Cultural Identity in Post-Modern Society: Reflections on What Is a Hmong?
Mythical Origin | Members.Ozemail.Com.Au
“Anyone familiar with the Hmong knows the legend of the Great Flood and the incestuous marriage between a brother and his sister, the only two persons left on earth after the deluge. The Hmong and their many clans are said to be the result of this union (Geddes: 22-24). What is distinctive about this creation legend is that the Hmong condemn incest, and the closest form of marriage between relatives is with cross-cousins. The Hmong practise strict clan exogamy or marriage outside one’s own clan, and would not allow any person to break this rule. Is the Great Flood story an attempt to hide an undesirable group image (incest) or did the Hmong really originate from this brother-sister union? Who were these two, brother and sister, and more to the point who were their ancestors? Were these ancestors not Hmong? Trying to discover the back-ground of the mythical parents of the Hmong is like asking about God’s origin, a belief accepted by many but questioned by only a few.
Further regarding the origin of the Hmong, Western scholars have speculated that they come from “the far north” where today’s Eskimos live. The link of the Hmong with the arctic probably stems from their stories of a land of stars and snow where they used to live, where the earth is connected to the sky and it is dark for half of the year. Such stories have been found among the Ch’uan Miao in Kweichow, Southern China (Graham). Based on these stories, Savina suggested that the Hmong could have been the lost tribe in the Old Testament following the fall of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages. They could have wandered north from the Holy Land to the Red Sea, the Russian steppes and possibly the arctic, before migrating over the centuries down to southern China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand through Mongolia. The fact that albino people (with blond hair and blue eyes) are found among the Hmong has also been used to speculate on their Caucasian origin (Quincy: 14).
Some Hmong also claim that they have originated from Mongolia. This has most probably arisen from a misconception that there is a link in the syllable “mong” in the two names. Despite the lack of any cultural or linguistic connections with these far-flung places, many Hmong still believe that they have some remote relation with people of the far north, even when they have never met an Eskimo or a Mongol to see if they could at least communicate with each other or share some minute cultural features.”