The Northern Meo of China
The Northern Meo live primarily in the mountainous regions of western Hunan Province in southeastern China. Their language is Xiangxi Miao, which is unintelligible to most other Meo peoples. There are nearly nine million Meo scattered worldwide, but the majority live in China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. They are also known as the Miao or the Hmong.
Although the Meo originally lived in the valleys of central China, centuries of oppressive governments pushed them farther south and higher into the mountains to seek refuge. Meo groups were dispersed and isolated from one another, giving rise to great variations in language, dress, and customs.
Styles and artwork in Meo clothing include geometric patterns, vivid colors, native birds, and flowers. These vary from village to village and are usually the distinction for the different Meo group names, such as Hua or "Flowery" Meo, and He or "Black" Meo.
What are their lives like?
The Northern Meo are friendly, affectionate people who enjoy festivals and entertaining guests. They are very clan-oriented, hospitable, and caring toward one another. Living in close knit communities, their villages are often made up of one or two clans. Festivals provide opportunities for young people to meet possible mates from other villages. Extended families usually live together under one roof in wooden "hanging houses" that stand on stilts against the mountainside.
Traditionally, the Meo derived their livelihood from what they could find in the mountains, forests, and rivers. Their existence has been a difficult one. They now farm collectively and are beginning to create unique farming methods on the mountain slopes, as well as engage in limited animal husbandry. The Meo community usually works together to design and build homes for one another.
The Meo are talented musically, writing songs for every occasion. It is not uncommon for courting couples to sing or play love songs to one another. The lusheng, a native, bamboo wind instrument, is always used in the many festivals they celebrate. Because they had no written language for centuries, music also became important as a means of recording history and legends. From a young age, children are taught these stories in song from a young age and sing them with their families or at festivals.
Ornate embroidery has been another source for remembering their past. The women of each village are talented embroiderers and weavers, developing their own techniques and styles. Because the ability to create quality art work is considered a desirable trait in a wife, girls begin to learn intricate embroidery at a young age and wear their bright creations as proof of their eligibility.
Although education is available to the Meo, many of the children are unable to take advantage of the opportunity due to the distance from the village to the school or due to the costs. Most do not go beyond elementary school, having to drop out to help on the farms. Of the few who do graduate and go on to college, only a handful return to their home villages.
What are their beliefs?
The Northern Meo are immersed in a polytheistic (worship of many gods) ethnic religion. They are predominantly animists (believe that non-human objects have spirits), living in fear of the wrath of the spirits. Spirits can be benevolent or mischievous, protecting or bringing harm to men, beasts, and crops. Elaborate rituals and sacrifices are used for protection, and shamans (priests or priestesses) are responsible for identifying demons and instructing the afflicted in how to appease them. Every house has an altar to ancestral spirits of grandparents and other relatives who died natural deaths in old age. If a Meo dies a tragic death, however, his evil spirit is supposedly left behind to bring havoc to his family and village, unless he is properly appeased. Shamans are to be consulted before major decisions are made.
What are their needs?
Although many of the Northern Meo have been exposed to the Gospel, most have responded to it with indifference. There is a small nucleus of Christians among them. At this time, there are no Scriptures in their language. Prayer is the key to reaching them for Christ.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities that have kept the Northern Meo bound for many generations.
- Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Northern Meo.
- Ask God to speed the completion of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials into the Xiangxi Meo language.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Xiangxi Meo language.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Northern Meo towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will open the hearts of China's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Northern Meo by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Northern Meo
- Country: China
- Their language: Xiangxi Miao
- Largest religion:
- Christian: 4%
- Church members: 32,560
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
- Mission agencies working among this people: 3
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 423,300 (52%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 390,800 (48%)
- Country: China
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 42
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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