Identity Although they have been officially included as members of the large Miao nationality in China, the Mjuniang speak a language closely related to Dong. The name Mjuniang is the autonym of this group. The Chinese invariably call them by the nickname Cao Miao, meaning "grass Miao." All the peoples in the area call the Mjuniang Cao Miao.
History The Eurasian ancestry of the Miao (including the Mjuniang) was still apparent as recently as the nineteenth century. One visitor remarked, "They ate with spoons rather than chopsticks. ... Even more odd were the many red or blond-haired Miao with light skin, and some with blue eyes." For thousands of years the Han Chinese called themselves Li-min, which is generally translated "black-haired people." One writer asks, "Why, then, did they designate themselves the Black or Dark people? Did they at one time live in the neighbourhood of people who were fair-haired and of lighter complexion than themselves?"
Customs To accommodate their terrain, some Mjuniang villages consist of hanging houses. "These three-story wooden homes are built on stakes against the mountain slope. The top story is used to store the grain, the middle for bedrooms and living room, and the bottom for cattle, sheep and poultry."
Religion For centuries, Mjuniang shamans and sorcerers have possessed great demonic power. Since the advent of Communism in China, however, their influence has been diminished. In many locations shamans continue to operate in secret.
Christianity The Lutherans worked in Liping until the 1930s, when they were forced to leave China. The church property was confiscated by the Communists. Most of the present generation have never heard of Christ, nor have they ever met a Christian.
The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Chinese Linguistics listed a 1991 figure of 60,000 speakers of the Mjuniang language. They live at the juncture of three southern provinces: Guangxi, Hunan, and Guizhou. In Guizhou they are located in Liping County; in Hunan they live in Tongdao County; and in Guangxi they are found in Sanjiang County. Liping County, which also contains many members of the Dong nationality, was captured by the Communists during the Long March in December 1934. Zhou En Lai chaired a meeting there at a shop belonging to a merchant named Xu. Today a small museum in Liping commemorates the Communist visit. (Source: Operation China, 2000)