The Hmong of China

Context, Agency, and the Imaginary

This first ethnography of the Hmong in China is based on Nicholas Tapp’s extensive fieldwork in a Hmong village in Sichuan. Basing his analysis on the concepts of context and agency, Tapp discusses the “paradoxical ambivalence at the heart of Hmong culture.” A paradox arises in the historical and ethnographic construction of the identity of the Hmong by conscious contrast with, and in opposition to, a majority Han Chinese identity at the same time that large parts of Hmong culture are shared with the Chinese and may be the results of historical processes of adoption, absorption, mimesis, or emulation. Tapp examines the Hmong rituals of shamanism, ancestral respect, and death and provides details on livelihood, kinship, local organization, and intellectual culture. The book is enhanced with thorough accounts of ceremonies, rituals, and folktales, with translations of Hmong songs and stories.

This publication has also been published in hardback (no longer available).

Biographical Note

Nicholas Tapp (1952-2015) was Senior Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Australian National University. He has researched the Hmong in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and China, and his previous works include Sovereignty and Rebellion: The White Hmong of Northern Thailand (Oxford, 1989).

Editorial Board

A Choice 2002 Outstanding Academic Title'.

Review Quotes

"...an excellent and thorough ethnography." "... Many of the translations of Hmong songs and stories are exquisitely beautiful, and Tapp's translations are good enough to read as work of art." "...This book should convince anyone of the value, not just to scholarship but to the human spirit, of publishing texts and contexts." – E. N. Anderson, in: Choice, 2002

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