to the north of Thailand to visit the gentle tribal people that
occupy the lush hillsides and verdant valleys of northern borderlands
of Thailand, a section now called the Golden Triangle, have come
from the south-west and south-central areas of China.
The Mein live among the low hills in the dense forest likely originated
from southern China about 2,000 years ago. These tribal peoples
are the only one to have a written language, Chinese. In recent
years, both a Romanized and Thai-based script have been added
by Western missionaries.
We get to know the Mien because of their written language. From
such rich chronicles we have been able to save the legend of the
Mien's beginnings. It was said…The Emperor Pien Hung of China,
was attacked by the very powerful Emperor Kao Want and faced defeat.
The dog, Phan Hu, was able to get through the lines, kill the
aggressor, and bring Kao Wang's head back to the Emperor Pien
Hung. Phan Hu was rewarded with one of Pien Hung's daughters as
a wife, whom he took up to the mountains to live with him. They
produced 12 children, six boys and six girls, from whom sprung
the 12 clans of the Mien as we know them today. Or so the legend
Akha is easily recognizable by the black caps covered with silver
coins worn by their women. Like most other Hilltribes, the Akha
have no written language so their history was carried to this
century on the backs of many colorful legends, proverbs and rituals
handed down from one generation to the other. Akha are able to
at least recite the male line of their family back to the "beginning."
Their migration routes have been similarly remembered.
The focal point of community life is the open ground -- the "common"
-- where the tribe celebrates its major festivals, especially
that of the Giant Swing and where young men and women come to
meet (under the watchful eye of the elders). Family history is
very important when it comes to marriage for it is considered
a taboo to be too closely related to another: repeating a family
lineage to generations without finding a common ancestor is advisable.