The Intricate Embroidery of the Miao People

The Miao people of South-west China have a tradition of exquisitely embroidered skirts, which they wear with intricately carved silver jewerly.

miao skirt
Miao Skirt detail
detail of childs dress embroidery miao
Child’s embroidered blouse
Intricate silver work worn around the neck
a miao silver headdress
the intricately carved silver headdress of a Miao woman


The designs of the headdress and the skirts are carefully planned; all of the small details having special meanings. Miao girls will commence embroidering their skirts at  a young age, and work on one piece for years, which then becomes their wedding skirt.

The Miao have a rich culture with an oral language tradition of songs and poetry recording their version of the history of the world, including reference to a great flood, geneology of their ancestors, and the creation of the world. Many Miao festivals dot their yearly calender, celebrated by feasts, dancing and singing.

One of the most famous of Miao songs is their origins myth. One person sings a question, the other person sings a retort.

Who made heaven and earth?
Who made insects?
Who made men?
Made male and made female?
I who speak don’t know.

Heavenly King made heaven and earth,
Ziene made insects,
Ziene made men and demons,
Made male and made female.
How is it you don’t know?

Remembrance of a great flood is also recalled in Miao songs

Who came with  bad disposition?

To send fire and burn the hill?
Who came to the bad disposition,
To send water and destroy the earth?
I who sing don’t know.

Zie did. Zie was of bad disposition,
Zie sent fire and burned the hill;
Thunder did. Thunder was of bad disposition,
Thunder sent water and destroyed the earth.
Why don’t you know?

translation from

The rich intricacy of Miao culture is displayed not only in embrodiery but also in architecture.


Miao bridge
Miao village north of Guiyang
Detail of miao skirt
Miao woman in traditional dress and headdress



The Miao people are part of Greater China, one of the 56 nationality groups who make the diverse ethnic blend of Modern China.

The Miao territory has been part of China since the Han dynasty ( 200 years BC) and written records regarding the Miao people go back as far as 11 centuries B.C.

Miao culture has contributed significantly to the majority Han culture of China, with Miao words relating to rice-farming entering the Han people’s vocabulary( 汉语 han yu, or Han language, is another term of Chinese Mandarin)

Historically, Miao people have revolted against imperial rulers during the Yuan and the Qing dynasty.