The Iu Mein of China
The Iu Mien live scattered throughout the mountains of southern China, primarily in the Guangxi, Guangdong and Hunan provinces. They speak a Sino-Tibetan language that is also called Iu Mien. Their writing system was formerly based on Chinese characters; however, a Roman-based script was devised in 1983.
China is the original homeland of the Iu Mien, although many have migrated south due to pressure from the Chinese. Those who remained in China were gradually reduced in number and forced into the hills, possibly by migrating Chinese who took over the more fertile areas.
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, (1965-1976), more than 60 million urban people were sent to the countryside to settle borderlands for economic reasons. Today, Chinese merchants frequently visit the Iu Mien villages. Their values and customs are highly influenced by the surrounding Chinese.
What are their lives like?
Rice is the staple crop of the Iu Mien. Other field crops include maize and opium poppies. For years, opium cultivation served as the main source of cash. However, the Iu Mien have since been encouraged to raise alternate crops, due to the gradual suppression of opium trade. The Iu Mien men are excellent hunters and lumberjacks. The women are skilled in spinning, weaving, and embroidering.
For the Iu Mien of China, 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 Mien groups elsewhere. The Iu Mien are self-sufficient and can exist without any commercial relations with the outside world. They do, however, trade in the local markets.
Within Iu Mien villages, each house has an enclosed garden where vegetables, tobacco, and cotton are grown. The Iu Mien are divided into a number of tribes or patrilineal clans. This means that the line of descent is traced through the males, and inheritances are passed down through the males. The tribes are endogamous, which means that they only marry within their own clans. The men of the various tribes dress uniformly in loose, dark blue trousers, short blue coats, and turbans. The women dress almost identically, but their trousers are elaborately 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?
Like other Buddhists, the Iu Mien believe that "merit" must be earned in the present world before a person passes to the spirit level. 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?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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