Word Smith: Mien
James Haggerty is an obituary writer in the Wall Street Journal. On Saturday, July 10, 2021, he was writing an obituary for a former NCR senior executive and POW survivor, named William Anderson (1919-2021). He died in June at 102. The line that caught my eye was Haggerty’s description of Anderson from Business Week, which reported that he had “the stance and mien of a middleweight boxer.” I decided that I needed to go deeper with the word mien, because I had heard the name when talking about a group of refugees from China called Mien, and Anderson had been born in Hankow (now part of Wuhan) China, while his father his father managed and designed an ice making factory.
There was a lot I did not know.
- Mien refers to a person’s look or manner, especially one of a particular kind indicating their character or mood. “She feels like an intellectual and she has a cautious, academic mien.” Similar words are: appearance, look, and expression.
2. Iu Mien People
The Iu Mien people are a minority group of people from Southeast Asia, a subset of the Yao people originally from China. Displaced by the Vietnam War, many lu Mien immigrants settled in the United States from the late 1975’s to the mid-1995’s. From China, the Iu Mien migrated to Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. They speak the Iu Mien language.
Alternative Titles: Dao, Iu Mien, Man, Mian, Yao, Zao
Mien, also spelled Mian, also called Iu Mien, (in China) Yao, (in Vietnam) Dao, Zao, or Man, peoples of southern China and Southeast Asia.
In the early 21st century the lu Mien population numbered over 3,100,000 people (2,700,000 in China, more than 350,000 in Vietnam, some 40,000 in Thailand, and approximately 20,000 in Laos.) Several thousand Mien refugees from Laos resettled in North America, Australia and France. Mien peoples speak dialects of Hmong-Mien languages
According to Wikipedia: Mien society is clan oriented. The clan structure enables individuals living in very dispersed areas to have a sense of kinship. Traditional religion shows strong similarities to Chinese Daoism. The god, Pan Ku, is an important focus of traditional beliefs and origin stories; according to legend, Pan Ku delivered the head of an enemy to a monarch and he was awarded a princess for a wife. And from this union the Mien descended. Mien priests, who are always male, mediate between the human and the supernatural worlds, using texts written in a distinctive adaptation of Chinese writing. This unique form of literacy distinguishes the Mien from the many upland peoples in southern China and Southeast Asia who have no pre-modern literate tradition.
Mien art, especially religious paintings and elaborately embroidered women’s clothing, have attracted strong interest from scholars and collectors. Mien diaspora, living outside Asia, have formed a number of organizations that promote their culture to local communities.