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Village Story Blanket

Hmong homes in the mountains of Laos were one story with high roofs.

Traditional Lao homes in the fertile lowlands were on stilts to protect against rodents and floods.

Lao farmers in the lowlands grew rice in paddies. Hmong farmers in the mountains raised corn.

key idea
The activities depicted on this story blanket recall a vanished way of life.

Hmong people settled in Laos in the 1800s, fleeing harsh treatment in China. They farmed land high in the mountains near the Chinese border. Few people lived in this region before their arrival. The Lao preferred to live in the fertile lowlands, where farming was easier.

The way of life shown on this blanket was shattered in the 1960s and 1970s. The Hmong helped Americans fight against communist forces in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. After American troops left the region in 1975, the communist forces in Laos brutally punished the Hmong for their cooperation. Thousands of Hmong families fled to refugee camps in the neighboring country of Thailand.

Ka Zoua Lee sewed this blanket in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1980. By then, the scenes she embroidered on this story blanket were no longer a reality for many Hmong people. She was most likely working from her own memories of the life she once had. Some story blankets record scenes of battles and refugee camps. But others, like this one, recall the peaceful way of life before the war.

September 2004