmong/Mong, Hmu, A Hmao,and Kho (Qho) Xiong. The Miao live primarily in southern China, in the provinces of Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, Hainan, Guangdong, and Hubei. Some members of the Miao sub-groups, most notably Hmong/Mong people, have migrated out of China into Southeast Asia (northern Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand). Following the communist takeover of Laos in 1975, a large group of Hmong/Mong refugees resettled in several Western nations (United States, France, Australia, and elsewhere.)
Historically, the term "Miao" had been applied inconsistently to a variety of non-Han peoples often with the connotation of "barbarian." This former meaning has not kept members of the modern nationality from self-identifying as Miao. Outside of China, "Meo", a variation of "Miao" still exists in Southeast Asia where it is often used in a highly derogatory way. Western researchers have treated the terminological problems in a non-uniform way. Early writers used Chinese-based names in various transcriptions: Miao, Miao-tse, Miao-tsze, Meau, Meo, mo, miao-tseu etc. When referring to specific sub-groups of the Miao nationality or to ethnic groups outside of China, it is preferable to use the ethnonym of the specific group, for instance: Hmong/Mong, Hmu, etc. The prominence of Hmong/Mong people in the West has led to the situation where the Miao nationality is sometimes referred to as Hmong or Mong, despite the fact that they are only one of the sub-groups contained in the classification. Following the recent increased interaction of Hmong in the West with Miao in China, it is reported that some non-Hmong Miao have even begun to identify themselves as Hmong.
Though the Miao themselves use various self-designations, the Chinese traditionally classified them according to the most characteristic colour of the women's clothes. The list below contains the self-designations, the colour designations and the main regions inhabited by the four major groups of Miao in China:
Most Miao currently live in China. Miao population growth in China:
3,600,000 Miao, about half of the entire Chinese Miao population, were in Guizhou in 1990. The Guizhou Miao and those in the following six provinces make up over 98% of all Chinese Miao:
In the above provinces, there are 6 Miao autonomous prefectures (shared officially with one other ethnic minority):
There are in addition 23 Miao autonomous counties:
Most Miao reside in hills or on mountains, such as
Several thousands of Miao left their homeland move to larger cities like Guangzhou and Beijing. There are also 2,000,000 Miao, especially in Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Taiwan, Cambodia and on other continents. 174,000 live in Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes.
After their defeat, the tribe of Chiyou split into two smaller splinter tribes, the Miao and the Li (Chinese: 黎; pinyin: lí). The Miao continuously moving southwest and Li southeast as the Huaxia race, later known as Han Chinese, expanded southward. During the course of Chinese history, the Miao were sometimes regarded as "barbarians" by the increasingly technologically and culturally advanced Han Chinese. Some members of the Miao and Li tribes were assimilated into the Han Chinese during the Zhou Dynasty.
