chapter
A Hmong Shaman’s Séance
ByJean Mottin
Pages 11

AMONG OLD Indochina hands the Hmong are better known bythe name Meo, but this term is pejorative and will not be usedhere. The word “Meo” derives from the Chinese “Miao” ï, which seems to translate as “the inhabitants of the wild grass” (i.e., “the savages,” or “ the barbarians”). For one reason or another, “Miao” was transformed into “Meo” when the ethnic group passed first into Vietnam and then further to Laos and Thailand. “Meo” means “cat” in Vietnamese and may be an allusion to “wild cat.” Whatever the case may be, the ethnic group calls itself only by the term “Hmoob” (pronounced hmong, with an aspirate, and in the high tone). Consequently this is the only term suitable to them. Some educated persons, such as Mr. Yang Dao, assume that “Hmoob” means “free man,” but as far as I know there is no evidence that would legitimate this claim.