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Family Mina Kang

Entrance to the Miao Village

A

sudden flashback occurred in my

memory. Like you’ve put a movie to rewind, I’m recalling all the precious memories that I deeply inhaled at the Gui Zhou Miao Zu Zi Zhi Zhou. After a not-so-long plane ride, I arrived at the Beijing International Airport. Everything contrasted from Korea, even the smell of the two airports differed. As I stepped outside the airport, there was an otherworldly scent. The smell of sweat, cigarettes, KFC and the polluted air all blended into this strange scent. It was tongue Dried Corn drying, and my insatiable appetite to write and learn more about the unknown minorities of China was intensifying by the minute. I wanted to experience the true biodiversity of China, the rural areas that have never been explored. It seems that I was already inspired, and that has kept me inquiring about the enthralling Miao minority. Arriving at Beijing isn’t the journey to my final destination; I had another plane ride to the city of Wu Han, where near that location there is the Miao minority village, I am going to stay. My guide Ann was very friendly and she swiftly led me to the location without any major difficulties. She constantly informed when I faced minor problems, how the conditions in Korea and China are extremely different. During the train ride to the Miao village, you could smell cheap cigarettes and sweat from the old car seat covers. I wondered if I could survive in such a contrasting environment, research, take photographs, and write an article here. But I guess I made it through. The subtropical humid climate of Gui Zhou was not surprising, just a little chilly, no different from my home country.Yellow and red maple leaves were vigorously dancing with the wind. The sharp sice-cold wind cut through my chapped lips. The entrance to the village was just big enough for me to go through and there were Chinese


View of the whole village characters written on the center of the door. I couldn’t recognize most of the words however Ann was always there for me to grasp every single detail in this village. I could see the mountains lined across, and the colossal trees that embraced the tiny village of the ethnic minority, Miao. Like an egg inside a bird’s nest, the village nestled in with the physical characteristics of Gui Zhou. The tall, sturdy houses caught my eye as I entered the village. Roofed with fir bark, tiles that are thatched made most of the building, and most of the houses were built on stilts because when the temperature drastically increased the cool air can pass through the empty space underneath the house and freshen the house. Some had roofs made of stone slabs, and Ann translated what the Miao family was saying. Timber is plentiful in many Miao areas, and it is used as one of the materials to build a sustainable, long-lasting shelter. The Miao family’s relatives’ houses vary greatly in style, and it is mainly because of the different climates depending where they live. In Arts & Crafts Yunnan or Hainan Island, houses are built with woven branches, and bamboo strips plastered in mud to secure the base of the bamboo. One thing for sure, most of the materials of houses are from their accessible and abundant resources, like from thatched huts, timber, wood, stone slabs, and bamboo. I kept roaming around the village taking notes as I discovered, at the shade of houses, the breeze was cool, and it felt like you’re inside a refrigerator. It became a perfect shade for those who’ve been exhausted from the sun’s heat. These small technologies they came up with made them very wise, and an intriguing culture to travel to and explore. After a long time of traveling and discovering the characteristics of the village, I was drained. The spry, keen freelance photojournalist was gone, probably gone a long time ago and she was craving for sustenance. The kind and noble Miao family prepared lunch and I offered to help them cook. The main menu was a sour mixture of glutinous rice, and salad (something that looked like a salad). The sour stink from the vegetable and rice made me shiver and frightened to eat it. It was disgusting, the color of the vegetable were unusual, and most importantly, it was moldy. Ann asked the Miao family, if storing the vegetables for two months was necessary. We both agreed how gross it was, and decided not to eat it until we comprehended the historical reasons. According to the senior member of the Miao village, it happened because of the lack of salt. Before 1949, many Miao people had to flavor their food with pepper or a sour taste because there was no surplus of salt. I hesitated for a moment, and then shoved the vegetable into my mouth. There was a distinctive taste from the yellow, moldy cabbage. The sour taste enveloped around my tongue, bursting with a


