Artist Shanye Huang was the subject of the October 2001 issue of TheScreamOnline. His work is influenced by the folk art, legends, themes, and customs of the numerous minority cultures of China.

Ten years ago, when I was teaching at Guangxi Art College, I often went on drawing field trips to the minority villages with my students. Besides my home town in the Zhuang autonomous region, I also loved the Miao/Hmong and Dong Villages. It was not just the scenery, the costumes, the customs, and embroideries that attracted me, the Spring Festival was irresistible. At the festival, the villagers, wearing their traditional costumes, would gather together at a common to await the festivities. Young maidens danced to the beautiful lusheng music played by the young men. The elders would socialize among themselves, and vendors would show off their crafts to entice the curious audience. Their rituals, fine wine, love songs, respect of nature, enthusiasm about life, and unity composed numerous scenes that deeply touched my heart.

Minority Nationalites in China

In China there are 56 minority nationalities. They are ethnic groups with cultural characteristics that clearly distinguish one from the other and from the Han, which forms the majority of China's population. Although some of these minority nationalities have almost been assimilated into the Han culture, many of them still maintain their uniqueness in dialects, religions, and traditions. The majority of these ethnic groups live in the mountain regions. Among these minority nationalities, the largest one is Zhuang, with a population of over 10 million people, and the smallest one is Lhoba, with a population of roughly a thousand.

The Miao/Hmong

The Miao people, with a population of several millions, live in Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan, and 6 other provinces. The Hmong from northern Thailand are related to the Miao. Often they are addressed as Miao/Hmong collectively. The Miao/Hmong people can again be classified into different groups depending on where they live, and they can be identified by their costumes. Singing and dancing are their popular activities. Young people dance and sing love songs to each other on holidays and during slack seasons. Besides dancing, horse races and bull fighting are their favorite pastimes. The Miao Spring Festival and Lusheng Festival are the special occasions for singing.

About My Photos

I went back to the minority villages last spring and was excited to see that their unique cultural practices still remain intact while the major cities in China are being modernized. I tried to capture that spirit with my sketches, camcorder, and camera. I took hundreds of pictures and arranged them under different themes. The following photos show only a small portion of the life of Miao/Hmong and Dong people. China is undergoing dramatic modernization. The result of modernization on the minorities is yet to be seen. I hope that the next time I return, the familiar faces and traditions will still remain.


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