Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the Land Management Practices of the Hmong People in China

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The Economic and Political Prospects Related to the Cultural Development of the Miao People in China

Miao is one of the minority in China and has the same bloodline as Han (the only one Majority in China). In the history of Miao people’s immigration, some cultures lost and some cultures have been developed. Their political and economic system has changed in communication with other nationalities. In terms of interest conflicts between nations, the Chinese government try to show respect to all cultures and ensure their equal right in politics. In the process of economic development, China is helping the Miao people get rid of poverty through the industrial transition.


Living area

The most population of Miao minorities in China is living in the south of China where the living condition is mountainous, warm and pleasant, the rainfall is abundant, and the medicinal resources is rich.


The general, Chiyou, lost in the war resulting in Miao people move to the south of China.

Both Han (the most common nation in China and take the lead) and Miao nations (one of the minorities in China, never govern this country) have the same ancestor who was ZhuXia ethnic group. Long-time ago, there was a well-known fight between those two groups. To compete for the position of leader, the general Chiyou supported By Miao group was defeated. the loss of the war means that Miao People have to obey all orders given by Han people. Some of them didn’t accept the results. To escape the punishment, they moved to the south of China which was never occupied[1]. After so many wars, Miao people moved all over the world, such as Vietnam, Australia, America, and so on[2]. Now, China still has the largest group of Miao living in the south of China [3].

Culture, Politic system and Economic system in Miao group


During migration, how to protect and inherit their culture is one of argument[4] .The development of their culture is already more than 1000 years. There are four famous heritages in Miao’s culture. The four skills were developing in their land and independent from other minorities’ culture. The four heritage, Silver, Cross-stitch work, Embroidery, and Batik impressed the world with their strong national spirit. Those also attract a lot of tourism from the world and promote their national economy. The living area of Miao has rich ecological and economic benefits. For example, they have a rich knowledge of herbs and medicine. Their medical system (Miao medicine) is independent, which is separate from the Chinese medical system. In the public mind, the Miao medical system is mysterious and sometimes was treated as evil before the new Chinese government (After Qing dynasty) established[5]. After so many years of communication between Han and Miao, their medical system made progress in the world. The Chinese government introduced it to the international level.

The four heritage, silver, cross-stitch work, embroid, and batik impressed the world with their strong national spirit.

However, some cultural traits were also lost in the long history of Miao. As many researchers said, Miao people lost their language. In the history of China, Miao people had never occupied the leader position and they are always vulnerable due to a small population. During the period of the Yongzheng Emperor, the landownership evaluation caused a significant decrease in the Miao population and seriously damaged the local productivity. The document ‘The Ancient Song of the Miao Nationality’ recorded that their ancestors had to burn and erase their words in case of the secret of mitigation exposed to their enemy. The words were left only on their clothes and songs[6]. Now in China, most young Miao people speak Chinese (Han language).

From the period of Chiyou to modern life their culture, rights on the land, political and economic model have changed but those changes are in line with their cultural characteristics. Their cultural characteristics are marginal, group, pragmatic, and interactive. In terms of marginal, Xiangxi region is far from the city center and relatively isolated in geographical location. Therefore, their culture is not easy to be influenced by mainstream, which results in their marginal status. In the term of the group, the Hmong group lives with several nationalities over vast areas with little region inhabited only by their own. In the term of pragmatic: they use the term “useful” to judge things. In the term of interactive: Han, Tujia, Hui nationals and so on also live in Xiangxi region. They share the land, which promotes interaction and eliminates barriers between groups[7].

Political system

In their social system, there are three systems that have been used in their society. Lilao system is the most common one in all societies. Lilao has a high reputation and prestige in their group and Lilao is not decided by-election or vote and promote. Though Lilao does not have the right to political activities, Lilao contributes to the harmonious society by mediating contradictions. The other one, discussion on betel nut system is similar to the current minorities' political engagement system in China. All groups should elect one person who represents their group to make a political decision. Those decisions are approved when most members of the system give the thumbs up. While the Drum club system is considered as a remnant of the clan system[8].

Their historical culture and political system failures can be a lesson for future social development. Due to the characteristic of marginal, Miao people can provide and persist in their own opinion on political problems to avoid mistakes.

Moreover, the interactive characteristic helps Miao people to learn .

Economic system

Miao minority relies on their agriculture in the land that was always owned by the central government but managed by Miao people). In the history of Miao groups, the economic achievement was poor. In modern society, their economic model has changed and the income of families has increased.  

Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture (Xiangxi Prefecture) is a typical poverty area. According to research, from 2010 to 2015, the stability, sustainability, and effectiveness of economic development showed a steady upward trend. The important reasons for the improvement of the quality of Xiangxi's economic development are the reduction of energy consumption and the effective protection of the ecological environment[8].

From the early 1980s, the state attached great importance to minority medicine and supported the research of minority youth in medicine. According to data, in 1990, the production and output value of Miao medicine in Guizhou Province was zero. But now, there are more than 70 famous ethnic medicine enterprises mainly producing Miao medicine in Guizhou province, accounting for 37% of the province's medicine types. Annual sales revenue was more than 1 billion CAD, accounting for about 50% of the annual sales revenue of the Guizhou pharmaceutical industry[8].

In their economic model, the focus moved from the first and second industry to the third industry (ecotourism).


With the continuous attention to Indigenous people in the world, the political participation of minorities has gradually become a hotspot and focus of democratic politics. Ethnic political participation refers to the political participation of minorities in multi-nation countries, including both the political participation within the ethnic society and the political participation in the countries[9].

Ethnic political participation requires the equal participation of all minorities. Before the founding of new China, political oppression, economic deprivation, and cultural assimilation have become the root causes of the relations between Miao and other minorities[9].

