My wife, May Lee, with two aunties in her first ever photo at the tender age of seven
Longt Tieng, Laos, 1968
Culture include the thoughts, language, communications, actions, customs and traditions, beliefs and values, history, and social institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious or social group. It is the totality of ways of doing things that is passed on from generation to generation. In this passing down and every day practice, some features will be lost due to their selective use, and new ones replace them. Culture is thus never static, but a dynamic part of society.
For the Hmong, culture can be represented through the following:
Tangible components: national musical instruments (the reed pipe or “qeej”, the Hmong flute and mouth harp), traditional costumes and ornaments, tools (the carrying basket “kawm”, Hmong hatchet and ax), house designs, preferred physical environment, arts, rituals (wedding, funeral) and written literature.
Intangible components: language, religion, shamanism, traditional music and singing, social values, norms, history, myths, folk tales, oral texts and ritual chants such as the “Showing the Way” and the “txiv xaiv” funeral songs, and zaj tshoob wedding songs.
These visible and invisible elements can be regarded as forming the traditional Hmong culture that is found among villagers who live in the highlands of China and Southeast Asia. Much of this culture has changed for the Hmong who have settled in the West as a result of modern education, exposure to other cultures and assimilation to them, or the adoption of cultural features from other people.
In this section, Hmong culture is discussed in the following articles: