The Miao people are known far outside the Chinese border because of their ancient traditions and their strong desire to preserve those customs. They still wear their folk costumes and striking silver accessories, especially for their weddings. The Miao wedding is something totally special. Not that often you can see 12-13 kg of silver jewelry on a bride, right? The Miao traditional wedding headdresses are wonderful – large, intricate, and very skillfully made.
Tanglong village, China. It is one of the villages in Xiayang Town, Yanling County in Hunan
My name is Yang Di. And I’m Miao.
The Miao people is an ethnic group from Southern China. There are about 11-12 million of Miao in the world. They live in China, Vietnam, Laos, the USA, Thailand, and other countries. This ethnic group has a very unique and well-preserved culture.
Where we live, silver accessories are symbolic. Wealthy, high-status families have more silver accessories. They display their silver to the public at big events. Also, silver (yin) sounds similar to luck (yun), so people believe silver can bring good luck.
We keep our wealth in silver because the Miao people are a migrant minority group. During migration, it’s hard to carry much wealth, so we make the silver into accessories. Generally, a set of silver accessories weighs 25 or 26 jin (about 28-29 pounds or 12-13 kg).
I can wear the accessories for 3 hours before getting tired.
Miao girls wear silver on their wedding day because, since we were born, our parents have been preparing out dowries.
I would regret getting married without wearing silver.
My name is Wu Guozheng. I am a silver maker.
I started making silver in 1980, so it’s been 38 years. When I was young and in school, my dad taught me to make silver. When I returned from school, he would let me help him wiredraw and hammer the silver.
It requires special skills to make patterns; patterns like dragons, phoenixes, kirins (mythical creatures in Asian culture), butterflies, fish, and other animals.
First, you soften a piece of silver and form it into a strip as wide as a finger. After that, you weld the head and the tail. Finally, you burn the bracelet and rinse it. Then, it’s done.
I think it’s important to keep and pass on the culture of minority groups. Because of globalization, we’re exposed to new ideas, and we pay less attention to the cultures of minority groups. Gradually, they fade away.
When I wear the silver accessories from my mother, I feel happy; and I’m glad she prepared them for me.