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THE IU MIEN
The Iu Mien (sometimes called “Yao” which has negative implications for them) are a very peaceable and friendly people. They have grace and elegance. They are extremely sociable and open, and are delighted to play hosts to visitors. The Mien hail from southern China. The Iu in Thailand are a sub-group of the greater Iu family called “Mien” – the other sub-groups inhabiting Laos and southern China. They are the only mountain people to have used a written language, Chinese, and practice a written religion based on medieval Chinese Taoism. In recent years there have been many converts to Christianity and Buddhism.
Their villages are widely scattered throughout the Northeast, with concentrations around Nan, Phayao and Chiang Rai. The costume of the women is very distinctive, with a long black jacket with lapels of bright scarlet wool. Heavily embroidered loose trousers in intricate designs are worn, and a similarly embroidered black turban. The teeth are commonly capped with gold. The skullcaps of babies are very beautiful, richly embroidered with red or pink pom-poms. On special occasions, women and children wear silver neck-rings, with silver chains extending down the back decorated with silver ornaments. Men wear a loose jacket, which buttons diagonally across the front, with embroidered pockets and edgings.
Mien villages are often at high altitudes, built of wooden planks on a dirt road. There is a guest platform of bamboo in the communal living area. Girls of marriageable age have a private bedroom in which they can entertain suitors.
Many Mien are now integrating into mainstream Thai culture. Their exquisite embroidery is a very saleable commodity, and their willingness to adopt new ways gives hope for their future within Thailand.
The Akha people are rightly famous for their very exotic and beautiful costumes. Akha people are usually of small stature, dark skin and fine, delicate features. They have bright, twinkling eyes and a great sense of humour. They are a delightful people to stay with or visit, and are very generous with whatever little they have.
The Akha originate from Tibet, and have only recently entered Thailand, the first immigrants arriving in 1911. They are found only in the far north of Thailand, mainly in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces
The Lisu has an unquenchable spirit. They are enterprising and adaptable, smart and self-confident. They retain their customs and costumes, language and beliefs.
The Lisu headman has little power, since the Lisu are fiercely independent people who take orders from no one.