Thursday, November 23, 2017

Introduction to the costumes of the Hmongic/Mienic peoples, part 3 The Hmong

Hello all,
Today I will talk about the costumes of the speakers of the Hmong language. The Han call this the Chuanqiandian Miao language cluster. These people live in Sichuan province, western Guizhou and Guangxi provinces, Yunnan province, and the northern hill country of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. 

There are three major branches, sometimes considered languages, within this group. 
The smallest, numbering a few hundred people, is Xixiu Miao. This is spoken in Zhuchang township of Zhijin county of Guizhou Province.

 The second group call themselves Gha Mu
. The Han refer to them as the Small Flowery Miao. The embroidery at the opening of the first article of this series was from this group. They live in the area just east of Weining and the A Hmao, or Big Flowery Miao. This includes the counties of Hezhang, Nayong and Shuicheng near Bijie, Guizhou province. The costume is also similar, but with more elaborate embroidery, and strip applique which symbolizes the many roads that they have traveled.


The largest group are the Hmong proper. There are many dialects and subdialects which I will not go into, but I will present several costumes, moving north to south. By my count I have now shown you 50 costumes; it is unlikely that I will actually post 100, but I could.

Sichuan Province
These costumes are from south central Sichuan province. The ones which are found in southeast Sichuan are Xong, and I have already covered some of them. Here is a map showing this area. Guizhou province is shown in yellow, and Yunnan province in blue.

 Gaoping of Junlian county. 

this is number 1 on the map. This lies to the north of the territory of the Large and Small Flowery groups.
This is a fairly typical Hmong costume; pleated skirt with batik and stitched work, apron, top with sleeves. In this case they wear a second apron with a bib under the regular apron.

A variant of this costume is also worn across the border in the area of Zhaxi of Weixing county, Yunnan province

Wangwuzhai of Gongxian county

This is number 2 on the map above. The costume is similar to the first, but it illustrates a regrettable tendency that I have noticed in many photos of southeast Asian peoples; the use of actual towels in place of traditional headgear.

Jiuqing of Xingwen county. 

This is number 3 on the map above. 
Unusually for western costumes, this has no skirt, but still has an abundance of embroidery on the top, the headpiece, and the front and back aprons

Liupu of Xuyong county

This is number 4 on the map above. The apron with its appliqued ribbon is unusual.
It reminds me of Hungarian Kalotaszegi aprons.

A variation of this costume is also worn just over the border in Weixing county of Yunnan province.

Macheng of Xuyong county

This and the next costume are around 5 on the map above. Both are worn in eastern Xuyong county and also in western Gulin county
 Often there is strong similarity between the women's and the men's costumes. 

 Here is another version of this costume from across the line in Gulin county

Zhengdong of Xuyong

This costume is also worn in parts of Gulin county

 This man's robe is clearly full length, but apparently a shorter one may also be worn, see below

Guizhou Province

The Hmong live in scattered pockets in the north and west of Guizhou province. You can follow most locations on this map. Click to enlarge, if necessary. I will work more or less north to south.

Hushi town of Chishui Municipality, Zunyi prefecture.

This lies just north of Gulin county in the peninsula at top center in the map above. There is some similarity with the Gulin county costumes Note the all over batik designs on the skirts.

Huashan of Tongzi county

This lies east of the previous village, and north of Zunyi county. Note the plain white hemp skirt.


These people live south of the Huashan, but north of Zunyi town, near the border of Zunyi and Tongzi counties.

Pudi of Dafang county, Bijie prefecture

This is further west and is shown on the map above. This type of long skirt pleated only on the sides is found in pockets from here to southeast Yunnan county.

Qianxi county

This is 25 on the map above. These women are playing leaves as musical instruments.

Douqing, Shuicheng county

Many Hmong women in this area wear fake hair to increase the headdress.

Tunjiao of Qianxinan prefecture

This is in southwest Guizhou province

Gangou of Guangnan county, Yunnan Province

This is far south of the others. Here we can see how one branch of Hmong has scattered itself while keeping a very similar costume. This is found in other locations as well.

Xianmu of Dafang county

back to northwest Guizhou province.
This is close to number 35 on the map. This is one  of the group of costumes which the Han call the 'Horned Miao'. The women of this region wear large wooden combs in their hair, which is usually wrapped with long fake hair.There are a few different versions of this general type of costume in northwest Guizhou.

Suoga of Luizhi district

Another example of large wooden combs usually covered with fake hair. These are probably the group which in old Han texts were referred to as the 'Big Headed Miao' The batik and embroidery on these costumes is, like usual, amazing. Men wear wide hemp trousers and aprons for festive dress.

Baixing of Nayong county

This costume is similar to the previous one, but the combs are painted red and the fake hair is wrapped differently


This costume is found in the area where Zhenning, Ziyun and Anshun counties come together. It is distinguished by the asymmetrical horns worn by girls.The cross stitch design at the head of the article is from this region; see the woman with the baby below.

 Huashiban of Panxian district

This is in the southwest of Liupanshui prefecture. I love the embroidery on the mens' headcloths. The women's tops have long fronts that wrap around the waist and tie.

Changshujiao, Fengshan town of Anshun Municipality

Also worn around Guankou. This costume shows heavy influence from the neighboring Bouyi people and is appealing in its simplicity. The headpiece is also unusual.