Another version of the story says that the tribe split three ways. It is said Chiyou had 3 sons, and after the fall of Jiuli, his eldest son led some people south, his middle son led some people north, and his youngest son remained in Zhuolu and assimilated into the Huaxia culture. Those who were led to the south established the San-Miao nation. Perhaps due to this splitting into multiple groups, many Far Eastern people regard Chiyou as their ancestors, and by the same token, many question the ethnicity of Chiyou as exclusively Mong or otherwise. In some circles of thought, the Koreans also regard Chiyou as an ethnic ancestor. Furthermore, under the present ethnic unification policy of the PRC, Chiyou is now also regarded as one of China's forefathers alongside the ethnic Han ancestors, Huangdi and Yandi. It is believed that during this time the Mong were split into two main dialects: Mong Leng and Hmong Der and referred to as Mong and Hmong. Today, the two names are used interchangeably.221 BC, for designating non-Han Chinese groups in the south. It was often used in the combinations "nanmiao", "miaomin", "youmiao" and "sanmiao" (三苗; pinyin: Sānmiáo). At that time the people lived in the Yangtze River valley, but later they were forced by the antagonistic policing of the Han Chinese to move further southwards and to higher elevations. As most territories of the Six dynasty located south of the river, bringing the Miao into submission was a major concern for stability of those dynasties. With the Wu Hu ravaging areas north of the river, large scale migration of Chinese to the south accelerated the assimilation of Miao into Han Chinese. Tang Dynasty, the Miao ceased as a major non-Han Chinese group except in the province of Yunnan where six zhaos (Chinese: 詔 meaning "state") of Miao resided there. Some scholars argued that the six zhaos were groups of the Yi people. The southernmost, known as Meng-she-zhao (蒙舍詔 Méngshězhào) or Nan-zhao (南詔 ; pinyin: Nánzhào) united all six zhaos and found an independent state during early 8th century with treacherous help from Tang Dynasty. The title of the head of state was Nan-zhao Wang (南詔王; pinyin: Nánzhàowáng), meaning the King of Nanzhao. Uneasiness of the increasing threat from Tubo (today Tibet) encouraged the Chinese dynasty to establish a friendly regime neighboring both countries. Tang also deployed a military district, Jiannan Jie-Du (劍南節度; pinyin: Jiànnán Jiédǔ) located in today southern Sichuan Province and bordering Nanzhao. 8th century, Nanzhao regularly paid tributes through the head of military district (Jiannan Jie-Du-Shi (劍南節度使; pinyin: Jiànnán Jiédǔshǐ)) to the Han Chinese dynasty. As the Tang Dynasty deteriorating during mid 8th century, the district was gaining more independent authority from the Tang dynastic government. They demanded more tributes from Nanzhao to develop sizable forces against the dynasty. Some district heads even intimidated the peoples of Nanzhao. The rulers of Nanzhao were Tibeto-Burman speakers, but it is possible the population included some ancestors of the present-day Hmong. A famous example was a rejected demand to spend a night with the queen, the only wife of the Nanzhao King. All intimidations and unfair tributes led to the outbreak of Nanzhao rebellion during the Tianbao era (742-756) of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang China. Before marching against the district legion, the Nanzhao King ordered a stone inscription of the reasons of rebellion. The monument remained erected and can still be seen today (location?). The Tang Dynasty could have easily defeated Nanzhao troops but struggles of power among generals of the district letting Nanzhao surge deeply into Tang's territory, almost reaching Chengdu, location of the district headquarters. Appointment of incompetent heads was also a factor. The most famous one was Yang Guozhong, brother of Lady Yang, the beloved concubine of the emperor. Although the rebellion was eventually squashed, the dynasty wasted precious resources which could have been used securing the northern border, ushering in the much more disastrous Anshi Rebellion.
During the later years of the Tang dynasty, Nanzhao had the upper hand on its relations with Tang and Tibet as both countries tried to ally with Nanzhao, thus isolating the enemy. Nanzhao fully exploited the situation and rose as a major power in Southeast Asia. During its zenith of power, northern parts of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Burma, Guangxi and eastern portion of Guangdong, southwestern portion of Sichuan, Guizhou and the whole province of Yunnan were all under its control. Chengdu and Hanoi were each sacked twice. After the fall of the latter in late 9th century, Chinese dynasties never recovered the city until Ming Dynasty in the 15th century. Tang Dynasty gradually increased numbers of military district bordering Nanzhao and consequently the insurgences of Pang Xun was the first of the rebellions leading to the fall of Tang.
Nanzhao, under the influence of Tang for a century (8th century to 9th century), was gradually adopting the Chinese culture and at the same time disintegrated as struggles of power among various rival clans. Eventually the Duan (段 ; pinyin: duàn) clan won and found the Kingdom of Dali which lasted until the submission to the Mongols. During Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty the term "nanman" (南蠻 ; pinyin: Nánmán; meaning the southern non-Chinese people) was used. However, the name "miao" to describe some of these southern people reappeared in Fan Chuo's book on the southern tribes, Manshu (862 A.D.).