The Mien Culture/Groups

Evidence of Mien (Yao) history as far back as 5th BC.
For the past 2000 years, the records show that the Mien lived in the surrounding mountains near Tibet. The Mien moved constantly because they did not like the controlling ruling from the Han. There were as many as 28 sub-names under the Mien. There were 4 major groups of Mien, the Phan (Bienh), the Bunu, the Cha Sun, and Ping Ti. Out of the 4 groups, the Phan (Bienh) group had the most man-power, and that was the group that constantly moving from place to place. The Phan group had concentrated in one large area of the country, where the Mien language was developed. The Bunu and the Luc Jaa developed into separate languages.
child in hat

Legend of the Creation of the Mien People

In heaven, there were Daa Ong (Grandfather) and Daa Gux (Grandmother). One day they decided to create the Yao, or the Mien people. They planned to transform themselves and live on Earth . During that time, there were two kingdoms already exist on earth, one ruled by Baeng Hung (the good side), and the other by Gux Hung (the bad side). They hated each other very much .

As they two had planned in heaven, Daa Gux would come down to earth reborn as a third daughter of Baeng Hung (with a birthmark on one leg), while Daa Ong would transform himself into whatever was needed. During the war between Baeng Hung and Gux Hung. Baeng Hung announced to his whole kingdom, "whoever can bring me Gux Hung's head, I'll reward you with marriage to my third daughter and some land ." No one answered the Baeng Hung's demand.

One day Daa Ong transformed himself into a five-colored dragon-dog named Phan Hu . The dog showed himself up at Baeng Hung's palace . The emperor had never seen a dragon-dog such as this one, full of talent, with 120 beautiful spots on the top of its body, and could talk . The emperor ordered his people to take a good care of the dog . The dog had become Baeng Hung's trusted, loving pet .

One day, Baeng Hung and his staff had a meeting, planning the war with Gux Hung. The dragon-dog was there at the meeting as well. At the end of the discussion, the dragon-dog spoke up, he said "Baeng Hung doesn't have to send thousands of armies, military equipments to fight Gux Hung. I will volunteer to fight Gux Hung myself. Since I'm a dog, the least respected animal, Gux Hung and her military probably will not think I can cause any harm to them." Baeng Hung agreed with the dog. He wanted to see what the dog could do.

Phan Hu (dragon-dog) prepared for the departure. He asked heaven to send him a magic pill, which helped him endure his 7 days 7 nights swimming accross the sea to Gux Hung.

mien clothes for man and woman

The dragon-dog arrived Gux Hung's empire. Gux Hung admired the beautiful talking dog. She kept it as her own body guard. The dog became Gux Hung's favorite pet as well. Gux Hung was confident with the dog, therefore, she no longer needed her servants and body guards at all times. One day, Gux Hung sent her servants and body guards out for the daily chores. The dragon-dog took that opportunity, and bit Gux Hung's head off then swam back across the sea with the head as proof to Baeng Hung. In return, the dragon-dog was married to Baeng Hung's third daughter (as promised).

As the wedding day neared, Baeng Hung, the emperor realized he didn't really want his third daughter to marry a dragon-dog. So, Baeng Hung called nine women who looked identical to his third daughter and then dressed them up with identical gowns. The dragon-dog had to pick from the ten identical women. Daa Gux (the third daughter) was one of the ten. This ruse, however, did not fool Daa Ong a.k.a. Phan Hu (dragon-dog). The dog looked for the birthmark on the leg. The dragon-dog picked the third daughter of Baeng Hung and was married to her. They moved to an isolated piece of land given to them by Baeng Hung and had 12 children, six sons and six daughters. These six sons and the husbands of the six daughters became patriarchs of the twelve Mien clans.


The Iu Mien 12 Clans

When talking about the original twelve clans, it is difficult for almost any Mien to name all of them since a few of the clans got lost or left behind when escaping from mainland China many generations ago. Another complicating factor is that the names that the Thais gave to each clan (which are the basis for today's Mien surnames in Thailand and the United States) not only depended on what each Thai interviewer heard their clan name to be, but also differs from the names that Miens call themselves. For instance, Ann (Saefung) and Laosan (Saefong) spell their official last names differently, yet each will identify themselves as a member of the Bungz (pronounced Bpung) clan. Notice that when Ann introduces herself, she first says her Thai name, then her Mien clan (in this case calling it La Bpung), then finally her Mien given name.

Clans descending from the six sons of Baeng Hung

Thai Name
Mien Name

Clans descending from husbands of the six daughters of Baeng Hung

Thai Name
Mien Name

Other clans not in the original twelve clans,
possibly second sons-in-law of Baeng Hung's daughters

Thai Name
Mien Name

Note: The "Sae" prefix was appended by Thai authorities to designate a last name derived from a Chinese clan. Hmongs and ethnic Chinese, especially Hakka and Teochiu, also were originally given names of this form, though most have changed their names since; Hmongs doing so by dropping the Sae, Chinese by requesting an official four-syllable Thai last name from the Thai government. Most Miens have kept the Sae appended to their names.

The letters q, z, h, and c at the end of the clan names are silent and are used to indicate the tone in which a word is said.

Migration from China to Thailand and Beyond

The Mien, who are also related to the lowland-living Lanten peoples of Laos and Vietnam, are believed to have begun migrating from Hunan province in China during the 15th-16th century and spread throughout northern Vietnam, northern Laos and northern Thailand. Immigration into Thailand was sharply accelerated after the Indochina War when victorious Pathet Lao forces began seeking reprisal for the involvement of many Mien as soldiers in a CIA-sponsored secret army. As a token of appreciation to the Mien and Hmong people who served in the CIA secret army, the United States accepted many of the refugees as naturalized citizens. Now there are as many as 50,000 Miens living in the United States, largely concentrated on the West Coast, particularly northern California.