Hualipo of Muzan township, Anlong county

This costume is spead in the southwest corner of Guizhou, as well as being found over the border in parts of Guangxi

Guangxi Province

These are a few costumes from the northwest corner of Guangxi province, between Guizhou and Yunnan. We have already covered the north central and the northeast costume. These form a continuum with some of the costume types which we have seen earlier, and will see again further south. 

Longlin County
 This is the area around number 50 on this map. The gray is Guangxi, the yellow is Guizhou.





Yunnan Province

There are just a few Hmong groups scattered in western Yunnan province.

Mangkuan of Baoshan

Xiaoweigeng of Weishan

Most of the Hmong in Yunnan county are in the southeast, close to the border. Some of these same groups are also found over the border.

Xi'er of Mile county

this lies to the north of the city of Honghe

Shaba of Yangjie township, Kaiyuan County,

This lies to the south of Mile, but still north of Honghe

 Hongzhai, Minze county

This lies just to the west of the city of Honghe

Mingjiu of Menzi county

this lies to the east of Honghe

 Gumu of Wenshan county

this lies yet further east

Maguan county

This lies south of Wenshan

This first image is from Jiazhaiqing


Panzhihua of Wenshan

This lies to the south of Maguan

 Xinhua of Pingbian county

This county lies on the Vietnamese border


Jinping county

This county lies just west of Pinbian, also on the Vietnamese border


This lies in the northeast of Jinping county

Darao of Jinping county

This lies further west

Jinshuihe of Jinping county

Tongchang of Jinping county

The following map shows the distribution of ethnic groups in northern Vietnam and Laos. Hmong areas are shown in medium green. Vietnamese in Kelly green, Austro-Asiatic tribes in bright yellow-green, Tribal Tai groups in rust, Muong in orange, Lao in lilac, Yao/Mien in blue, and Tibeto-Burman tribes in gray. As you can see, Hmong areas cover a considerable amount of northern Laos.


In Vietnam, they distinguish between the various Hmong groups by color, which is common enough. Here are four of the most common. Compare the costumes with those of the south Yunnan Hmong above. I have no information as to which tribes are found where. Hmong of different tribes cannot necessarily understand each others' dialects.

Black Hmong - Mong đen



 Red Hmong - Mong đỏ

Blue [Green] Hmong - Mong Xang

White Hmong - Mong trắng

Flower Hmong - Mong Hoa


My sources say that there are 5 Hmong tribes in Laos, but are not very clear as to the costumes. Here are a few

Hmong Lay  - Blue Hmong

This type of turban seems to be typical of Laos, not only for the Hmong, but also for the Mien.

Striped Hmong

White Hmong

The white skirts for which they are named are today only worn on special occasions. For everyday they wear pants.

I have not found images specifically labelled Black or Red Hmong from Laos, but they may be the same as in Vietnam. Here are a couple more images which I have found.

This image shows some of the modern trends in costume. Tinselly, strings of plastic beads and factory made skirts from China.


Most sources only mention two tribes of Hmong in the very north of Thailand, This is the edge of their distribution.

Blue [Green] Hmong - Meo Lai or Hmong Njua

 This man is the headman of his village.

This image shows young men and women throwing balls. This is a courting game done on great holidays.

This image shows how the leggings which are part of traditional Hmong attire are put on. They are strips or triangles of cloth which are wrapped around the lower legs and tied.

These two guys are dressed in their very best.

This woman is waxing cloth for batik.

White Hmong - Meo Khao or Hmong Dher


A common feature of many Hmong costumes is a panel which is attached to the back of the neck on shirts which is embroidered or appliqued. Among the White Hmong, many different designs are used.

Here we have a White Hmong girl on the right, and a Blue Hmong girl on the left, both dressed up.

And I think that I have actually coverd 100 costumes in these three articles!
I do wish to emphasize that this is not an exhaustive presentation. There are other groups and other costumes.

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative.

Please send me any corrections, and especially send me materials with more information.
I will present some of the many embroidery techniques in future articles.

Roman K

Source Material:
Joachim Schliesinger.'Ethnic Groups of Laos, V 3', Bangkok, 2003
Ngo Duc Thinh, 'Traditional Costumes of Vietnam, Hanoi, 2009
Nguyen Vab Huy et al, 'The Great Family of Ethnic Groups in Vietnam', Hanoi, 2011
Margaret Campbell, 'From the Hands of the Hills', Hong Kong, 1978
Paul and Elaine Lewis, 'Peoples of the Golden Triangle', London, 1984 Robert Lam Ping-fai et al, 'Ethnic Costumes of the Miao People in China, Hong Kong, 1986 Tomoko Torimaru, 'One Needle, One Thread', Honolulu, 2008 Wu, Shizhong, 'A picture album of China's Miao Costumes and Ornaments', Guiyang, 2000 Zhao Yuchi et al, 'Clothings and Ornaments of China's Miao People', Beijing, 1985 Yan Da, et al, 'Miao's Attires', Guiyang, 2010 Deryn O'Connor, 'Miao Costumes', Southhampton England, 1994 Florian Knothe et al, 'Embroidered Identities', Hong Kong, 2013 Gina Corrigan, ' Miao Textiles from China' Seattle, 2001 Zeng Xiangyang, 'Ethnic Miao Embroidery', 2009