Mien American

Mien Americans
Total population
50,000 - 150,000
Regions with significant populations
California, Oregon, Washington
English, Mien, some Lao, some Thai, some Chinese languages
Related ethnic groups
Laotian American, Chinese American

Iu Mien Americans are Americans, primarily Indochinese refugees, of Iu Mien descent, a subset of the Yao people.[1] This group arrived in between the late 1970s to the early 1990s as the last wave of refugees post-Vietnam War.


Yao originated from China and migrated to Laos and Thailand, then to the United States. The Iu-Mienh scriptures and stories were told that Yao people were from a place called “Qianjiadong”. “Qianjiadong” is the homeland of the Yao people. For generations the legend of the “Qianjiadong” was told that there was only one way in and one way out of this peaceful beautiful place through a cavern. This homeland of the Yao, was told that it is very beautiful, has surrounding waterfalls and rivers, and that it is secluded from the outside world. As many years has passed people started to doubt and thought it was just a myth, until, recently Gong Zhebing discovered this homeland of the Yao.

Yao people, from whom Mien Americans descend, arrived in Laos from Southern China during the late 1800s. Reasons for this migration remain controversial, varying from political to socio-economic ventures. Many Mien American elders fought alongside the United States CIA during the "Secret War" of Laos in an effort to block weapon trails to Vietnam. When the American operation pulled out in 1975, hundreds of families were forced to seek refuge in the neighboring country of Thailand. Hundreds died during this journey on foot through the deep jungles of Southeast Asia. In the next few years, thousands settled in Thailand refugee camps. Through programs from the United Nations, roughly 60,000 were sponsored to western countries such as the United States.


Approximately 50,000 Mien settled along the western coast of the U.S. in states of Washington, Oregon and California. Approximately 10,000 or less have settled in other parts of the country, in states of Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and other states. This ethnicity group has yet to be included in the United States Census and consequently, current population numbers have been skewed anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000. Since resettlement in America, historical contacts have been and continue to be made, between Mien Americans and Mien in China and Vietnam. Many Mien American relatives still remain in the countries of Laos and Thailand.

As a people from ancient, isolated farming societies, first Mien American generations struggled through obstacles of language, acculturation and more as they resettled in bustling, modern cities. As younger generations Americanize, they face generational gaps, loss of language, loss of culture, lack of identity and more. Community-based organizations formed among communities in Washington, Oregon and California to provide direct services, catering to resettlement issues.

They celebrated their 31st anniversary in Sacramento, California, on July 7, 2007. Achievement awards were given to Mien American military servicemembers, doctors, educators, scholars, leaders, and others.

There are approximately 50,000 Mien in the US as of 2012, with 15,000 of those in Sacramento, and 13,000 in the East Bay.[2]

Iu-Mienh people have settled all across continents of the world. There is Iu-Mien who settled in the United States, Australia, Belgium, Burma, Canada, Denmark, France, Laos, Myanmar, New Zealand, Switzerland, Thailand, and Viet Nam after or during the "Secret War."

There is a large population of Mien Americans that have settled in the city of Sacramento.

In California: Sacramento, Oakland, Richmond, San Jose, Merced, Visalia, Stockton, Fresno, Yuba City, Oroville, Gridley, and Redding.

In Oregon, most of the Mien populations are found in Portland.

In Washington, most of the Mien population are found in Seattle.

The Secret War

Mien people (rebel alliance) were very involved in the CIA’s Secret War between U.S and Vietnam. There were three Iu-Mien generals who recruited other Mien soldiers to fight alongside the United States; they are: General Chow Mai Saechao, Chow Lah Saechao, and Vern Chien Saechao.

In Laos of 1968, General Chow Mai died fighting alongside the United States. General Chow Lah Saechao resides in France, he passed in 2007 General Vern Chien Saechao resided in Sacramento with his family, where he passed early 2009.

Many Mienh people were displaced into refugee camps in Thailand due to the secret war. Thus, the U.S. moved the refugees to America to aid them for their help.


The Iu Mien - The Twelve Clans

When talking about the original twelve clans, it is difficult for almost any Mien to name all of them since a few of the clans got lost or left behind when escaping from mainland China many generations ago. Another complicating factor is that the names that the Thais gave to each clan (which are the basis for today's Mien surnames in Thailand and the United States) not only depended on what each Thai interviewer heard their clan name to be, but also differs from the names that Miens call themselves. For instance, Ann (Saefung) and Laosan (Saefong) spell their official last names differently, yet each will identify themselves as a member of the Bungz (pronounced Bpung) clan. Notice that when Ann introduces herself, she first says her Thai name, then her Mien clan (in this case calling it La Bpung), then finally her Mien given name.

Last names

Clans descending from the six sons of Baeng Hung

Bienh = Saephan/Saephanh/Saepharn

Lorh/Lor = Saelaw/Saelor

Leiz = Saelee

Zuaqv = Saechou

Dangc/Thang = Saeteurn/Saetern/Saeturn

Yangh = Saeyang

Clans descending from husbands of the six daughters of Baeng Hung

Zeuz = Saechao

Lio = Saelio/Liow/Liew

Bungz = Saefong

Zaanh = Saezaanh

Chin = Saechin

Siaau = Saeseao

Other last names

Dorngh = Saetong

Bew/Bao = Saepao

Vang = Saevang

First names

Popular by tradition, the name "Meuy" is used for first born daughters. Other spellings include "Mey", "May", "Meix" (Mouang/Muang).

