Traveling to Phu Lang Ka in Northern Thailand was quite an experience for me. Not only was the view and ambiance absolutely wonderful, but I had an opportunity to learn a little bit about the history and culture about the YAO people, one of the principal hilltribe groups in the area. According to Kevan, the owner of Phu Lang Ka Lodge, there are approximately 50,000 Yao people (otherwise known as Mien) in Thailand - most of whom live in the Northern Provinces of Nan and Phayao. As the elected president of the Yao people of Thailand, he and his wife are very active in keeping the culture and heritage of the Yao people alive.
While I was visiting his school at the nearby village of Pong, Kevan presented me with a little booklet called the Passport of the Yao people - it told the story of the history and origins of the Yao people . Very interesting! Returning to the lodge, Kevan and his wife showed me (and some other guests), a very unique scroll-mural, which was sort of a pictorial history of the YAO people. I don’t know if this is one of a kind document or a replica, but I was astounded at the vivid detail.
In short, the Yao people originate from southern CHINA. According to Yao Folklore, their ancestral origins can be traced to a heroic dragon dog with human attributes by the name of Pan Hu who was recruited by the local Emperor to assassinate the tyrannical KING who ruled the land. After completing his mission, he returned to the Emperor with the King’s decapitated head in his jaws and was rewarded for his heroism – Pan Hu was given permission to marry one of the Emperor’s daughters and was granted a substantial amount of property. Pan Hu and his wife had 6 sons and 6 daughters – their twelve children and their families multiplied and spread throughout the highland regions of Southern China and Southeast Asia including Thailand.
Pan Hu’s legacy was the 12 tribes of the YAO (the descendants of Pan Hu’s twelve children) - sounds similar to the biblical story of the 12 tribes of Israel.