China's Miao (minority) - culture and customs


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Our introduction to the Miao People gave a view into their history, culture, and daily life, while here we look further into the festivals, customs and culture, food, and characteristic dwellings of the Miao people.

The Miao people celebrate some of the traditional Chinese festivals such as Zhonghe Festival (a celebration of ancient China's respect for the dragon), Dragon Boat Festival, and New Year's Eve. In addition, the Miao have their own unique traditional festivals, such as Huashan Festival (花山节) and Siyueba (四月八). During Huashan Festival, hundreds of Miao people gather together in decorative traditional attire to watch the "flower pole show," which resembles the May Pole ceremony in the West, and to dance to the music of the lusheng. During the festival, some young people will also take part in horse-riding competitions, bullfighting, and archery. Siyueba is an occasion celebrating grand musical and dance performances.

As with most in China, Miao people eat rice as their staple food. Many Miao also eat fried "baba," a dumpling with meat and sauerkraut fillings, while typical dishes on a Miao family's table are likely to include Xueguantang (血灌汤), "Chili bones", Guifengtang (龟凤汤), or fish cooked with sauerkraut. Some Miao living in Sichuan and Yunnan are even fond of dog meat. Chili spice is the main seasoning in Miao cuisine, though vegetables, chicken, duck, and fish are often preserved in a special earthen jar to produce a sour, vinegary flavor. Sour soup, oil tea and flower tea is the most common drinks of the Miao people.

In traditional Chinese marriage, the wife will move in with her husband and in-laws after getting married. In contrast, men of the Miao nationality are supposed to do what is called Zhaolang (招郎), a period of testing to prove their readiness for marriage.

When a wedding feast is held, the bride and groom will drink from each other's cup, what they call Jiaobeijiu (交杯酒), and the person who presides over the feast will invite the newly-wed couple to eat colored glutinous rice called Ba (糯米粑) with an image of a dragon and a phoenix pressed into it, indicating hope of having a baby soon.

The dwellings of most Miao families are three-story wooden structures. The first floor is used to store tools and house domesticated animals; the second floor is the main living area, where the family cooks, eats, and sleeps; the third floor usually serves as a granary to store crops and foodstuffs. Good examples of characteristic Miao dwellings can be found in Guizhou province, in places such as Xijiang Miao village and Daboji Miao village.

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