The Yao พิมพ์ อีเมล
เขียนโดย E. G. Sebastian.   



                                                    THE YAO.

          A paper written by Nai Chan Sungsi Yananda and Luang
                Nonwakorn, in reply to the Questionnaire of the
                                Siam Society ; and translated
                                         BY  E. G. Sebastian.
          Originally the writers thought that they would take a "Haw"
(Chinese) as an interpreter, because the latter can talk with the Yao,
but, as this statement was wanted as soon as possible, they could not
wait to procure one and so had to go alone and talk Lao. The
language spoken by the " Yao " is not easy to understand until one
gets the general sense - each individual expression is difficult. Some
words could not be understood at all, and therefore the answers are
not complete according to the questionnaire of the Siam Society.
If there is any question to which no answer appears in this paper, it
must be realised that the answer was impossible to obtain for the
reasons given above.

                                                   A.   Origin.
          According to the traditions of the Yao, it is stated that the
race originally lived in Nanking in China and that, on the capture
of Nanking, the inhabitants emigrated to Law Chang Chuan close
to Canton. Some earned their living by cultivating the fields and
some by gardening in the hills and mountains. Later on they
increased considerably in numbers and the place in which they were
living became too small for them. They then migrated to Kwang
Hsi. Those who had means bought land in the lowlands ; those, who
had not, lived by cultivating the hills as it was not necessary to buy
the land. Later on they increased in numbers still more, and other
races came and settled on their land so that the Yao race migrated
once more. In consequence of their having no knowledge of the use
of manure and also as a consequence of a three year drought the
people could not work the fields and were starving. Most of the Yao,
then, on the hills and in the lowlands migrated, some to Yunnan in
China, and some to Kwae and Luang Prabang in French territory.




The few, who had means and remained behind when the majority
migrated, soon became lonely so they sold their lands and went to
live in the hills and eventually scattered to different places according
to each man's desire, some of them coming to Siam.

                                    B.   Physical Characteristics.
1. The usual height is from five to six feet, most of them being
          of medium size.
2. Mostly of slight build.
3. Their features are like those of the " Haw " in China.
4. Some have thick, some have thin lips.   Their complexion is
          like that of the Chinese, or " Haw ".
5. The beard, moustache and hair on the body is, for the most
          part, yellow and soft, but is not thick and does not curl.
6. The eyes for the most part are brown.
7. The eyes are set on the same level as in the Siamese.
8. Where not exposed to the sun, the skin is white ; but, where
          exposed, it is dark-a few are yellow like the Chinese.
9. The shape of the skull is normal.
10. Face, eyes, ears, jaw, lips and tongue are all normal.
11. The teeth are normal; the gums are dark and not swollen.
12. Other parts of the body are normal, except that they bore
          both ears when young to take earrings.
13. They are uncircumcised.
14. They neither tattoo nor dye their skin.

                              C.   Their mode of life and customs.
1.   Habitat.
          They live on the hill-tops and cannot live on the plains,
because they are accustomed to the high air. If they come down on
to the plains for long they get fever. There is no limit to the area
they cover, for they have no permanent abode and no land to
cultivate. They are perpetually wandering from place to place.
As for the cultivation of rice, if the soil is good, they come back to
the same place, but if it is not they search for new land.   They are




stupid and rough, and they do not know the customs of other races.
They call their race " Khē  Yao", but their neighbours call them
simply "Yao".

2.   Private Dwellings.
          They are in the habit of living in small villages, each sepa-
rate party having no fence around it, for they do not cultivate
the country round. In their compounds they clear the land well,
but let the pigs run about at large, causing a great deal of filth and
a very unpleasant smell. The houses have no flooring and are built
in the same way as those in Manila. They have a verandah on each
side, but they are flat and low, as they use the ground as flooring,
as the Chinese do who work on the railway. Their beds are raised
above the ground.
          The roofs are thatched with bamboo laid on like tiles. The
walls, too, are some of bamboo and some of planking of " Niw Pa "
wood, not sawn planks but cut with an axe, roughly hewn. The
rice-mortars they keep in their rooms, for if they leave them outside
the pigs destroy them. They always keep a lire burning in the
house and the smoke blackens everything in it.
          They wash only very occasionally and their bodies and cloth-
ing are very dirty and they smell very badly. They have furniture
like the Chinese as also clothing, tools for cultivating, plates and
dishes, rice and curry pots, etc., all of which they heap together in a
basket and keep in absolute disorder. Their ideas on cleanliness are
very vague.

