Identity Ghao-Xong is the autonym of this group, who have officially been included under the Miao nationality in China. The Ghao-Xong were labeled Red Miao by the early missionaries. They have also been called Huayuan Miao and Northern Miao.
History During the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279) the Ghao-Xong staged 112 wars to save their tribal lands and preserve their way of life. Ralph Covell notes, "The Miao [Ghao-Xong] people in Hunan seem to have been badly oppressed by the Chinese over a long period of time, but remained more independent in spirit than those in Guizhou and Yunnan. This contributed to their reluctance to adopt a new faith."
Customs For centuries the Ghao-Xong have been "growing mulberries and raising silkworms, spinning and weaving, making papercuts and, of course, embroidering." Many Ghao- Xong festivals feature music played on the suona horn and on drums.
Religion The Ghao-Xong have the custom of worshiping Pan Hu, the dragon-dog they claim as their ancestor. Today the Ghao-Xong of Maxiang County in Hunan have a carved stone tablet inscribed "for sacrificing to Great King Pan Hu" and topped by two dragon heads. Certain kinds of trees are also worshiped as deities. In many villages the front door of a family's home is considered a god. The doors in these villages are worshiped annually in a ceremony where a pig is sacrificed and the blood is sprinkled on the doorposts.
Christianity In the 1920s Father Theopane Maguire of the Catholic Passionist Fathers - based in Brighton, Massachusetts, USA - commenced work among the Ghao-Xong in three counties of Hunan Province. Their work, which was based in Yangshui County, suffered a setback when rebels killed three of the missionaries in 1929. By 1934 they had won 2,500 converts, but no record was made of how many were Ghao-Xong compared to Han Chinese. In 1946 Maguire was forced to concede, "Here are no startling mass conversions, no pilgrimages of the mighty to the feet of the crucified Christ, no peals of thunder to announce the herald of the Great King."
Approximately 100,000 speakers of the Eastern Ghao-Xong language are found in China. Western Ghao-Xong is spoken by far greater numbers, claiming close to one million speakers. The Eastern Ghao-Xong inhabit the far northeastern extent of Miao territory in China, near the Xiang (Hunanese) Chinese. They are located in parts of Luxi, Jishou, Guzhang, and Longshan counties in northwest Hunan Province. Most of their villages are on the top of mountains where they are able to maintain their customs in privacy. A Miao proverb states, "Fish swim in water, birds fly in the air, Miao live on the mountains. (Source: Operation China, 2000)