The history of the Hmong people is difficult to trace; they have an oral tradition, but there are no written records except where other people have encountered them.Hmong history has been passed down through legends and ritual ceremonies from one generation to another as well as through Hmong textile art or story cloths sewn by the women.
After American armed forces pulled out of Vietnam, a communist regime took over in Laos, and ordered the prosecution and re-education of all those who had fought against its cause during the war.Whilst many Hmong are still left in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and China (which houses one of the biggest Hmong populations in the world, 5 million), since 1975 many Hmong have fled Laos in fear of persecution.Housed in Thai refugee camps during the 1980s, many have resettled in countries such as the United States, French Guiana, Australia, France, Germany, as well as some who have chosen to stay in Thailand in hope of returning to their own land.Hmong high school students perform a traditional dance at a high school on the outskirts of Vientiane, Laos.Many Hmong families are moving into lowland villages, and are becoming more integrated into Lao life but still retain a strong sense of their own culture and heritage.
This performance was done in appreciation to Big Brother Mouse, a literacy project that had visited the school that day with books and interactive educational activities.
The Hmong are known in China as the Miao, a designation that embraces several different ethnic groups.
There is debate about usage of this term, especially amongst Hmong living in the West, as it is believed by some to be derogatory, although Hmong living in China still call themselves by this name.
Chinese scholars have recorded contact with the Miao as early as the 3rd century BCE, and wrote of them that they were a proud and independent people.
However, after the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty attempted to impose several new taxation systems and continued expansion of their empire, the Hmong are reported to have rebelled.
Many wars were randomly fought, and eventually many Hmong were pushed from China into Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.