3.   Clothing.
          The men wear black trousers similar to the Shan, the edges
being bound with red cloth. They wear a short black jacket with
narrow sleeves like the Chinese and the edge of the sleeve is bound
with strips of red and yellow. Some wear a turban like the Shan
and some wear a hat like the " Haw " bound with black cloth,
in shape like a coconut - for the turban they use red and black
cloth. They wear their hair long like the Chinese used to, but
not plaited and tied.   They wear a belt of black cloth embroidered




with red, yellow, black and blue cotton. They wear silver torques
similar in shape to anklets, but the two ends are finished off in
the form of an arrow-head. They also wear silver bangles, flattened in
the middle but with the two ends square with an engraved pattern
on them.
          The women wear black trousers and a coat with narrow
sleeves but reaching down to the ankle and full at the bottom like a
skirt, the neck being like those worn in Java. From the neck to the
waist is embroidered with red cotton or silk in patterns which
resemble bunches of flowers. They wear a double waistband, one
inside and one outside the coat, their length being from four to eight
metres—the inside one being narrow and short and embroidered with
three bands of colour, the ends hanging down in front. The trousers
they embroider with silk in patterns resembling Chinese characters.
They wear silver bangles like the men but smaller and they have
several of them, but of these the men wear only one. They pierce
their ears and wear earrings. They wear their hair long and they
tie it up on their heads ; they shave the hair above the ears leaving
a tuft on each side. They smear their hair with a mixture of wax
and wood-ash, so that it gives it a sleek appearance as if it were
covered with a bag. They tie their heads round with thin red cloth so
that it has a cone-shaped appearance and this again they cover with
a large black or red outer cloth. Hanging from the neck to the waist
they wear a chain made up of several square engraved silver plaques
about one inch broad by two inches long. Neither men nor women
wear shoes. Their clothes are very dirty as they never wash them.
If they have many suits they occasionally change. This is the only
kind of dress they possess. At festivals they change their clothes if
they have more than one suit. They hold their festivals on the
same days as the Chinese.

4   Food.
         They eat the same food as the Chinese " Haw ", e.g., rice, fish
meat, vegetables, chillies, salt, etc. They all drink alcohol, both men
and women, but not very much for they drink only after they have
sacrificed to the spirits, thinking that the spirits like those who drink




after them. They all smoke opium, for they consider it one of the
best medicines if they catch cold or fever, or have stomach trouble or
diarrhoea. They even blow the smoke of the opium in the faces of
the young children when they are sick. Both men and women are
always smoking, but they do not chew betel-nut. They have cook-
ing pots and pans like those of the " Haw ".

5. Their methods of hunting and fishing.
          Sometimes they hunt deer and catch fish, but they are not
experienced at it. For hunting deer they use guns and also make
wooden traps. The animals they shoot are stag, bison, wild boar
and barking deer. When they have shot them they invoke the
spirits, by name if the feast is for any particular spirit, but if
not they invite them all. In the invocation they say that it was the
spirits who brought them the deer, and they thank them for it and
invite them to eat what they have shot. They ask the spirits to
protect them and give them all prosperity. They imagine that all
animals belong to the spirits, and that it is not right to shoot them
without letting the spirits know ; and this is why they carry out the
following rite of buying and selling the animals they shoot. The
money which they give to the spirits consists of paper with a mark
on it similar to that found on a Chinese cent, giving the value as
one rupee.* When they have informed the spirits, they burn all the
paper money, and they imagine that, by this means, the money
passes to the spirits. For fishing they use their hands, for they have
no fishing tackle.

6. Conveyances.
          They never use wheeled vehicles, but some families have pack
animals, no single family possessing more than ten. In this respect
their habits are similar to those of the " Haw ".

7. Industries.
          Their method of cultivating rice and vegetables is the same
as ours and they use the same farm-tools, but they are unable to use
cattle as they plant on the hill-side. In particular they keep pigs,
dogs and poultry, but they do not know how to keep bees or silk


          * The Rupee has long been used in the north of Siam as current coin.




worms. They plant rice, corn, potatoes, pumpkins, gourds of various
kinds, onions, ginger, chillies, peas, turnips, tobacco, etc.
8. Sale and Exchange.
          They have no established markets. Their weights are the
same as those used by the Chinese, but I am unable to find out what
measures they use.   They use the same money as we do.
9. Labour.
          They work in iron and silver and they make a paper with
lime, but they are not experienced in any of these crafts. Their
women both sew and embroider. For making paper they use the
bamboo shoots when a month old, taking out the centre of the
shoot and throwing away the outside. They chop it up into thin
slices about one inch long and boil it with lime and, after boiling,
soak it in cold water for three or four days. This pulp they put
in a basket and dry for ten to fifteen days, afterwards pounding it in
a mortar. This again they mix with water and pour into a cloth
mould until it has a smooth consistency. The water then soaks
through, leaving the paper, which they dry in the sun until ready
for use. The cloth moulds are stretched on frames. This kind of
paper is similar to that used by the Chinese for sacrificing to the
spirits, and the Yao use it for the same purpose. They are only able
to dye cloth black, and for this they use the leaves of the indigo
10. Weapons.
          They use knives, swords and old-fashioned guns.
11. Administration.
          The management of the family and the respect shown to
elders is similar to that found among us, but their method of looking
after children is quite different. The mother or person looking after
the child straps it on her back, where it is able to sleep, and
then carries on with her work. For this they pass a strap over the
shoulders, crossing it in front and then tying it round the waist. The
child is covered over with a cloth to protect it from sun and rain.
The children never sleep on mattresses or in swinging hammocks.
They can buy and adopt children and, once a buyer has paid money




