Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The Changping Iu Mien are one of four main Iu Mien language groups in China, all of which are included under the official Yao nationality.
The Iu Mien have been harassed by the Han Chinese almost continually for a thousand years. The Han have traditionally viewed the Iu Mien with utter contempt, despising everything about them that is characteristic. One nineteenth-century Chinese historian was moved so far as to write, "The Yao [Iu Mien] are stupid and violent in nature and they do not have any intercourse with the Chinese. The Chinese take advantage of their stupidity by wresting things from them by force, by stealing from them, and by raiding and insulting them. ... The Yao accumulate malice and hatred and then rebel, and events [tribal rebellions] have ever followed this course."
The Pan Hu Festival is the greatest occasion among the Iu Mien. People gather from far away to celebrate and honor their mythical progenitor. There are several different stories explaining the origins of this festival. One legend states that "during a hunting trip in the mountains, Pan Hu was knocked off a cliff by a wild goat and died as a result of his injuries. Overwhelmed by grief at his death, his Yao followers chopped down a catalpa tree and vengefully killed the goat, using its hide and the wood from the tree to make a drum which they played while mourning their leader." Another story relates that the descendants of Pan formed twelve tribes which were driven from their homeland by the Chinese. During the course of their escape they were trapped in a storm at sea. "For seven days and nights they burned joss sticks and prayed to Pan Hu to deliver them from danger until, finally, they managed to reach land. To express their gratitude to their ancestral hero for his intervention ... they started to hold a commemorative festival on a certain date."
Although the Iu Mien do not consider their worship and honor of Pan Hu a religion, there is no doubt that it constitutes the main spiritual aspect of their lives. Spirit priests are employed to offer sacrifices to Pan and to intercede on behalf of the people. At times during the Pan Hu Festival, people are known to enter into a demonic frenzy as the focus of their energies reach a climax.
The Changping Iu Mien are a people in desperate need of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ. With few confirmed Christians among the entire 800,000 Iu Mien population in China, few workers are available to take the gospel to the Changping Iu Mien in their language.