Identity The Hmong Leng have been included under the official Miao nationality in China. Their self-name is Hmong Len or Hmong Shib which means "light Hmong." In Jinping County one subgroup is called Hmong Liab (Red Hmong) or Hmong Liab Haut (Red-Headed Hmong), but they speak the same language as the Hmong Leng.
History The Hmong Leng are "a geographically widespread and populous group. There are a number of Hmong Leng ethnic and geographic subgroups speaking identical or extremely similar dialects. The differences amongst the subgroups are mostly obvious in clothing styles, geographical locations, and autonym but some sociocultural differences may also exist. The closeness within the group indicates that they probably formed a single ethnolinguistic group, with no internal variation, in the southeast Yunnan area only a few hundred years ago."
Customs The Hmong Leng are among the most economically progressive minority groups in south China. Hmong Leng youth frequently travel to cities and towns in search of employment and have a reputation for being good businessmen. Hmong Leng women wear dresses made from hempcloth. A flat, round turban consisting of black and white cloth is also worn. In Jinping the clothing style includes a black or blue shirt and a flap of red cloth with sharply pointed corners at the back of the neck.
Religion Hmong Leng homes customarily have a spirit and ancestral altar that is placed in a prominent location on a wall in the main room of the house. Offerings of fruit and incense are placed on the altar to honor and nourish the souls of their dead ancestors and to seek the spirits' blessings.
Christianity There are few believers among the Hmong Leng in China, although in Southeast Asia and the United States, Hmong Leng Christians number in the thousands. Generally speaking, the Hmong Leng near the Vietnam border have a far greater chance of hearing the gospel than their counterparts farther north. Around Kaiyuan County there are few Christian communities and the Hmong Leng remain largely untouched. There may be a small number of Hmong Leng believers mixed in with the Hmong Daw churches in Jinping County and other parts of Wenshan Prefecture.
Approximately 250,000 Hmong Leng live in southern and southeastern Yunnan Province - including 30,000 in Jinping County alone. Others are scattered in Pingbian County, parts of Wenshan Prefecture, and as far north as Kaiyuan County. In addition, large numbers of Hmong Leng live outside of China in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and as refugees in various Western nations, particularly the United States. The total world population for the Hmong Leng exceeds 500,000, the majority found in Vietnam. (Source: Operation China, 2000)