Identity Although they are part of the great Yao nationality in China, the Iu Mien living in Hunan Province have been found to speak a dialect that differs and is considered mutually unintelligible with Iu Mien varieties elsewhere.
History There has been great conflict between the Iu Mien (Yao) and the Han for many centuries. Until this century the Chinese character for writing Yao used the radical for "insect" instead of the radical for "people." A series of rebellions occurred among the Iu Mien in Hunan, starting in 1836. The fight was over the control of the opium trade. Most drugs going from southern China to the northern provinces passed through Xinning County, just to the west of the Xiang River valley. The Iu Mien in this region were involved with the trade as well as several Chinese triad societies, including the Qinglian Jiao (Black Lotus Society) and the Bangbang Hui (Cudgel Society). In 1847 another revolt occurred in Xinning, led by an Iu Mien, Li Caihao. The Iu Mien were savagely defeated after fighting lasted for several months. Thousands of Iu Mien were killed.
Customs Many of the Iu Mien in Hunan live in isolated villages at the summits of high mountains. Because of their location, the Iu Mien pipe fresh water to their villages through a skillfully constructed system of bamboo pipes.
Religion The Hunan Iu Mien share three religious belief systems. They worship Pan Hu, the mythical progenitor of their race, they appease spirits and demons, and they also observe rituals borrowed from Daoism (which includes ancestor worship).
Christianity The Iu Mien in Hunan are among China's most unreached people groups. There is very little Christian influence of any sort in Hunan, and few believers have ever dared to venture into the isolated mountains inhabited by the Iu Mien since time immemorial.
An official government study in 1995 listed 130,000 speakers of the Iu Mien language living in southern Hunan Province. They inhabit at least 17 different counties within Hunan, including Yongzhou, Shuangpai, Xintian, Changning, Daoxian, Lanshan, Lingxian, Ningyuan, Jianghua, Jiangyong, Dong'an, Linwu, Guiyang, Xinning, and Yizhang. In many locations the Iu Mien live alongside Ghao-Xong and Han Chinese. There are no speakers of the Hunan variety of Iu Mien reportedly living outside of China. (Source: Operation China, 2000)