The Life of Hmong Vietnam!
Historical Background of the Hmong
Ancient Hmong history is somewhat confusing, and uncertain – although historians have pegged their existence as a distinct race at several thousand years. Some point to their having ancient origins in distant places like Siberia, Mongolia, and even Mesopotamia upwards of 5,000 years ago, and modern studies have determined that the Hmong moved into China well before the Chinese – as early as 4,500 years ago. Even today the vast majority of Hmong live in southern China.
At different times through the centuries, as the Chinese population grew, Hmong were either forced to assimilate, or relocate. There were wars and persecutions, and Hmong settlements moved further and further south – eventually spilling over into Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
Hmong society traditionally ran without an obvious political hierarchy. A household usually contained three generations, and each village normally contained around twenty households. Each village was self-contained (self-sufficient), through the interactions, cooperation and skill sharing of those households. Order was preserved, it seems, through their strong dedication to family and their deep respect for their elders – and nothing binds a community together more than the realisation of their mutual need for one another.
It is clear that the Hmong did not wish to surrender their free life to Chinese rule, and this ambition caused them not a little grief. The word ‘Hmong’ itself was originally translated as ‘man’ or ‘people’, but came to be understood as "free people" – due to their determination to remain so.
Throughout history, if the Hmong people found any kind of peace, it never lasted long. They have been forced to emigrate from northeastern China into the country’s southwestern corner. During the Qing Dynasty, several major wars further pushed hundreds of thousands of Hmong into Southeast Asian countries of Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Thailand.
The first major war during the Qing Dynasty erupted in 1735 in southeastern Guizhou province as a result of Chinese southward expansion and forced assimilation. Eight counties and 1,224 villages were said to be involved in this war. When the Hmong were suppressed in 1738, Professor Wu said 17,670 Hmong had been killed in combat, 11,130 were captured and executed and another 13,600 were forced into slavery. Half of the Hmong population were affected by the war.
The second war (1795-1806) was started in three provinces – southeast of Sichuan, east of Guizhou and west of Hunan. The Hmong were led by Ba-yue Wu, Liu-deng Shi, San-bao Shi and Tian-ban Shi. As in the past, this war was launched to resist the Chinese and the Qing government from taking over their land. The popular slogan at the time was, "Get back our fields. Drive the Han people and he Manchus out off our fields."
The last war was the biggest and longest of the three. As a result of the Taiping Rebellion, the Qing government demanded more taxes and labor from the Hmong. The Hmong, led by Xiu-mei Zhang and other leaders, revolted in southeastern Guizhou in 1854 and fought until 1873. In excess of one million people were involved in this war, which spread to cover hundreds of cities and counties. According to Professor Wu, only 30 percent of the Hmong survived the war. Seventy percent of them were either killed or ran away. – Hmongnet.org
Under such pressures, the Hmong have done remarkably well to keep their culture and way of life intact. But where violent Chinese oppressors couldn’t convince the Hmong to give up their free and independent life, and submit to imperial rule, the modern day Hmong are willingly surrendering to Chinese economic rule instead. The warfare may be less bloody, and more discrete, but the results are essentially the same.
Note: An understanding of Hmong history is not complete without knowing of the Laos’ Hmong alignment with the U.S. against communism during the American (Vietnam) war, and the consequences that it brought them then, and since. You can read about this topic here, here, and here amongst many other places.