Yao team

The Yao theatre team lives in Khunbong village, in Ton Pheung district, Bokeo province in the neighbouring village to the Lahu team. Their village is split through the middle by a broad dusty road leading from the district to the provincial capital. There is a women’s embroidery group in the village, who work together during the day by the side of the road and sell their products to passing traders.

The team members are between 16 and 45 years old, some are already married with children, others have just left school. The village has a small hall, which is used for meetings, theatre rehearsals and for adult learning classes in the evenings. Before the theatre activity started, villagers could not remember the last time they had sung a song in Yao language. But as the actors started interviewing older members of the community, they discovered that a treasure trove of music from the past was hidden in their village.
  Yao history and culture

The Yao or Mien originated in Southern China about two thousand years ago. They speak a language belonging to Sino Tibetan family. There are around 22,000 Yao living in Laos today.
They have their own written language, long ago derived from Chinese, written in Chinese characters, and their paintings, mostly of religious subjects, reflect certain very ancient Chinese artistic styles, although the Yao paintings have a unique flavor of their own, and are coveted by many Western collectors.
The Yao prefer to live among low hills near dense forest, which is becoming increasingly scarce however in Laos. Their houses sit on the ground, and feature a space designed for a cooking fire in the center of their main room, as well as a small shrine dedicated to their ancestors and to the guardian spirit they believe to inhabit each individual house.

   The Yao traditional costume usually consists of a long black robe with a big red furry collar. This coat is held by a thick embroidered sash wrapped round the waist. The women wear black turbans sometimes crossed in white across the front of the head. The women are regarded as very beautiful, also in old age.
They excel in the making of metal farm implements such as axes and plows. Because they've long had a written language, they also know how to make high quality paper.
The Danu Festival, also known as the King Paugu Festival, held on the Yao New Year's day is most important for the Yaos. Paugu, the king and hero of the Yao, incarnated as a dog, is said to have protected the Yaos and helped them develop into peaceful and wealthy communities.
The Yao are regarded as a peace loving people who seek orderliness and perfection in their lives.