Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/327

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253
THE PROVINCE OF KWEICHOW

from the more fertile plains of the east to the more mountainous and less fertile regions of the west. The Chinese say there are seventy different tribes of Miao in Kweichow, but who is to define what constitutes a tribe? At the present time the Chinese differentiate and name the various tribes from something distinctive in the dress of the women. Thus they speak of the Heh or black Miao, Peh or white Miao, Hwa or paste-coloured Miao. The men for the most part are dressed as Chinese peasants, though some of them wear a dress that resembles more the robe of a Buddhist priest than the costume of the Chinese at the present time. It may be, however, that this dress is similar to that worn by the Chinese before the present dynasty. But the women of all the tribes wear a peculiar dress of their own, and the women of each tribe are all dressed nearly alike. Among the same tribe in different villages there are slight variations, as, for instance, in the length of the skirt and the colour of the silk used for embroidery, so that those thoroughly acquainted with them can tell at a glance to which tribe a woman belongs, and in some cases to what village of the tribe. None of the women bind their feet.

Although the Miao in the east of the province are quite unintelligible to those of the west, a comparison of their vocabularies[1] shows at once they are speaking different dialects of the same language. This, together with the fact that some of them claim to be aborigines and to have always lived where they are, while others claim to have come from the east, suggest that their migrations to their present abodes took place at widely different intervals and possibly by different routes. The Ya-chio Miao in Tating district say they came from Tungking by way of Szechwan, which is manifestly absurd. The Heh Miao in the east of the province claim to have come from Kiangsi, and this is doubtless correct. Three thousand years ago there was a Miao kingdom occupying the country between the Poyang Lake in what is now Kiangsi and the Tungting Lake in

  1. See Appendix I.