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The Hmong Culture
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The Hmong Culture by Jennifer Xiong DPI WEOP Office Eau Claire, jennifer.xiong@dpi.state.wi.us Presented to DPI Staff on Oct 2004. History of the Hmong. Hmong means free. Ancient people from Southern China

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History of the Hmong

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History of the hmong

The Hmong Cultureby Jennifer XiongDPI WEOP Office Eau Claire, jennifer.xiong@dpi.state.wi.usPresented to DPI Staff on Oct 2004

History of the hmong

History of the Hmong

  • Hmong means free.

  • Ancient people from Southern China

  • A few thousand years ago, the Hun invaded from the North and the Hmong began Southard immigrations.

  • Thousands of families began historic travels down the rivers and mountain summits to the South.

History of the hmong

  • In the 19th century, they began to settle in the mountainous regions of Northern Laos.

  • In 1954, the Hmong tried to remain neutral in a political turmoil but were drawn to fight against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese, which was supported by the USA.

  • The Hmong were trained as soldiers of special forces to defend the Northeast region of Laos.

  • They were known as the secret army because there was no official recognition of fighting in Laos and the Americans have never heard of Hmong soldiers.

History of the hmong

  • Saigon fell in 1975 and the American forces withdrew and the Hmong were left in the hands of their enemy.

  • Many Hmong families stayed behind to fight and protect their families while others were driven from their homes and thousands fled to safety by swimming across the Mekong River to Thailand.

  • Before the war, the American government promised that if the Hmong fought with the US, they would be taken care of.

  • 18 clans in the Hmong society

History of the hmong

  • Everybody belongs to a clan, everybody with the same last name

  • The reason for belonging to a clan is the ability to identify themselves or be affiliated to other Hmong people around the world.

  • If you know someone with the same last name and you are not even related, you can not marry that person. A person must seek marriage outside of his/her clan.

  • The Hmong is a very tight-knit clan and very family oriented.

  • Hmong households consists of extended family members such as grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins, and their immediate family members.



  • Animism/Buddhism

  • Many of the Hmong are now converted to Christianity by missionaries in Laos.

  • When a child is born, that individual is welcomed in to the family with a ceremony called hu plig or khi tes.

  • A big feast, with white strings tied to the hand for a great future and good luck

  • When a man is married and has a couple of kids, he gets an elder name added to his original name to signify maturity. It is common for Hmong women to carry on their husbands name.

History of the hmong


  • Rice

  • Vegetables with little meat or fish

  • Chicken, pork, and beef are dominant

  • In Laos, they usually raised cows, pigs, and chickens to butcher

  • Rice is grown



  • One of the distinctive features of the Hmong culture is the elaborate and colorful needlework crafted by Hmong girls.

  • Most traditional clothing are made

  • Clothes are worn to new years and celebrations

New years

New Years

  • Socialize

  • Meet their future husband/wife

  • Ball tossing

  • Sing songs to each other

  • Dancing



  • 3 days long

  • Animals such as cows are used to sacrifice for the dead.

  • Trained elder used to guide person to their destination.

  • A musical instrument called the “qeej” will be played.



  • Arranged/forced or Mutual

    Reasons for forced marriages

    -Girls side of family is poor and wants their daughter to marry someone rich.

    -Parents want their child to have a good future

    -Close relatives.

  • Weddings are from Friday to Saturday night

  • Bride Price/Dowry

  • Feast or Wedding is held on Saturday after a negotiation is made.

  • Bride and Groom will receive instructions on how to be a good husband and wife.



  • Order of birth, age, gender, and leadership play an important part in the decision making

  • Best interest of family comes before the individual

  • As children, they are taught to meet other’s needs and respect the opinions of their parents’ or of older people.

  • In a dispute or if a problem occurs and the family can not resolve it, they always consult with their clan members.

Etiquette for interacting with the hmong

Etiquette for Interacting with the Hmong

  • The handshake is a new concept to the Hmong culture. Traditional Hmong do not shake hands with the female. Many Hmong female will feel embarrassed shaking hands with a male. Traditionally people greet one another verbally. Holding hands tightly during a handshake will embarrass a Hmong woman.

History of the hmong

  • Hmong teach their children to be well behaved in the presence of guests. In a case where their child is interrupting or not behaving, they will not send their child to their room or discipline them. Discipline is usually right after the guest leaves.

  • When talking to a Hmong person, he/she may not look directly at you or give you eye contact. The person you are talking to may look down or away. Traditionally looking directly into the face of a Hmong person is considered inappropriate.

  • It is considered inappropriate for the opposite gender to sit too close to one another when conversing. To avoid misinterpretation, a male should keep a distance between himself and a female when in conversation.

History of the hmong

  • It is common for Hmong families to visit one another without calling or setting up time. Sometimes they will just show up at the door and expect a warm welcome. It is considered rude if you tell them you don’t have time to visit with them.

  • Confidentiality is considered very important but within the family itself, confidentiality may not be thought of as important.

  • If a Hmong person offers you a drink, you should not decline. This is considered impolite. To not offend him or her, take the drink or object being offered and hold it for a while before placing it on the table. Refrain from quickly saying no.

History of the hmong

  • If you visit during mealtime, guests will be offered to join the family in eating. Whether you want to or not, he or she should take part in the meal. Just take a bite or two and that will make them happy. Otherwise, the family will stop eating and talk to the guest until he or she leaves.

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