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started around 1885.  Since by 1929, there had been Hmong around Tak Province in northwestern Thailand (Cooper, et al, 1996: 6). In Thailand, the Hmong are divided into two main subgroups: Blue/Green Hmong and White Hmong.  It is believed that other subgroups of Hmong also migrated to Thailand but assimilated into these two main groups (Leepreecha, 2001: 32).  There are few behavioral differences between the two groups, except for their dialects and costume differences. The  Blue Hmong women can be identified by a blue skirt that is ‘batiked’, embroidered and pleated. On the other hand, the White Hmong women wear plain white skirts or black baggy trousers and simple jackets with blue cuffs.

The Hmong are distributed in 12 provinces in northern Thailand.  They are settled in 253 villages with a population of 153,955 within 19,287 households and 24,551 families.  Within the population, there are 45,382 men, 45,703 women, 31,578 boys, and 31,292 girls.  The Hmong make up 16.52 percent of the total tribal population of Thailand.  (Tribal Research Institute, Chiang Mai, 2002).

The Hmong are traditionally animistic and their religious beliefs focus on the worship of natural and ancestral spirits.  There have been some Hmong converts to Christianity through the efforts of Christian missionaries, and some have become Buddhist  through the influence of mainstream Thai society.  However, most of Hmong people still practice their traditional religions.

Social stratification

Hmong society is patrilineal, with descent and inheritance traced through the male line.  To the Hmong, men are more important than women.  Men are perceived as the ‘skeleton of the society’.  Men may continue prosperity for the lineage and household, look after parents in their old age, and carry out essential rituals.  Women are regarded as ‘other people’s daughters’, since they must move into the husbands’ household after marriage.  The women have limited voice in the political, economic, or ritual areas having to do with the patriline.  Tapp (1985) used the metaphor of men as roots and women as flowers.  The roots of the tree, as symbolic of the males, are more valued than the flowers, which are symbolic of the females.

The Hmong society is stratified by both age and gender, and these are important determinants of social status.  As noted by Peplau, et al (1999:28): “Social status refers to a person’s rank, privilege, or power in a group. Traditionally, age and gender have been important determinants of status. In a system of patriarchy, the father or senior male is the acknowledged decision-maker for the family”.  Historically, the Hmong retained their own language without a writing system. Their traditional culture relied on oral history passed down by the older generations.  Hence, old people were accorded a great deal of prestige. In the Hmong society, the elders hold priority over younger people within the same gender group.  The older women have more authority than the younger women, especially daughters and daughters-in-law. However, Hmong society operates as a patriarchy, with rank, privilege, and power residing

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