History of the Mien People

The Mien people are one of six ethnic groups that have for centuries been called "Yao" by the Chinese, Southeast Asians and others. The Mien people are an energetic, highly motivated, hardworking minority people group in South East Asia. They are to be found in a window of mountainous jungle that straddles the Southern Provinces of China, North Thailand, Laos and North Vietnam. When Laos fell to the Communist in 1975 many thousands of Mien fled to refugee camps in Thailand. From 1978 to 1990 25,000 resettled in the United States through U.S. immigration. However, today, there are about 30,000 Mien in the United States. Most of these are located in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. In China, there are over 1,000,000 Mien. Approximately 300,000 are jn Vietnam, 42,000 are in Thailand, and possibly 20,000 are still in Laos. Furthermore, a smaller number of Mien also settled in other counties such as France, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Switzerland, Taiwan, and possibly in Australia and Burma.

Over the centuries the Mien have been upland farmers. To this day, in the steamy heat and without machinery, most Mien in Asia still works their steep hill field.  Since they were originated in China, and culturally they are similar to the Chinese. They are industrious and money is important.

The great majority of the Mien still practices a form of Taoism in which they worship and seek by involved rituals, incantations, and offerings to get on the good side of the spirits of their ancestors. In addition, they feel bound to practice a form of polytheistic animism in which they endeavor to placate the spirits of the tiger, the knife, and numerous other "jungle" spirits. Magical curses are put on enemies. However, those who fled Laos as refugees have been most open to the Gospel.

The Mien did not have a formal written language.  The missionaries helped develop a form of writing system using Romanized script in the 1940’s.  Later this script was revised and now widely accepted as the unified script internally. 

OMF began working among the Mien in Northern Thailand in 1952. Today, a team of OMF missionaries continues to work among the Mien. One OMF missionary dedicated her life working with a Mien man on the translation of the Bible in Mien. For 27 years, the translation of the complete Bible was completed and became available in 2008.  The Bible in Mien was the first recognized publication in the unified script.