There are 55 minorities in China, they have conflicts all the time. Different types of ecological environment and economic culture lead to political and cultural conflicts[9]. Ensure the interests of their nation is the root reason. To make sure the equal engagement of all minorities, those conflicts should be solved.

Effective ways to solve the conflict include encourage to develop the economy of all nations together and equally, respect for all cultures and religions, cultivate talents of minorities, integrate into their culture (languages, festivals), develop productive forces, share their wisdom in political, cultural, and promote communication between minorities to seek common solutions in conflicts[10].

Political and Economic Prospect

Political Prospects

From 1952 to 1960, 3 autonomous regions, 26 autonomous prefectures, and 46 autonomous countries have been established. In 1979, all minorities were acknowledged (55 minorities). Moreover, the member of minorities can have independent political engagement right as Chinese and also have minority political engagement right as minorities. The autonomous prefecture is one unique and special part of the Chinese society, which is bigger than autonomous countries but under the control of autonomous regions or provinces. It has highly self-management right and has its own people’s congress and government[11].

Due to the positive influence of their culture in society, minorities are encouraged to join in the country’s political activities. Every minority needs to elect a representative person to the National People's Congress. People with a particularly small population must have a representative even if the population does not reach the required number of people for one nation. The selection of representatives of various minorities must not only consider the popularity and influence of the candidates but also pay more attention to their ability to participate in politics. National equality and national autonomy are the prerequisites for the political participation of minorities[9].

The government of China focuses on the cultivation of minority youth to achieve that all minorities develop together towards a better social structure. Most Miao families are poor so their families cannot support their education[9]. China invested a minority training program and encourage the local government officers to know Miao's history and culture.

To promote the political system under the cultural development. Some suggestions can be taken, including promoting communication between minorities to seek commons in conflicts, share their wisdom in politics and culture, and respect for all cultures and religions.

Economic Prospects

Miao cultural heritage can be a resource for economic development. Before developing the economic benefits of Miao, the government has to negotiate with local communities to explore their heritage as an economic measure. At the national level, encourage the produce and supply of Miao cultural products and services and build effective management of those [12].

Miao group develops the ecotourism industry in their land and have achieved big success.

Culture is driven to human social development. Based on their special and unique culture, the cultural-economic system was developing. Cultural-economic development is sustainable, and its focus on people, including knowledge, information, and intelligence.

China has a huge population and a lot of holidays, so tourism is popular[8]. The living area of Miao has rich tourism resources. Miao has a long and rich history on their lands, so there are a lot of special buildings, cultural relics, ruins and so on. To develop the cultural economy, protecting the ecological environment is key. As an example of Xiangxi, the economic benefits are increasing stable. The relationship between the government and Miao made progress during the cultural exchange.  


The current economic development problems are narrow coverage of social welfare, large gaps in income distribution between urban and rural areas, and a large base of poor people. To sustain the economic development of Xiangxi Prefecture, the development of strategic emerging industries should be actively promoted, with technological innovation as the core[5].

Due to the sensitivity and complexity of ethnic issues, people often adopt the attitude of avoidance or care about the existing contradictions and problems. This caused the upper-level authorities to shut their ears and listen, and could not get the correct early warning signal[12].


  • Prove Industrial transformation.
    • Firstly, vigorously develop green ecological agriculture, green organic food, and make a special forestry economy.
    • The second is to vigorously develop strategic emerging industries and promote the development of biomedical industries based on national medicine.
    • The third is to vigorously develop the modern service industry.
    • Pay attention to the coordinated development of urban and rural areas[7].
  • Establish a cultural resource development evaluation system.
  • Never ignore the capacity and the future plan when developing tourism.
  • Using their language as a media to provide cultural products and services is not listed in their basic cultural needs.
  • The power distribution during the protection and utilization of Miao cultural heritage should be transparent
  • Persist on the “two basics” project[9]:
    • Basic implementation of nine-year compulsory education.
    • Basic elimination of young and middle-aged illiterates.


  1. (2009, February 9). The Ancestor of Miao Group Chiyou. Retrieved from
  2. (2014, December 3). The Introduction of Minorities in China. Retrieved from
  3. Xinghua (2014, February 9). The Miao people. Retrieved from
  4. Yuan, D., & Zhang, Y. (2004). Preservation, Inheritance and Utilization of Miao    Traditional Culture. Journal of Southwest University for Nationalities, 25(4),          17-23. Retrieved from    8947a18       7f9386.html.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Yuan, H., Zhen, J., Chen, S., Cao, S., Guo, L. & Lin, R. (2014). An Overview of Miao Medical Theory and Development Status. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 55(17), 1513-1516. Retrieved from
  6. (2009, February 10). The Language and words of Miao Group. Retrieved from
  7. 7.0 7.1 He, X. (2010, October 26). Analysis of National Culture in the Development of       National Economy. Retrieved from     7a187f9386.html   
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Zhang, Z. (2006). Tujia & Miao Autonomous Prefecture’s Development of Culture Economy in West Hunan Province. Journal of Hunan City University, 27(3). Retrieved from
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Huang, Y., Tang, L. & Zhou, Q. (2011). The Status, Questions and Countermeasures of the Cultivation of Young People in Guangxi Minority Areas. Retrieved from
  10. Cai, M. (2014). Reflections on the Political and Cultural Conflicts of Minority Nationalities. Economic Research Guide, 246(28). Retrieved from
  11. Yan, Q. & Qing, J. (2008). The Political Participation of Chinese Minorities. Journal of Southwest Minzu University (Humanities and Social Science), 201(5). Retrieved from
  12. 12.0 12.1 Ma, Y. (2010). An Analysis of Three “Special Problems” in Cultural Development of   Miao Regions. Journal of Guizhou University for Nationalities (Philosophy and social science), 121(3). Retrieved from

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