to the parents of a child, the parents immediately lose all right
over it. They can disown their children, as we can, at any time.
Marriage consists in the buying and selling of girls and the parents
fix the price of their daughters according to their looks, the lowest
price being fifty and the highest three hundred rupees. Before the
marriage the parents hold a discussion, and the agreement between
the parties depends on the utterances of the fortune-tellers. When
an agreement has been reached the bridegroom's party make a
deposit according to the price to be paid for the bride and they fix a
day on which to fetch her, this depending again on what the fortune-
teller says. When the appointed day arrives, the parents of the
bride bring her to the bridegroom's house together with her attend-
ants. The bridegroom then sacrifices to the spirits, asking them to
protect them and give them prosperity. Afterwards a feast is
held consisting of pork and chicken, washed down with spirits, and
then the bridegroom's party pay the remainder of the purchase
money and the bride becomes the man's property. The parents or
guardians of the girl have then lost their right, as when money is
paid for chattels. Once they have become man and wife they never
separate, for they think that this is against the wish of the spirits
and that they will punish them, and not only the guilty couple but
all the village, for which reason they are very strict on this point.
          As regards giving birth ; for the first three days after the
birth the mother has to sit still and is not allowed to sleep until the
three days are accomplished, and for the first month she may eat
only chicken curry ( ไก่ต้ม ) and they give her no medicine. When
the child is born, they take the blood out of the mouth and, after
cutting it free, give it a hot bath the same as we do, but the umbilical
cord they put in a basket and hang in the forest. They are very
careless about looking after their children. At the age of one month
they shave the child once or twice and, afterwards, let a tuft grow
on the top of the head.
          When a child dies they invite the spirits to a feast and beg
them to bring the dead one to a place of happiness. If they are rich,
they make a coffin and bury it and fence it round and roof it over ;




but if they are poor, they simply bury it in the ground. They
do not cremate as we do. When they migrate to other places they
invite the spirits of the dead to go with them.
          When they build a new house they invite the spirits of their
grandparents to a feast, in accordance with the dictates of the
fortune-tellers, and they ask these spirits to drive away the spirits
inhabiting that place.
12.   Learning.
         They have some knowledge of drawing, engraving and
moulding, but they have no knowledge of musical instruments (the
writers were unable to find out anything about singing or playing
games). They use an alphabet similar to the Chinese. They have
fables and the following is one which the writers were told :—
          Once upon a time there was a Yao couple, who had been
married for three years, but, as they had no children, the husband
blamed his wife and made her cry. Then she walked off to where
the pipe-line brought water down from the hill-side and, on the way,
met an old hunchback with white hair carrying a stick. He
asked her why she was crying and she told him the whole story.
The old man told her not to cry and added that, if she wished to
have children, she must take a certain fruit which he gave her and
eat one section of it each year. The fruit had twelve sections. The
old man then disappeared and the woman brought back the fruit
and gave it to her husband, telling him what had occurred. He was
delighted and told his wife to eat the fruit but she, on retiring by
herself and tasting if, found it so good that she ate the whole fruit
at once. Soon afterwards she became pregnant and gave birth
at one and the same time to twelve boys, as alike as twelve peas.
The parents used to feed them with gruel from a trough, as the
mother had not sufficient milk for them. When they were seven
days old they were as strong as grown men. Their names are
not known but we will call them Number One, Number Two,
Number Three, etc., up to Number Twelve. One day the villagers
were summoned to cut timber to build a palace for the King, and
each family was ordered to provide one post.   The father sent




