Deeply Yao Exhibition Showcases Arts & Culture of the Yao Hill Tribe of China and Northern Southeast Asia in Santa Fe from August 12-15 and 17-20

  • SANTA FE, New Mexico
  • /
  • July 28, 2015

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Baiku Yao pleated skirt. Courtesy of Chinalai Tribal Antiquities.

Objects of Art Santa Fe will feature a special exhibition, Deeply Yao, of the works of the Yao people of southern China and northern Southeast Asia.  Deeply Yao is curated by Lee and Vichai Chinalai, and is an exhibition of ethnographica from this major hill tribe group.  More than 100 pieces will be on view, including significant and extremely fine examples of textiles and silver jewelry.


Also known as the Mien, Lan Tan, Mun, Pu Nun, Lu Ngien, Lak Kja, Zao and Dao according to clan and country, the Yao are descendants of people who lived in the mountains around the Changjiang River Basin in China during the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BCE to 220 AD).  Today the majority of Yao people, with a population of over three million, are found throughout southwest China and mainland Southeast Asia. 


Exhibition highlights:

The Yao are unique among the Hill Tribes of Asia because they documented their own history in books throughout the centuries. A selection of these historical scrolls and books will be on view.  Additional highlights include antique textiles, clothing, headdresses, silver jewelry, ancestor paintings and priests’ and shamans’ ritual objects.

Yao woman's ceremonial hat set hat front closeup Guanxi early-mid 1900s Courtesy of Chinalai Tribal Antiques.

Yao Creation Story:

Though they speak several dialects and follow a variety of traditions, Yao people maintain a unique cultural identity, which includes a rich oral history of song and legend.[i]   Pan Gu, the original man, who out of chaos built the world, separating earth and sky, then expanded his body to form the universe.  After his death his head became the mountains of the earth, his breath the wind and clouds, his limbs the four corners of the world, his blood the rivers, flesh soil, beard the constellations, skin and hair trees and herbs, teeth metal, bones and marrow rocks and precious stones, sweat raindrops, and the insects creeping through his body us… human beings.  


The Yao Culture: Clothing & Religion

The Yao people have a unique form of dress. Their clothes are primarily made from blue cloth that has been embellished with fine embroidery depicting geometric forms or elements from nature. The men wear short collarless shirts paired with black or blue trousers of varying lengths.  Jackets may be buttoned in the middle or to the left and are normally belted. Yao women may wear trousers or pleated skirts, often embellished with embroidery.  They may also wear embroidered short collarless jackets or long robes with long bright red yarn ruffs.[ii]   

il of a Hua Yao head wrap, Hunan, China, early 1900s Courtesy of Chinalai Tribal Antiques.


The dominant religion for the Yao people varies depending upon the region they live in and incorporates elements of animism, totemism, Taoism and ancestor worship. Yao Taoism is laced with magic, prophecy and the supernatural.  The ancestor spirits are informed, consulted and supplicated through every rite of passage.  For the Yao, an orderly relationship with the spirits of nature is maintained through deference and the show of gratitude.  Consequently the Yao shaman or priest plays a very important role within the community to maintain order and safety.  


The Objects of Art Santa Fe Show has something for everyone.  It is the most eclectic and exciting show in Santa Fe.  Whether you are a collector or an art lover, this show presents the best handcrafted and fine art items, running the gamut from historic to contemporary, at all price points.


Objects of Art Santa Fe takes place at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, 555 Camino de la Familia, Santa Fe, NM 87501.  The show opens with a benefit for New Mexico PBS/KNME-TV on Wednesday, August 12th.  Public Hours are Thursday, August 13th - Saturday August 15th from 11am to 6pm.  Deeply Yao will be on view during the course of the show, and again during the Antique American Indian Art Show.  Tickets are $15 or $20 for Joint Admission to Objects of Art Santa Fe + Antique American Indian Show.  For additional information, including a complete list of exhibitors, or to purchase tickets, visit  


[i] New World Encyclopedia,  Yao People.

[ii] Yao, November 14, 2007.

AGK Media

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