Prayer Profile
The Highland Yao of Vietnam


The Highland Yao are thinly dispersed throughout the mountain regions of northern Vietnam. They live primarily in the provinces of Quang Ninh, Ha Tuyen, Ha Bac, Thanh Hoa, Lang Son, and Ving Phu. Their language, Mien, belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family. Not all ethnic Yao speak Mien; some speak Chinese, and almost all are bilingual in Chinese.

The Yao emigrated south from China over the last 100 years due to continual pressure from the Chinese. Unlike other ethnic groups in Vietnam, the Yao have preserved their Chinese values and customs. In 1895, the French ruled Vietnam in an Indo-Chinese union, which became a joint rule with Japan after World War II until Japan disarmed the French. Communist rebels emerged and military regimes formed, leading to severe blood-shed. This lasted until the Communist Republic of North Vietnam spread to the south in 1975. Today, the Yao are proud to be an official ethnic community in Vietnam.

What are their lives like?
The Highland Yao are known as "mountain dwellers." Occupying land up to heights of 12,000 feet, they have adapted to their landscapes by carefully constructing terraced rice-paddies on the sides of steep cliffsa technique that was learned from the Vietnamese. Formerly, the Yao farmers used the "slash and burn" method of cultivation. Unfortunately, this destroyed many of the tropical evergreen forests that once covered the lush hillsides.

Rice is the staple crop of the Highland Yao. Other field crops include maize and opium poppies. For years, opium cultivation served as the main source of cash. However, the Yao have since been encouraged to raise alternate crops, due to the gradual suppression of opium trade. The Yao men are excellent hunters and lumberjacks. The women are skilled in spinning, weaving, and embroidering.

The transition from a feudalism to socialism brought many changes to Yao society. The Yao are organized into agricultural cooperatives that share equally in all production. Socialism has also brought a medical school and some hospitals to the Yao region in Vietnam. The medical facilities have helped them gain control over diseases such as small pox, cholera, tuberculosis, and malaria.

For the Highland Yao of Vietnam, most elements of their traditional Chinese culture have been continued. As a result, the style of houses, agricultural methods, and general subsistence levels are somewhat better than those of hill tribe groups elsewhere. The Yao are a self-sufficient people. They do, however, trade in the local markets.

Within Yao villages, each house has an enclosed garden where vegetables, tobacco, and cotton are grown. The Yao are divided into a number of tribes or patrilineal clans. This means that the line of descent is traced through the males. The Yao only marry within their own clans. The men dress uniformly in loose, dark blue trousers, short blue coats, and turbans. The women dress almost identically, but their trousers are embroidered with red cotton thread. Over the trousers they wear long coats slit up at the sides to the waist, also trimmed with red cotton. Some of the women wear their beautiful traditional costumes, predominantly bright red in color, with large distinctive hats.

What are their beliefs?
The Highland Yao are primarily ethnic religionists, practicing the traditional religion of their forefathers. They are animists, which means that they believe that non-living objects have spirits. They also place a great deal of importance to the spirits of their ancestors, to whom sacrifices are frequently made. The Yao believe that they must regularly appease the spirits, or demons will force punishment on their families. For this reason, piles of burning incense can often be found at the bases of big trees or large rocks. They have no concept of the omniscient, omnipresent God, but believe they descended from the "dog god," Pan-Hu, whom they worship.

What are their needs?
Presently, less than 1% of the 372,000 Highland Yao in Vietnam are Christians. Very few Christian resources are currently available in the Mien language. Additional laborers and evangelistic tools are needed to reach these precious people with the Gospel.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to open the doors of Vietnam to Christianity so that the Gospel may be freely preached.
  • Pray that missions agencies and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Highland Yao of Vietnam.
  • Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Highland Yao who will boldly declare the Gospel.
  • Pray that the Jesus film and Gospel broadcasts will soon be produced in the Mien language.
  • Pray that the Highland Yao believers will rise to the challenge of taking the Gospel to their people.
  • Ask God to begin revealing Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Highland Yao bound.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Highland Yao by the year 2000.

See also the following related groups:
The Highland Yao of Laos;
the Yao of China and Thailand.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Highland Yao
  • Country: Vietnam
  • Their language: Mien (Yao)
  • Population: (1990) 333,100
    (1995) 372,400
    (2000) 412,800
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionist 99.2%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 2,979
  • Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 2
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 122,100 (33%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 21,600 (6%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 100,500 (27%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 250,300 (67%)
  • Country: Vietnam
  • Population: (1990) 66,689,000
    (1995) 74,545,400
    (2000) 82,648,300
  • Major peoples in size order: Vietnamese 85.3%
    Han Chinese 1.6%
    Tho 1.4%
    Muong 1.4%
  • Major religions: Buddhists 49.1%
    Nonreligious 16.8%
    New religionists 10.1%
  • Number of denominations: 20

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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