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Hmong Contemporary Issues
Hmoob cov Xwm Txheej rau Tiam no
Les Problématiques contemporaines des Hmong

The Meeting with Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy
A Case Study of Syncretism in the Hmong System of Beliefs

by Kao-Ly Yang, PhD
   It took me about 10 years to finish gathering the data, and one full month during summer 2006 to write this article about Kaying -- Niam Nkauj Kab Yeeb or Niam Poj Dab Pog-- Spirit of Fertility and Bestower of Children in the Hmong culture. 
    The beginning of this research project took place one morning in 1996, in Laos where I was observing a Soul Calling (Hu plig), traditional ritual for new-borns. I already observed this ritual several times in France; however it was in a traditional setting, during my fieldwork in Laos that I fully became aware of the importance of Kaying as a foreign deity borrowed from Buddhism: the sequence to thank Guanyin for bestowing a child must take place outside of the house, not inside, which clearly specified the foreign identity.
   Over the years, I lived with this hypothesis. And it was after a job interview at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that I decided to blend all data together, and write about Kaying, the Goddess of Mercy from the Hmong perspective.
     In this academic paper of 42 pages with pictures, I compared and constrasted the two spiritual entities, the Hmong Kaying and the Chinese Guanyin . I also analyzed the processes of borrowing of Kaying from the Chinese culture, and proposed an interpretation of the nature of the Hmong system of beliefs.
     I have to say it was a fascinating research that took me to question the origins and the features of the Hmong system of beliefs: Hmong people living immerged in other systems of beliefs did borrow several religious elements from the major religions like Buddhism and incorporated  them into the Hmong culture. For the case study of Kaying, the process of borrowing and incorporation into the Hmong system of beliefs is an overlapping on a pre-exisiting spiritual entity, Niam Poj Dab Pog.
     In addition, because Kaying is integrated as a shamanistic spirit in the Hmong shamanism, this study offers a connection between Shamanism and Buddhism.  To conclude the article, I clarified the notion of religious in relation with the social practices, and the notion of miracle, love and compassion.
     Definitively, this article will allow you to understand the notion of Hmong religion, to seize the powerful abilities of the Hmong people to adapt and reinvente their culture in borrowing from others, and to live their faith.
    This article is published by the Hmong Studies Journal, Vol.7, Dec 2006.

To read the whole article, click here .
Child Bestower
Kaying (Kab Yeeb)
Niam Nkauj Ntsuab
Niam Poj Dab Pog
Queen Mother of the West
Religious efficiency
Si Wang Mu
Social practice
Soul Calling (hu plig)
Txiv Nraug Sis Nab