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Dust of life: A true Ban Vinai love story 

Hmong/Miao in Asia

The Hmong People of Australia: Culture and Diaspora


There have been a number of books published recently on the Hmong. For a full list, please see: 2004, three publications I was involved in as author or editor were released and are available from their publishers, or from


Dust of life: A true Ban Vinai love story  (
by Dr Gary Yia Lee

$12.95 (HmongABC bookstore)

It was 1977 and Ban Vinai had just been set up as a refugee camp for thousands of Hmong who fled the new communist regime in Laos to the safety of Thailand. Mua, a young Hmong man, had recently completed his university studies and was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

He was asked by Pafua, a Hmong girl in Ban Vinai refugee camp, Thailand,  to help sponsor her and her family to settle in the United States. Although he hardly knew her, he travelled to Thailand to see what he could do. It was agreed that if they got on well, he would marry her and apply for her and her family to come and live with him in America. In the meantime, he went to work on a Thai government project with Hmong opium growers in Chiangmai where he met a young Thai woman named Phorn. She was the opposite to the Hmong girl in many ways and he became inadvertently involved with her.

After a few months of visits and courtship, Moua asked Pafua for marriage. To his dismay, her mother refused him her hand. Hurt and disappointed, he turned to Phorn but would soon learn that she was very different from what he understood her to be. Shattered by these events, he returned to the US where he continued to work for Hmong refugees. It was not until many years later when Mua went to Australia, where Pafua and her mother had gone to live, that he discovered the awful truth about her refusal to marry him - a discovery that would profoundly affect him for the rest of his life.

This novel is both a mystery and a love story. It is about the Hmong as much as the Thai people and their cultures. The author, who is an anthropologist, has woven many facts into the book that will help the reader appreciate different facets of life among the poor in Thailand, the recent history of the Hmong refugees from Laos, their difficult life in the refugee camp of Ban Vinai and their rich traditions. The novel can also be seen at a metaphorical level as a representation of the Hmong people who, like the male protagonist in the story, live in many different worlds going from one country (or woman) to another and never feeling fully welcome. He wants to become Westernised to be accepted in America but loses his Hmong heritage in the process – again like the Hmong in the diaspora who are forced to assimilate into other cultures only to lose their very own. 

Readers’ comments:

“Dust of Life, great book! Well written for a first time Hmong author. I fell in love with Pahua. I found myself in Mua. THe descriptions were amazing and poetic.    4/5 stars for Hmong Author”.   (Dai Thao,  7/19/04).

I stayed up and read it until 1 AM.  It was very well written and easy to read. The poetry is beautiful.  I was so absorbed by the story. Is it based on the author's own life?   I could not forget it for 4-5 days after I finished the book. I told  my friends about it and they all want to read it.  We are so pleased it was written by one of our very own" (Manivong, 12/28/04).


Hmong/Miao in Asia

Edited by Nicholas Tapp, Jean Michaud, Christian Culas, and Gary Yia Lee
[Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004]

$30.00  (

This volume presents the most comprehensive collection of research on Hmong culture and life in Asia yet to be published. It compliments the abundant material on the Hmong diaspora by focusing instead on the Hmong in their Asian homeland. The contributors are scholars from a number of different backgrounds with a deep knowledge of Hmong society and culture, including several Hmong. The first group of essays addresses the fabric of Hmong culture by considering issues of history, language, and identity among the Hmong/Miao from Laos to China. The second part introduces the challenges faced by the Hmong in contemporary Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

Nicholas Tapp is senior fellow in anthropology at the Australian National University. Jean Michaud is associate researcher in Asian studies at Université de Montréal. Christian Culas is a member of the National Center for Scientific Research in Marseille. Gary Yia Lee was a former senior ethnic liaison officer for New South Wales government in Australia.

Table of Contents:

Part 1: Issues of History, Language and Identity

1. The State of Hmong Studies (An Essay on Bibliography) - Nicholas Tapp
2. From Culture Circle to Cultural Ecology: The Hmong/Miao as reflected in German and Austrian Anthropology - Christian Postert
3. A Contribution to the Study of Hmong (Miao) Migrations and History - Christian Culas and Jean Michaud
4. Innovation and Tradition in Rituals and Cosmology: Hmong Messianism and Shamanism in Southeast Asia - Christian Culas

5. Pa-hng and the Classification of the Hmong-Mien Languages - Barbara Niederer
6. Vocabulary of Environment and Subsistence in the Hmong-Mien Protolanguage - Martha Rafliff
7. A Note on the Ethno-Semantics of Proverb Usage in Mong Njua (Green Hmong) - Thomas Amis Lyman
8. Problems in the Interpretation of Hmong Surnames - Kao-ly Yng

9. The A Hmao in Northest Yunnan and Northwest Guizhou Provinces: Perspectives on the Encounter with the A Hmao from some Western Protestant Missionaries - R. Alison Lewis
10. Miao Identity in Western Guizhou: China during the Republican Period - Cheung Siu-Woo
11. Hmong/Miao Transnationality: Identity beyond Culture - Louisa Schein

Part 2: Current Issues

12. Hmong and the Land Question in Vietnam: National policy and Local Concepts of the Environment - Claes Corlin
13. The Hmong and Forest Management in Northern Vietnam's Mountainous Areas - Vuong Duy Quang

14. Ntoo Xeeb: Cultural Redefinition for Forest Conservation among the Hmong in Thailand - Prasit Leepreecha
15. Following Hmong Cultural Pathways for the Prevention of HIV/AIDS: Notes from the Field - Patricia V. Symonds
16. Hmong Marriage Patterns in Thailand in Relation to Social Change - Peter Kunstadter
17. Rape: Perceptions and Processes of Hmong Customary Law - Robert Cooper

18. Transnational Adaptation: An Overview of the Hmong of Laos - Gar Yia Lee
19. The Hmong and Development in the Lao People's Democratic Republic - Jan Ovesen

20. Hmong Refugees from Laos: The Challenge of Social Change - Yang Dao
Index and  Notes on Contributors


The Hmong People of Australia: Culture and Diaspora

Edited by Tapp, Nicholas, & Lee, Gary (Canberra: Pandanus Books, 2004), 217pp, ISBN 1740760417 - (softcover)

AUD$31.78 / GST: AUD$34.96 (ANU bookshop)

The Hmong first arrived in Australia in 1975 from war-torn Laos, settling in Australia as a small population of under 2,000. In Australia, as in other resettlement countries, the Hmong have been active in founding local and national associations, and there is alarm about the younger generation's loss of traditional cultural heritage. The Australian Hmong is a small community, but a dynamic and rapidly changing one.

This collection of interdisciplinary papers - ranging across anthropology and linguistics, musicology, material culture, gender issues and sociology - gives the general reader an introduction to this fascinating and relatively unknown community as well as an understanding of the wide range of issues which research on the Hmong in Australia has covered to date.

Both editors have extensive experience of Hmong populations in Asia and bring this experience to bear on a project that deals solely with the Hmong in an Australian context. The contributors to the book represent virtually all the serious researchers who have devoted their attentions to the Hmong in Australia.

In many ways the book is a tribute to the richness and importance of the cultural system the Hmong of today have inherited. In other ways more abstract issues to do with the effects of globalisation on local communities, social changes and the relationship of minority groups to the state, are also addressed. As such, this collection contributes to general understandings of processes of social change among recent immigrants to new countries of settlement, the relations they may hold with homelands and the new relations forged with other diasporic communities overseas.

© Pandanus Books, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) CRICOS Provider Number: 00120C.  Please direct all comments or suggestions to the maintainer,

Copyright © 2005 

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