Number One to cut the post for the family and, afterwards, handed
it over to the officials. When all the posts were ready, the King
chose the ones which he liked best, but was particularly pleased with
the one cut by Number One, for it was hard and rang like iron. Then
the King ordered the carpenters to build the palace but, when they
wished to plant Number One's post in its pit, no man could carry it.
and the King therefore ordered Number One to come and bring it
himself. He came and lifted it up with his left hand and put it in
its pit with the greatest ease. After the completion of the palace
the King held a ceremony to make merit, and Number One sent
Number Two to attend it, but when Number Two reached the town
he destroyed the latter utterly, whereupon the King held an enquiry
and Number Two told him that it was he who had done it. The King
then ordered him to be arrested and thrown into prison to await
punishment, but however he was bound he broke loose, and so
the King gave orders for him to be burnt. Number Two then asked
permission to go home and see his parents and his brothers first, to
which the King agreed. On arriving at home he told his brothers,
and Number Three went to receive punishment in his stead. On
his arrival, the soldiers bound him and threw him into the fire
but, when the fire had died down, it was found that he was
unharmed and he even jeered at the soldiers telling them to
bring more fuel, as he was very cold. The soldiers brought
the matter to the notice of the King, who ordered him
to be roasted; but he asked the King to be allowed to go
home first, as Number Two had done, and to this the King
agreed. Number Three, on arriving home, sent Number Four in
his place and the soldiers roasted him ; but he took no hurt and only
jeered at them, whereupon the King ordered him to be tied to a
buffalo and crushed to death. But Number Four pretended that he
would be certain to be killed this time, and he in his turn asked to
be allowed to go home first and see his parents, to which the
King once more agreed. On reaching home he sent Number Five
in his stead and, on his arrival, the soldiers set about carrying
out the King's commands, but he made himself grow larger and




larger so that no animal could carry him. This time the King
ordered the soldiers to bind him and drown him, but Number Five
made the same request as his brothers and sent Number Six in his
stead, but no one knew that these substitutions had been made,
because all the brothers looked exactly alike. When Number
Six arrived, the soldiers bound him and threw him into the water,
but he made himself much taller and so escaped unharmed. Then
the soldiers stabbed him and shot at him but, on his still remaining
unharmed, the King let him go free. Later on the twelve brothers
quarrelled with the god, Indra, and at first won, but afterwards they
were defeated and became his slaves, and he made them inspectors to
see that human beings behaved themselves and, if anyone did wrong,
to note it down. This is why, right up to to-day, the people
sacrifice to them, because they think that if anyone does wrong the
twelve brothers will see them.
13. Science.
          The writers were unable to find out how they reckon the days,
the months and the years. They have no knowledge of medicine,
of which they use very little, the only ones they understand being
quinine and some roots. To cure sickness they invoke the spirits,
which will be dealt with in Section 14.
14. Rites and Religions Ceremonies.
          They sacrifice to the spirits three times a day, in the morn-
ing, afternoon and evening ; and when they do so they beat a gong
and drums, in order to let the spirits know. In only a few houses
they have drums but they have a gong in every house. The drums
are shaped like those used in theatres and they make them them-
selves. Their method of sacrificing to the spirits is the same as that
of the Chinese and they believe that the spirits have power to give
them prosperity or to punish them. The rites have been handed down
to them from their ancestors. They have three altars for sacrifice ;
the first for the spirits of their ancestors, the second for the spirit of
Indra, the spirit of the Heavens, and the third for the spirits of the
forests and of the towns. They place food on the altars and burn
incense.   No one has ever seen the face of the spirits.   If there is




sickness they lake the omens by tying a piece of iron to a rope and
attaching paper money to it. Then they ask the spirits whether the
sickness is caused by the spirits or by the sick man. If it is the
spirits who have caused the sickness, they ask that the rope shall
sway to and fro, and if it does so they believe that it has been caused
by the spirits; but if it does not sway, they ask it three times and,
if it still remains stationary, they believe it not to have been caused
by the spirits. If it has been caused by the spirits, they ask what the
spirits want and in conclusion they burn the paper, which is sup-
posed to be money, so as to send it to the spirits. When the sick
man is recovered they give a feast to the spirits, but, if he dies, they
do not blame the spirits for they think that it has been pre-ordained.
To repay the spirits they prepare food shaped like a buffalo horn
split down the centre and then they throw the two halves into the air.
When they fall on the ground, if they both fall with their flat sides
uppermost, it means that the spirit has not yet come ; if one flat and
one round side are uppermost, it means that the spirit is going to
come ; if both round sides are uppermost, it means that the spirit
has already come. Then the people stand up and sing like the
Chinese do, paying homage to the spirits and asking them to accept
the feast. The food they give them consists of alcohol, pork, and
chicken, and they also burn joss-sticks, which they put on a square
table, together with paper money.   They find out by the throwing
of pieces of wood ( ไม้เสี่ยงทาย ) how long the spirits are going to stay.
Then they burn the paper money for the spirits of Heaven and Hell.
If they make merit before they die they are re-born as human
beings, but those who have sinned are re-born as animals.




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