Li Song Mei is a member of the Hmong (Miao) ethnic minority group. We discussed a lot about her culture, including the largest traditional Hmong festivals. You can read more about the Sister's Rice Festival in the show notes below.
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- There are around five million ethnic Hmong people in the world, three million of whom are in China.
- Hmong New Year traditionally takes place at the end of the harvest season, which can be any time from October to December. It's a time for family gatherings, ancestral worship and celebrating the year to come.
- Li Song Mei mentioned the “lusheng” during the podcast. This is a musical instrument made from multiple bamboo pipes. Here's a short video of one being played:
- Li Song Mei also talked about the significance of the butterfly in Hmong culture. This page has more information about the butterfly, as well as several other Hmong mythological creatures.
- This article talks about the last native speakers of several languages. It's always sad to read about someone who has no one to talk with in their native tongue.
- Microsoft's campus is indeed located in Redmond, Washington, 16 miles east of Seattle.
- I mentioned my book, 1000 Days Between. You can read about it on Amazon or on this website.
- Fenghuang is an ancient water town in southern China. You can read more about it, and see some amazing photos here.
- I recently visited the Xuan Kong Hanging Monsatery near Datong. Here are a few of my photos:
Finally, Li Song Mei provided the following photos and description of the Hmong rice festival. Thanks!
The Sister's Rice Festival is celebrated by the Miao (Hmong) ethnic people in southwestern China's Guizhou province, especially in the Taijiang and Jianhe counties along the banks of the Qingshui River. It is regarded as the oldest Asian Valentine's Day.
A few days before the festival, Miao (Hmong) girls collect special wild flowers and leaves in the mountains to produce natural colors to dye the glutinous rice, known as "sister's rice.” The rice is dyed blue, pink, yellow, and white to represent spring, summer, autumn and winter respectively.
At festival time, thousands of Miao (Hmong) girls and women dressed up in their spectacular embroidered clothes and silver ornamentations in a parade. Bachelorette young Miao women dressed up in their finest beautiful embroidered clothing with silver torque, headdresses with phoenix crown and hair pins.
When young men arrive, they begin to single out the women they hope to marry someday and begin to sing for them. The young women respond to their songs by giving them a drink of rice wine and the sister's rice wrapped in handkerchiefs with different symbols on them.
A pair of red chopsticks means "I love you too"; one chopstick means, "no, thank you"; a garlic or red chili indicates a flat refusal; and pine needles indicate that the boy should present silks and colorful threads and that she will wait for him. There are also many other activities, including bullfighting, horse racing, traditional Miao performances and Lusheng music.