Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
Most of the Kim Mun in China are also known as Lantien and are counted as part of the Yao nationality. Those on Hainan Island, however, have been included as part of the Miao (apparently at their own insistence), although linguists agree that they speak Kim Mun. The name Lantien is a Chinese term meaning "those who make dye." Kim Mun means "the people in the forest." To complicate matters further, some Kim Mun are also referred to as the Shanzi Yao by the Chinese, meaning "mountaineer Yao."
For centuries the Kim Mun were oppressed by greedy landlords. They migrated in large numbers south and west in search of their own land. "Legend has it that the forefathers of these two branches of Yao [Kim Mun and Iu Mien] were brothers who separated during migration, thus forming two groups."
The Kim Mun are famous for their many ingenious customs and inventions, including the tradition of making paper from roots and leaves. Until recently, a young Kim Mun man taking a wife had to pay a price. "Betrothal was actually a negotiation of the bride price, which was divided into five different grades, depending on such natural qualities as the girl's beauty and health. The girl's parents would not let the man take their daughter away until the price had been paid in full. The five different grades ranged from 72 to 12 ounces of silver." During courtship, Kim Mun youth sing romantic songs to each other. "If a girl falls in love with a boy, she bites his arm as a token of her love for him."
The Kim Mun believe that when bad people die they go to a terrible place, their perception of hell - a thick, dark forest with no villages or clearings. It is believed that good people will go to one of several levels of heaven, depending on how much care their eldest son gives the spirit of his dead parent. Men without sons, therefore, do whatever it takes to procure a son, since their soul will be lost without one. The Kim Mun worship their ancestors by sacrificing pigs three times each year to honor them.
The Kim Mun are an unreached people, although there are tiny pockets of believers scattered throughout southern China, including several confirmed believers in Mengla.