|Regions with significant populations|
| China: 2,796,003 (2010)|
Vietnam: 891,151 (2019)
|Mienic languages, Bunu, Pa-Hng, Lakkja, Mandarin Chinese, Shaozhou Tuhua, Vietnamese, English|
|Predominantly Yao folk religion, minority Buddhism|
|Vietnamese alphabet||người Dao|
The Yao people (its majority branch is also known as Mien; simplified Chinese: 瑶族; traditional Chinese: 瑤族; pinyin: Yáozú; Vietnamese: người Dao) is a government classification for various minorities in China and Vietnam. They are one of the 55 officially recognised ethnic minorities in China and reside in the mountainous terrain of the southwest and south. They also form one of the 54 ethnic groups officially recognised by Vietnam. In China in the census of 2010, they numbered 2,796,003; and in Vietnam census in 2019, they numbered 891,151.
The origins of the Yao can be traced back 2000 years starting in Hunan. The Yao and Hmong were among the rebels during the Miao Rebellions against the Ming dynasty. As the Han Chinese expanded into South China, the Yao retreated into the highlands between Hunan and Guizhou to the north and Guangdong and Guangxi to the south, and stretching into Eastern Yunnan. Around 1890, the Guangdong government started taking action against Yao in Northwestern Guangdong.
The first Chinese exonym for "Yao people" was the graphic pejorative yao 猺 (犭"dog radical" and yao 䍃 phonetic) "jackal", with twentieth-century reforms this was changed to yao: "precious jade".
During the Laotian Civil War, the Yao tribes of Laos had a good relationship with U.S. forces and were dubbed to be an "efficient friendly force". They fought in favour of the (South Vietnamese) government against the communists. This relationship caused the new communist Laotian government to target Yao tribal groups once the war was over. This triggered further immigration into Thailand, where the tribes would be put into camps along the Thailand-Laos border.
After obtaining refugee status from the Thai government and with the help of the United Nations, many Yao people were able to obtain sponsorship into the United States (although many remain in Thailand). Most of the Yao who have immigrated to the United States have settled along the Western part of the U.S., mainly in Central and Northern California such as Visalia, Oakland, Oroville, Redding, Richmond, Sacramento, but also in parts of Oregon like Portland, Salem, and Beaverton as well as the state of Washington in Seattle and Renton. See Mien American for those identified as Mien.
Yao society is traditionally patrilineal, with sons inheriting from their fathers. The Yao follow patrilocal residence.
The Yao people have been farmers for over a thousand years, mostly rice cultivation through plowing, although a few practice slash-and-burn agriculture. Where the Yao live nearby forested regions, they also engage in hunting.
During the Southern Song (1127–1279), an imperial Chinese observer, Zhou Qufei, described the Yao as wearing distinctive fine blue clothing produced using indigo.
The Yao celebrate their Pan Wang (King Pan) festival annually on the sixteenth day of the tenth lunar month. The festival celebrates the mythical original story of the Yao people, and has evolved "into a happy holiday for the Yao to celebrate a good harvest and worship their ancestors."
Main article: Yao folk religion
Taoism has historically been important to the Yao. Jinag Yingliang, in a 1948 study, argued that Yao religion was characterized by (1) a process of Han Chinese-influenced Daoisation (Chinese: 道教化; pinyin: Dàojiào huà); (2) the endurance of pre-Daoist folk religion; and (3) some Buddhist beliefs.
The description of Yao religion is similar to the definition of Chinese folk religion as described by Arthur Wolf and Steve Sangren. Scholar Zhang Youjun takes issue with claims of "strong Buddhist influence" on the Yao, arguing that "although Yao ritual texts contain Buddhist expression, the Yao do not believe in Buddhism at all. They are resolutely Taoist."
There are several distinct groups within the Yao nationality, and they speak several different languages, The Iu Mien comprise 70% of the Yao population.
In addition to China, Yao also live in northern Vietnam (where they are called Dao), northern Laos, and Myanmar. There are around 60,000 Yao in northern Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes. The lowland-living Lanten of Laos, who speak Kim Mun, and the highland-living Iu Mien of Laos are two different Yao groups. There are also many Iu Mien Americans, mainly refugees from the highlands of Laos. The Iu Mien do not call themselves "Yao". Not all "Yao" are Iu Mien. A group of 61,000 people on Hainan speak the Yao language Kim Mun; 139,000 speakers of Kim Mun live in other parts of China (Yunnan and Guangxi), and 174,500 live in Laos and Vietnam.
The Bunu people call themselves Nuox [no13], Buod nuox [po43 no13], Dungb nuox [tuŋ33no13], or their official name Yaof zuf [ʑau21su21]. Only 258,000 of the 439,000 people categorised as Bunu in the 1982 census speak Bunu; 100,000 speak the Tai–Kadai Zhuang languages, and 181,000 speak Chinese and the Tai–Kadai Bouyei language.
Mao Zongwu (2004:7-8) gives a detailed list of various Yao endonyms (i.e., self-designated names) and the Chinese names of various groups and clans associated with them. Endonyms are written in the International Phonetic Alphabet with numerical Chao tones.
