Introduction / History The Biao Mien are a sub-group of the Yao minority, one of China's 55 officially recognized minority people groups. The Yao live in several provinces in the south-central and southeastern parts of China. The Biao Mien live in the Ruyuan County of Guangdong Province. Their language, called Iu Mien, is considered a dialect of the main Yao language and is closely reated to the Hmong language of Vietnam.
The Yao originated in the present day province of Jiangsu. Gradually, they migrated to southern China, and many of them settled in Hunan province. Over the years, many of them moved to Vietnam and Laos.
The Yao have been under Han Chinese rule for much of their history and were often oppressed by them. Many times they revolted against the Chinese government, and they played an active role in China's Communist revolution.
What are their lives like? Most of the Biao Mien are rural farmers who grow rice on terraces cut out of the sides of the high mountains of their homeland. Other crops include sweet potatoes, peppers, pumpkins, corn, and soybeans. The Biao Mien also traditionally practiced some "slash and burn" agriculture, growing crops in a clearing made by cutting and burning the forest growth. Hunting is also important to them.
A favorite dish among the Biao Mien is pickled bird. Cleaned birds are blended with salt and rice flour, and then sealed into airtight pots. The Biao Mien also pickle beef and mutton.
A typical Biao Mien house is built of wood and bamboo and has three rooms, with a sitting room in the middle and bedrooms on either side. Some houses are two stories, with living quarters on the top level and a stable on the bottom or ground floor.
The family is very important to the Biao Mien, and divorce is a rare occurrence among them. Most Biao Mien men have only one wife, but a few of them occasionally have more than one. Although some marriages are still arranged by parents, that choice is now usually left to the young couple. The groom is usually sixteen or seventeen years old, and the bride is usually up to three or four years older.
Among the Yao minority, clothing varies according to region, but several common characteristics prevail. The women's clothing is usually embellished with colorful embroidery. A coat over loose trousers is most common, and women will often spend hours laboriously stitching intricate patterns over the black or blue cotton fabric. Yao women also often wear large turbans and a lot of silver jewelry. The men's traditional clothing is less distinctive, and today they often wear manufactured clothes bought in local markets.
What are their beliefs? The traditional Biao Mien religion is a combination of ancestor worship and exorcism. Ancestor worship is the practice of praying to the spirits of deceased ancestors for help and guidance. Small altars for ancestor worship were traditionally located inside Biao Mien homes. Exorcisms are used as a means of casting out evil spirits that are believed to be inflicting illness.
Religious beliefs are also similar to those of popular Chinese Taoism. Eighteen chief deities are recognized, in addition to a host of minor gods, supernatural beings, deceased heroes, and nature spirits. Good spirits are considered to be the spirits of ancestors and their own household deities. Evil spirits include jungle demons, valley demons, and city demons. Since the advent of Communism in 1949, the prominence of religion has declined in the lives of the Biao Mien.
What are their needs? Although agriculture is the chief economic activity of the Biao Mien, they often cannot grow enough to feed all their people. However, physical hunger is not their greatest difficulty; rather, it is spiritual famine. Most of them have never had a chance to hear the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Biao Mien who will boldly declare the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Biao Mien church to the glory of His name! * Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language. * Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people. * Pray for Gospel messages to become available in audio format for this people group.
In 1993 the 21,500 Biao Mien were located in southern China. Lush mountains and rushing waterfalls throughout Ruyuan County in northern Guangdong Province decorate the home of the Biao Mien. Geographically, they are one of the closest minority groups to the cities of Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Numerous other Yao, or Mien, groups are scattered throughout Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand, but the Biao Mien language is only spoken in China. (Source: Operation China, 2000)