The Miao Enchantment


The Miao Enchantment

by Live in Guizhou

PUBLISHED August 16, 2021 • 4MIN READ

Silver Accessories of Miao Ethnic Group

The silver accessories of Miao ethnic group are the most delicate and finest among all the ethnic groups in Guizhou. At festivals, the Miao girls will be wearing their silver accessories which tinkle rhythmically to lusheng (a reed-pipe wind musical instrument) and bronze drums.
For weddings, silver accessories are a bride’s indispensable dowry. From head to toe, silver brooch, hair clasps, earrings, necklace, neckwear, cape, collar, waist chain, garment ornaments, silver bells, bracelets and rings are all worn.
Although Qiandongnan is well-known for silver accessories, it does not produce silver. The popularity of silver jewels dates back to the Ming and Qing dynasties, when timber trade was thriving along the Qingshui River and the transactions were paid mainly in silver dollar, and consequently, a large amount of silver had been accumulated. When bank notes became popular, the spare silver was used to make accessories by the locals.
Therefore, the Miao girls’dowry that we see in Guizhou’s villages may be Mexican silver that travelled across the ocean thousands of years ago.

The Chinese-Style Bullfighting

Speaking of bullfighting, many people would immediately think of Spain. In China, however, there is also a place with a fairly rich culture of bullfighting.
Bullfighting is one of the traditional customs of the Miao and Dong ethnic groups in Guizhou, in which the locals make buffalos fight with each other, not for fun, but to show respect and affection for the animals. These photos were taken at the bullfighting activity celebrated in Congjiang County, Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture. That day, twelve “kings of buffalos” from nearby villages competed in the same arena, which attracted a large number of locals and tourists. (Photo /

Mangzhong: Mud Fight

The Dong villages in the south-eastern part of Guizhou hold a mud-fight festival every year around the solar term of mangzhong. On the day, young men and women tending the rice paddies together will throw handfuls of mud at each other. At the end of the fight, the one with the muddiest look will be considered as the most popular person.

Home of Miniskirts

Zhangpi Village, in Datang Town, Leishan County, Qiandongnan Prefecture, Guizhou Province, is one of the main residences of the Miao ethnic group. It is called the “home of miniskirts”.
Women here wear pleated skirt above the knee. Usually, elderly women wear two or three skirts, young women wear four or five, and when they go to dance during festivals, they wear seven or eight skirts. Also there is a piece of embroidered cloth at the front of the pleated skirt, with more than ten flowered straps tied at the back. Whilst dancing the pleats float together with the straps. What a unique style!

Fish Catching Festival in Taijiang

In Taijiang County, Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, Guizhou Province, every year on July 2nd in Chinese lunar calendar, thousands of residents, from a dozen villages near Jiaomi Miao Village, will come together along the Wengmi River banks to celebrate one of the most important days for the local Miao people —the Fish Catching Festival (Daoyu Festival). Daoyu means catching fish. They usually put a bamboo basket near the rocks in the bottom of the river, with the basket’s big opening facing the direction against the current of the river. Then they wait for the right moment to move the rocks, and the little fish will be taken into the basket by the water. Originally it was a traditional festival to pray for rain, but now it has evolved into an entertainment for the locals.

Bridge Worship Festival:Children’s Day of the Miao Ethnic Group

The Miao people have their own Children’s Day, which falls on the second day of the second lunar month, also known as the “Bridge Worship Festival”. In readiness for this day, every household will prepare in advance liquor, fish, duck eggs, goose eggs, colourful rice, ducks, incense paper and other offerings, and on the day burn incense and paper at the end of a bridge to pay tribute to the bridges built by Miao ancestors in ancient times and pray to have more children in families.
The children will wear new clothes and hang a mesh bag around their neck in which to put their coloured duck or goose eggs. They will gather around competing to see who has the hardest egg. On this day, the children receive preferential treatment and really enjoy themselves. This day leaves happy childhood memories to the Miao children, and is called the Miao Children’s Day.

Cradle on the Back

In some ethnic group villages in Guizhou Province, it is very common to see women carrying their kids on their back, whether they are harvesting rice, catching fish, cooking, buying stuff in local fairs, or weaving. With the help of a wide, long strap, they thus manage to free their hands, and at the same time taking care of the children whilst they work. This printed strap is also known as the “cradle on the back”.
The printed straps of the Dong ethnic group are exquisite. They are woven with yarns, with various embroidered patterns such as dragons, phoenixes, butterflies, bats, lotuses, silk balls, etc. Some may have words embroidered on them, such as “longevity and wealth”, “house filled with gold and jade”, “many offspring” and “safe trip”, all seen as blessings to welcome the new life to this world. Many times, a strap may have been used by several people, passed down from the grandmother to the mother and then to the daughter who may also use it to carry her own baby. Like a family heirloom, the stitches on the strap carry the profound love of the mothers for their children.