sour flavor. It was strange but the more I ate it, the more it tasted delicious. The sticky rice tasted like the rice cakes in Korea, and I thought that it actually tasted better than the ones from home. As I took a bite, I missed home for the first time. I asked the oldest member of the village why they eat rice, instead of wheat. She told me that ever since China’s rapid growth of the economy, they have changed their lifestyle, because now it was easy to obtain rice from the North of Gui Zhou. They were forced to adapt both cultures of the Han and Miao after the Han’s have migrated to the Gui Zhou Miao area. During lunch, the youngest member sat next to me, teaching me the rules of their culture. He told me the most important rule while you eat: over-eating is regarded as an insult. I was shocked. These are the times where you call these happenings culture shock, because in Korea, over-eating is unhealthy but it shows their respect for them providing a meal. Yellow Leaves: Fall

The Miao women and I enjoyed talking about the fancy, festive clothing Miao men and women wear during ceremonies. Both gender’s outfits had unique features, and impressed me with such exquisite embroidery. The colorful design was printed on the linen jackets the men wore neatly and the drape woolen blankets twirled with the geometric patterns on it. The puttees wrapped around their legs tightly and kept their legs warm during wintertime. The bull-head that was stitched to the back of their linen jackets symbolized peace and happiness to the villagers, and they explained to me that everything has its own reasons why it exists, as well as the meaning to their existence, which is why they symbolize their surroundings. Women wore jackets buttoned on the right side, and trousers with decorations embroidered on collars. The thick strips of cloth were called puttees and it swathed around their legs for support and warmth. It was draped over the woolen blankets with a variety of geometric shapes entangled with the festive jewelry. As I wandered through the village, I saw the children singing and dancing, making music from their nearby surroundings. The walls were displayed with aesthetic arts and crafts. Like the walls were a part of art, the walls were surrounding the children who made art, and the absorbing tune sang by them too. The area I was a part of made me be aware of the Miao culture,

Clothing


Housing

that it was highly diversified culture from a root.You could already sense that as you enter the settlement. They informed me that most arts and crafts were exported to other countries. When you enter, the energy, the soft melody drifting in the air, and the ability to capture one’s attention were meant be felt, because it was their culture. Although, the lyrics did not rhyme, the catchy tune was easy to sing along, understand. Suddenly, it became a stage where I was humming the tune and got it “stuck in my head”. The adults in the community joined the singing and began to play Lusheng, their favorite instruments. Babies were beating the copper drum, the children were singing, adults were playing the flutes, and I was just drawing the aura of this place. It was just so unique and special that you get to experience the moment to become united

The senior member of the village led me to the dinner table and we had a small ceremony within the families. Miao people were really hospitable, a great observer of etiquette. They payed me great respect and I felt welcomed because of that. At the poultry ceremony, the men killed chickens for this feast. It was known as the common custom held in households, and they served it to guests that have come a long way to visit them. They knew how to give and take, share what they’ve harvested to each of the villagers. The chicken head was served to the senior member, the leg was for the youngest member, and everyone shared the heart. The heart seemed really significant since the oldest member presented it with chopsticks. I was told to pick the heart up and present it back to the members. Giving the impression of being each of the members, becoming a mirror for each another. They appreciated me respecting their traditions, and gave me the horn spirit drink, only given to those who came from far-off. I felt special as an individual, appreciated, and I finally felt like I deserved to be here. We all knew we were one big family, and we would never sacrifice one for another. Because we are family, we became one, respected each other. Soon I forgot the first reason why I came here. The atmosphere I was in and the villagers made it easy to write this article therefore; I am not the only who wrote this article, it's the Miao villagers. I can now share the memories in Gui Zhou Miao Zu Zi Zhi, which was my objective. I left the village; embracing the last touch I’ll ever feel here, right this moment. The birds chirped goodbye, the trees waved with their long green arms, and the mountain’s shadow once again loomed over the landscape. Goodbye.



9 mina magazine article