Groups considered to be "Plains Yao" (Pingdi Yao 平地瑶) include:
Tim Doling (2010:82-83) lists the following Yao (spelled Dao in the Vietnamese alphabet) subgroups in northern Vietnam.
According to Doling (2010), only Kim Mun, Kim Mien, and Lô Gang may be found outside Vietnam.
Nguyen (2004:14-15, 128) lists Đại Bản, Tiểu Bản, Khố Bạch, and Làn Tiẻn as the 4 primary subdivisions of ethnic Yao in Vietnam.
In China, Yao peoples are distributed primarily in the provinces Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan. Ethnic groups derived from the Yao of China are found in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.
The Yao of Guizhou are found in the following locations (Guizhou Province Gazetteer 贵州志 2002).
The Yao of Guizhou have various autonyms, such as:
Some subgroups of ethnic Yao in Hunan include:
The Hunan Province Gazetteer (1997) gives the following autonyms for various peoples classified by the Chinese government as Yao.
Tan Xiaoping (2012) also gives the following autonyms for Yao subgroups of Jiangyong County.
The Yao of Shaoyang Prefecture are found in the following locations (Shaoyang Prefecture Gazetteer 1997). Population statistics are from 1990.
The Shaoyang Prefecture Gazetteer (1997) reports that the Yao of Shaoyang Prefecture, Hunan speak the following languages.
The following population statistics of ethnic Yao in Hunan are from the 1990 Chinese census, as given in the Hunan Province Gazetteer (1997).
(Only counties or county equivalents with more than 0.1% of county population are shown.)
|Jianghua Yao Autonomous County||61.87||270,889||437,835|
|Ruyuan Yao Autonomous County||10.75||19,121||177,894|
|Lianshan Zhuang and Yao Autonomous County||14.33||14,195||99,070|
|Liannan Yao Autonomous County||52.29||69,968||133,814|
|Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region||3.36||1,471,946||43,854,538|
|Longsheng Various Nationalities Autonomous County||17.56||28,237||160,796|
|Gongcheng Yao Autonomous County||58.60||158,937||271,216|
|Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County||3.88||11,798||304,149|
|Rongshui Miao Autonomous County||6.48||27,560||425,608|
|Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County||37.45||50,532||134,934|
|Fuchuan Yao Autonomous County||52.91||144,705||273,507|
|Luocheng Mulao Autonomous County||1.21||3,903||322,116|
|Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County||5.36||17,807||332,067|
|Bama Yao Autonomous County||17.24||37,706||218,724|
|Du'an Yao Autonomous County||21.66||117,609||543,019|
|Dahua Yao Autonomous County||21.46||78,963||367,970|
|Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture||1.86||76,947||4,130,463|
|Jinping Miao, Yao, and Dai Autonomous County||12.00||37,937||316,171|
|Hekou Yao Autonomous County||22.10||21,097||95,451|
|Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture||2.50||81,774||3,268,553|
|Jingdong Yi Autonomous County||1.15||4,063||352,089|
|Jiangcheng Hani and Yi Autonomous County||3.94||3,946||100,243|
|Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture||1.88||18,679||993,397|
After 1982, the Guangxi Nationality Institute and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences together created a new Yao writing system which was unified with the research results of the Yao-American scholar Yuēsè Hòu (Traditional Chinese: 約瑟·候/Simplified Chinese: 约瑟·候). The writing system was finalized in 1984 in Ruyuan County( Chinese characters: 乳源瑤族自治縣）, Guangdong, which included Chinese professors Pan Chengqian (盤承乾/盘承乾), Deng Fanggui (鄧方貴/邓方贵), Liu Baoyuan (劉保元/刘保元), Su Defu (蘇德富/苏德富) and Yauz Mengh Borngh; Chinese government officials; Mien Americans Sengfo Chao (Zhao Fuming), Kao Chiem Chao (Zhao Youcai), and Chua Meng Chao; David T. Lee.
American linguist Herbert C. Purnell developed a curriculum and workshop presentations on language learning in East and Southeast Asia, as well as Yao Seng Deng from Thailand. The US delegation took the new writing system to the Iu Mien community in the United States where it was adopted with a vote of 78 to 7 by a conference of Mien American community leaders. This writing system based on the Latin alphabet was designed to be pan-dialectal; it distinguishes 30 syllable initials, 121 syllable finals and eight tones.
For an example of how the unified alphabet is used to write Iu Mien, a common Yao language, see Iu Mien language.
There is a separate written standard for Bunu, since it is from the Hmong/Miao side, rather than the Mien/Yao side, of the Miao–Yao language family.
Some people think that a variety of Yao is, or was, written in Nüshu, an indigenous script in Southern part of Hunan Province in China. But this connection between Yao language and Nüshu is disputed, because Nüshu more likely recorded local Chinese dialect which might be also known by Yao people in Hunan.
Officially, illiteracy and semi-literacy among the Yao in China still stood at 40.6% in 2002.