Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The Lupanshui Miao are a peculiarity. Scholars have found that although they are ethnically members of the Miao nationality, they speak the Xiang (Hunanese) Chinese language. Their dialect is similar to the Xiang language spoken in Dongkou County in western Hunan Province, at least 400 kilometers (247 mi.) from their present location. Today the Lupanshui Miao are linguistically distinct from all of the other Miao groups in western Guizhou. Other Miao people view the Lupanshui as a different group and usually do not intermarry with them.
The precise reason why the Lupanshui Miao migrated away from their homeland in Hunan Province is uncertain. The 1990 Chinese census listed only 304 Miao people still living in Dongkou County in Hunan, suggesting that almost the entire people group were transplanted across the province to their present-day location in Guizhou. Chinese military campaigns against the Miao are a likely reason for their migration. On certain occasions, the authorities uprooted whole communities and forced them to move to sensitive areas as guards and soldiers, and to spy on other Miao groups.
Since the mid-1980s there has been a growing desire among young people to move to Lupanshui City or one of the other economically thriving towns in the area, to find work in a factory or on a construction site.
The Lupanshui Miao are not a particularly religious people. Most of them are hardworking agriculturists who do not center their lives around religion. Many older Lupanshui Miao practice animism and still worship spirits and the elements of nature, but many of the youth are atheists.
There are now some Christian believers among the Lupanshui Miao. Miao churches exist among other subgroups in the vicinity, but they speak languages very different from the Lupanshui. Christians in the Lupanshui area have experienced severe persecution in the past.