Friday, November 28, 2008
Who Are The Hmong?
The Hmong, tribal people from highland Laos, are recent immigrants to the United States. The Hmong were largely insulated from the outside world, but during the Vietnam War, between 1954 and 1975, the Hmong were recruited by the United States to fight against the communist forces in Laos.
When the United States forces withdrew from Vietnam and Laos in 1975, the Hmong became the target of violent reprisals from the new government. Hundreds of thousands of Hmong were forced to flee across the Mekong River to seek refugee in Thailand. During the marching to Thailand, tens of thousands were being killed by the Communist Pathet Lao, victims of chemical bio-logical toxins, and died of hunger.
Currently, there are over a hundred thousand Hmong on the hillside inside Laos who are still fighting for freedom and democracy. Approximately 300,000 Hmong are living in the United States and other western countries, 40,000 still remain in the refugee camps and an unstated number are living illegally with relatives in the local Hmong villages in Thailand.
Most of the Hmong who are in Thailand hesitate to seek resettlement in the U.S. and are not yet ready to return to Laos. As Thailand seeks to end its refugee population, we, the United Hmong Foundation, must ensure that no Hmong are returned involuntarily. Despite the continuous flow of the Hmong refugees into the United States, many Americans are still unaware of the sacrifices the Hmong made for supporting American military during the Vietnam War. The Hmong also have good determination to unite by the common experience of rebuilding individual lives and families that were permanently altered by war and resettlement.
By correlation archeological and anthropological evidence, oral tradition, and Chinese imperial records, scholars have traced the Hmong to central Asia, possibly as early as 5000 B.C. Hmong folktales describe a place having six months of light and six of dark, where snow lay on mountains and ice covered lakes. Over many centuries, they migrated eastward descending through northeast Tibet into southern China. There, the Chinese referred to them as Miao(Meo in Southeast Asia), sometimes translated as "barbarians", but actually a variation on the word "man". Their name for themselves Hmong, means "free people"(Credit: Chippewa Valley Museum. Hmong In America/Journey From A Secret War. Copyright: Chippewas Valley Museum Press 1995)
These following are just claims of what might have happened.
(keyword: "might have happened")
Who was first in China, Hmong or Chinese?
The Hmongs are still unclear of their past and lack informational links to find them. History was passed orally from Grandfather to son, father to son, etc. There have been many claims, and stories trying to resolve this matter. In the Hmong folktales which were orally passed down from generation to generation, there were talks of Hmong having their own emperor of China. It was believed that the Hmongs first lived in China before the Chinese. At the time, it was not called China, but was called after the Hmong emperor's name. Then one day, the Chinese started to appear. They traveled to the Hmong kingdom from the direction of the Pacific Ocean. The Chinese migrated in, and started to work in the fields, and intermarried with he Hmongs. When the population of the Chinese surpassed the Hmong, the Chinese began to take over. Centuries of wars between the Hmong and Chinese to take over the kingdom. With no fortune, a Hmong man was bribed to killed the Hmong Emperor, and he was successful at doing so too. Since then, the Hmongs were persecuted, and forced out by the new emperor, a Chinese emperor.
During this persecution, the Hmongs lost all their written records, and written languages. If was said that the Chinese burned all the records and books. Anyone who had knowledge of writing or reading, was killed. It was believed that the last person to have a record book, swallowed his copy, right before the Imperial Chinese soldier killed him. Hmongs have learned to preserve their writings in the "paj ntaub" or the "Pha Dau". The Pha Dau were symbols and writings which was stitched into embroideries. Today, the Pha Dau's are just a mere design for costumes, and decoration of for the New Year celebrations. The Hmong elders who could actually read the embroideries have all passed away.
Are the Hmongs one of the Lost Tribes of Hebrew?
Many also believe that the Hmong are one of the Lost Hebrew Tribes. To back this up, a folktale talked about a great flood that happened to the Hmong. Also, Linguistics have compared the Hmong written language to those of ancient Hebrew, and found them to be similar. Hebrew and Hmong also share similar animal sacrifices in religious beliefs. Even with the head dress, the Hmong and the Hebrew head dress are similar in a way. Last but no least, there are Hmongs with blond hair, and blue eyes. This comes to the conclusion that somewhere along the way, may the Hmongs intermarried with blond haired blue eyes people, or maybe the Hmong may have migrated to Europe for a while before heading towards China.
Is Mongolia where the Hmongs came from?
It was believed that the Hmongs did settled in Mongolia. Also, the name Mongolia, was named in honor of a Hmong girl named, Mongolia. This idea came from folk tales passed down from grandparents too.
The tale talks about the emperor of Mongolia just recent passing away. One of the rule was that when a parent dies, the son's or the eldest son has to guard and watch over his body. This is to keep him safe for the time being. Every night the eldest son has to watch over his father's body. But, every night a ghostly knight that comes around on a horse kept scaring the son away. The next night, the younger son was told to guard the body. Again that night, he was scared away by the ghostly knight. Talks of this ghostly knight made other members of the family scared, excepted for a young girl. That night, she stayed up and guarded her father. When the ghostly knight came, she didn't run away. The ghostly knight came up to her, and congratulated her on her heroism. He told her that she is the only one that was not afraid of him, therefore, he made her Empress of Mongolia. The name Mongolia, was that young girl's name. Other than that, little backs that idea.
To learn more about the Hmong and their part in the Vietnam War, please visit Lao Veterans of America's web site. You will find many interesting pictures and articles there to inform you more about the Hmong.