Yao (Mien)

Some 33,000 Mien are located in Thailand, remaining closely connected to their Chinese heritage. Their language, long ago derived from Han Chinese, is written in Chinese characters. Their paintings are usually of a religious nature. Artworks incorporate ancient Chinese artistic styles, albeit with a distinctive Yao style, and are sought after by Western collectors.

Mae Yao Wedding - Chiang Rai

Yao Wedding party – Ban Mae Yao – Chiang Rai

The Yao also prefer to live along low hills and mountain sides, where they grow corn and other crops. They are skilled blacksmiths, silversmiths and embroiders.

Their houses sit on the ground, and feature a cooking fire in the center of the main room. Each house has a small shrine dedicated to their ancestors, and to the guardian spirit of the house.

Yao farmers practice shifting agriculture, depending on rice and corn. Yao silversmiths work is superb, and they produce lovely silver jewelry of high quality – perhaps the best of all the hill tribes.


The Yao women are renowned for their long black jackets, richly adorned with red wool “pom-pom” trims. Loose trousers in intricate designs are worn below, topped off with a similarly embroidered black turban! Their magnificient cross-stitch embroidery richly decorates the clothing of each member of the family.

More information at Peoples of the World…

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