If several daughters were born in which a parent had another, one of these names listed below were used. They are commonly used for females, although many lu Mien American citizens are beginning to use English first names and lu Mien names as middle names as it is becoming more popular and common.

Fam/Farm/Fahm Fay/Fey Manh Chiet Ped Jieb Koy/Koi

Like the name "Meuy", as written above for females, "Kao" is traditionally used for first born sons. The names below are common names for boys, and the name "Ou" are used for fifth born sons.

Chee Jio Lo Lou Ou Pa San Sou

Unisex names were also common such as "Lai", "Liew", and "Nai". The name "Nai" means the second born child. For the lu Mien, there is a strong belief that if a child at birth were to be born with the umbilical cord wrapped around the neck, that child must be named either "Chio" or "Cheng". If the parent refused and gave the child another name, then that child would soon die young.

Middle names

Mienh people also have a middle name. When speaking to someone it is common to address them by both their first and second as one. All siblings have the same middle name and last name. Middle names are inherited from their parents. For instance, if the parents weren't married and the mom was Mey Tsio Saephan, the first born daughter could be Moung Tsio Saephan, or Moung Mey Saephan; if the parents are married the kid will get their father's middle name.


  • Nai Siew, Nai Farm
  • Kao Siew, Kao Farm


The Chinese Mien (known in China as the Yao [瑶]) traditionally were Taoist-Buddhists, though members of the community later also adopted Christianity. Those who converted to Christianity saw their faith as incipient in the Taoist twelve-part cycle, but hidden in name. Having passed through several droughts, the Iu-Mien began performing Taoist ceremonies.

Converted Christians believed the Taoist ancestors' "Book Of Life" was evil; so, upon baptism, they would burn the Book Of Life, which, in turn, destroyed much history. "The Book of Life" was a record of the Iu-Mien kin, dating back hundreds of generations. The book includes a family tree of sorts, detailing philosophical dates and times. It details the fate of marriages, life, and choices made thousands of years ago, which are still seen as relevant today. "The Book of Life" was also known as The Book of Time and The Book of Death and Light.

Emperor Revolution:

About the 12 Clan Civilization, 12 Zodiac, 12 Cycle, Six Prince and Six Princess, Return of the 12 propagation of Tao Te Ching, 3 Nobel Teachings, 5 Element:

see also: Laozi, Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, Sheng xiao, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Eastern Philosophy


In traditional days, Mien communicate by singing and telling folk stories. It was a way of philosophical communication and a way of teaching by passing on stories in profound songs generations after generations. Singing and reciting by doing noble ritual offerings to the ancestors from the "Book of Life", burning incense was a way to keep the roots educated and benevolence performing peaceful harmony in ceremonies.

Nowadays, Mien people usually write their own songs or they translate Thai and Lao songs into Mien.


This group is also under the "Yao" classification in China. It has become apparent that the term "Yao" is no more than a longstanding name used by host Chinese. These peoples traditionally do not call themselves "Yao" and not all "Yao" are Mien.

The Republic of China made the name "Yao" official in 1945 by classification for government purposes. The classification associates minorities that may or may not have related ancestry. Although they share festivities of the same creation story, PanHu (Pien Hung), it is hard to determine what relations are beyond that fact. Through recent contacts, some spoke the same language as Mien Americans while others did not, with unintelligible conversation, clearly distinct cultures, food, dress and more. There continue to be various names under the "Yao" classification for these differences, named by the Chinese, such as: Bunu, Dongnu, Panyao, etc.

It is extremely difficult to find history behind Mien origins when the term "Yao" is used. So many sources (both Western and Chinese) describe the "Yao" history, yet the particular language and people is never defined.

Traditional dishes

Mien traditional dishes/ diets consist of vegetables, chicken, pork, beef, fish, and rice. Authentic dishes are mien pork-sausages (pork - with mien herbs/seasoning), ah-won (pork-stew), Klang Phen (rice flour that is cooked, complimented with spicy bean paste and sour broth.), steamed or boiled pork, chicken, or beef with Tofu, Ka-Soy, rice noodle and meat salads, fermented pickled mustard greens (ly-seawea), fermented MIEN bean paste (thop choi/ thop zhay), roast/ baked fish wrapped in banana leaf (modernly wrapped in banana leaf as well as foil) and banana-leaf wrap roast/steam ground-pork, beef, or chicken. A traditional condiment is Mien pepper sauce.

Other influences include Som Tum, also known as papaya salad (originally a Thai/Lao dish), and Larb (a Thai/Lao dish).


Moving Mountains: The story of the Yiu MIen [1]. Produced by Elaine Velaquez

  • 2003 - Death of a Shaman. Directed by Richard Hall; produced by Fahm Fong Saeyang.
  • A Dedication: We are One- YouTube Video, By: MeyKhuangPien.
  • Iu Mien Peoples - Legend of Pan Hu, By: tzeoyao.
  • Voices From The Mountains: Mienh History Documentary
  • 2010 - "Siang-Caaux Mienh". Directed by Alejandro Cardeinte

See also


  1. ^ Yeung, Bernice (September 5, 2001). "We Are the People: The History of the Iu-Mien.". SF Weekly 20 (31). Retrieved 18 October 2008. 
  2. ^ [2]

External links

  • The Virtual Hilltribe Museum
  • Mienh.net
  • The Iu-Mien Community Online
  • IMMIEN.com

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