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Miao Rebellions

The Miao-kia constituted some of the most troublesome subjects of their conquerors, the Chinese, and from the conquest up to the late 19th Century they had not yielded wholehearted fealty to their new lords, but, on the other hand, had risen frequently in rebellion, causing much bloodshed, and devastating numerous towns and villages.

It was estimated by the Chinese that by the late 19th Century there were over seventy different tribes in Kueicheo province. Each tribe spoke its own dialect and wears a distinct costume-the latter feature is noticeable especially among the women-the men's dress, with few exceptions, being like the Chinese. These tribes may be again divided into two large classes, viz. the Miao-kia - who, it was generally admitted, were the aboriginals of China - and the Chong-kia - who, without doubt, were the same as the Shan tribes of Burma and may be regarded as immigrants. They are also spoken of in different districts as I-kia and Shui-kia.

The Miao or Miao-tze, as the Chinese call them; or the Meng, Mhong or Hmao, as they call themselves (Burmese equivalent, Mong; in Siamese, Muang), state they came from the East. They were divided into a great many tribes, numbering it is said more than 50. They are often called, from the colour of their dress, white Miaos (Feh-miao), black Miaos (Holi-miao), and flowery or embroidered Miaos (Hwa-miao). The Ka-tou are generally called the Hua, or Colored Miao, and so named because they wear fancy-coloured garments, just as the Pho are called Black Miao because they affect dark clothes. The women of this tribe engage in embroidery, weaving, and wear beautiful dress-sleeves, hence the name. Like the Lolos, their language, customs and habits differ widely from those of the Chinese. They are a simple and hospitable people. Miaotze and Lolos are great wine-drinkers, and celebrate annually the arrival of Spring by music and dancing.

When Roman Catholic missionaries made a map of the Empire, some parts of southern Kweichow were put down as occupied by Sen Miao or "Independent Miao." Evidently at that time some of the Miao were still independent, for if they had in any way admitted Chinese sovereignty they would not have been reckoned as Sen Miao. The various tribes within the Empire, and those on the border, were divided into Sen and Su tribes. Sen means "raw," and Su means "ripe" or "cooked." The independent tribes were "raw," and those who acknowledged Chinese sovereignty are "cooked."

The Miaos refused submission and fought the mandarins, who would otherwise oppress them and confiscate their goods-"eat them," as the expressive Eastern phrase goes. The Miao tribes were for many years in a state of warfare against the Chinese government, taking up their position in dangerous fastnesses, and from their ambush firing poisoned arrows upon the Chinese troops, and defying subjection.

In 1735 a general rising occurred among the Miao tribes already subdued, towns and villages were besieged, and much fighting took place. At length the Emperor appointed Governor-General Chang, of Hunan, to try to quell the rebellion, and after great difficulties-for the roads were dangerous, mountains had to be climbed, and heavy rains encountered (" the mountains were as if they touched the sun, and the roads as dangerous as if hung on trees," as the official report put it)-he was successful, and was rewarded by being made viceroy of Yunnan and Kweichau, while honors and offices were at the same time granted to his sons and descendants.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:28:43 ZULU