My younger sister Ntxawm, mother and youngest brother Ntxawg
Pha Khao, Laos, 1967
This website was originally designed by my brother, Yeu Lee and more recently by my daughter, Debbie Lee, to host my writings on the Hmong and other subjects of interest to readers and students of Hmong studies. It has been in operation since 2000, nearly 20 years now.
It has not been updated for some time. I would like to apologise to my readers for the neglect of the site, as I have retired since 2014 and have not been so active with my writing. Other activities (like reading, travelling, gardening, minding grand-children or just relaxing) have taken up much of my time, so there has not been regular updating, although new articles whether written by myself or by other people will continue to be uploaded as they become available.
It is already more than 10 years since my return from spending more than a year in 2007- 2008 as scholar-in-residence to develop courses and teach at the Centre for Hmong Studies, Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. During that time, I have written one book and edited another while trying also to publish 1-2 articles annually. Some of these shorter publications are now in this website. I have also shared ideas and concerns at various international Hmong conferences. For example, I spoke about conflicts between Christian and non-Christian Hmong at the Hmong Studies Consortium meeting in Chiangmai University in January 2017. This religious issue will only increase in scope and needs more objective mature research in the future: it should not be a muted topic of conversation in our global community as it is today.
As I stated previously, the loss of language and culture continues to remain a major issue for many Hmong, young and old, whether in Western countries or in the old homelands in Asia. Rapid urbanisation and formal education in mainstream cultures are inevitable for a modern life, but they also bring about many conflicts and changes, some of which have eroded much of the old Hmong traditions. Already, some elderly Hmong cannot communicate with their younger descendants because the two groups speak different languages, or follow conflicting values. In response to this concern, I gave a talk in 2018 to the Hmong Lee Association USA in Detroit on the negative effects of modern education on the Hmong community and what strategies we need to consider to counter the negative impact. In May 2019, I also addressed a conference on overseas migration and the establishment of “communities of destiny” in Guangzhou, China, regarding the impact of life in Western societies on the formation and maintenance of Hmong identity.
One of these conference addresses is now uploaded here, not to show that I have all the answers but merely to share ideas and to raise hopes. I would like to thank the conference conveners who have invited me to give talks on these issues, to see friends and relatives again, and to enjoy much sight-seeing in the process.
On a broader scale, the Hmong have made many strides towards progress and modernisation. During the last ten years, there has been a huge explosion in the number of Hmong who use the Internet, especially YouTube and Facebook. We can now talk and see each other any time at no cost. The Hmong who have access to this digital platform are now in instantaneous contact with other Hmong around the world, and can communicate with each other orally or in writing. This has prompted many to become literate in Hmong writing, especially our women and girls who often have less access to schooling. The Romanized Popular Alphabet (RPA) script seems to be the more commonly used, largely due to the proliferation of computers with English letters. Even many commercial goods are now found with RPA writing.
As in the past, I hope that the contents of this website will help readers to be entertained and informed, to understand the Hmong better: their culture, religion, transnational ties and issues of concern. I apologise for the fact that some of the articles may be somewhat repetitive, as they were published at the different times and in different contexts. Above all, I hope the Hmong, especially our young people, who read my writings will regain a clearer sense of understanding and acceptance of who and what they represent. For this to happen, we need to know Hmong history, language and traditions. We should dress in Hmong costumes at New Year festivals. We need to speak Hmong in our every day life between ourselves and our children. We need to read Hmong folk tales to our children. We should enjoy our young people and their group dancing, and listen to Hmong music, including our latest rap artists. We should watch Hmong movies, even those foreign movies dubbed in Hmong. Accept and take pride in anything good done by our Hmong people.
Thanks to the Hmong in America and their consumer power, the Hmong culture has been so enriched that we are now up there on par with other cultures in the world. We are as modern and as up-to-date as anyone else, so we should be proud of this achievement while not losing our Hmong self-image. A good knowledge of Hmong culture leads to a better sense of identity. A clearer identity leads to more self-confidence and pride. When we have confidence and pride, we can contribute to society the way everyone else does.
I would like to put in a plea to my readers. The publications in this website are copyright materials. Although they are available online here in the “public domain”, anyone who wishes to use them other than for the purpose of study and research should obtain permission from the author first.In the past, some readers have cut and pasted parts of some articles for their essays or political brochure without any acknowledgement. Others have downloaded whole articles to support their arguments in online discussion groups. While I am pleased that my writings have been found useful in this way, this practice has also landed me in a lot of trouble. It is also unethical, so I strongly urge you not to do it – at least, do try to let me know first.
Before closing, I would like to pay tribute to my friend, Prof. Nicholas Tapp. He was not only the most prolific writer on the Hmong, but also very sympathetic. He always showed much respect for the people he studied, and never wrote anything’s offensive – unlike some academics who gain much from us but do not hesitate to be less than civil when they want to. During his professional life, Nick wrote 10 books and 39 articles on the Hmong of Australia, Canada, China and Thailand. After his retirement from the Australian National University (Canberra) in June 2010, he returned to China with his family, having obtained a teaching position as professor and head of sociology in the Institute of Folklore and Anthropology, East China Normal University, Shanghai. From 1 September 2011 to the time of his passing away in October 2015, he was Director of the Research Institute of Anthropology. Many of his significant articles on the Hmong were collected in a commemorative book entitled Mobility, Globalization and Development of the Hmong: Selected Essays of Nicholas Tapp published in 2018 by his former Chinese academic colleagues at East China Normal University. Nick left a big legacy for us with his writings on the Hmong (see my article in this website), but equally important is his generosity towards the Hmong: he left £1000 in his estate that went to support the education of Hmong children in Chiangmai, Thailand; and his family (through his son Jeremy and his daughter Amanda) also raised another US$450 at his memorial service which went to support education of Hmong children in Laos. I would like to thank him and his family most warmly for their kind support, which is more than any of us manage to do for the people we study and build our career on.
Again, I would like to thank my webmaster and readers who have written to me with their challenging questions and supportive remarks. I would also like to acknowledge the unfailing support of my wife, Maylee Lee, for all my intellectual endeavours and the word processing assistance from my daughters, Melinda, Sheree and Debbie Lee.
You are most welcome to contact me with your inquiries and feedback.