Festivals are very important in the Miao culture. Farming life is hard, and villages are far apart. Festivals lasting for several days give people a chance to gather and socialize and wear their fine clothing. Since the Miao are not allowed to marry within their own village, these occasions are also a time for courtship, when young men and women seek out a future mate.
Hundreds, even thousands, of people gather for festivals. Some travel from afar and camp on the hills. They bring food, drink, festival attire, and musical instruments. Vendors set up markets where they sell fabrics, silver, food, herbal medicine, and mass-produced clothing. Events such as horse racing, cock fighting, dragon-boat racing, beauty contests, and sporting competitions provide entertainment.
Music and dance play a large part in the festivities. Young, unmarried girls perform most of the dances, showing off their elaborate handmade garments and ornate silver jewelry. The ability to make beautiful clothing is a valued accomplishment in a wife.
Photos by Dan Dennehy, Minneapolis Institute of Arts