Laomeng Market – Indigenous groups of Tribal Yunnan

Colorful Tribes of Laomeng Market

In Yuanyang County of Yunnan Province, China, another fascinating tribal or ethnic minority market can be seen in all its glory once a week at the Sunday Laomeng Market (老猛赶集). This particular market the third so far in my series of Tribal Yunnan focuses on the small hill tribe town of Laomeng with its wonderful weekly outdoor market.
yi indigenous people at laomeng market
Yi Indigenous Group shopping at Laomeng Market
As with all the other markets in Yunnan Province one has to arrive at Laomeng pretty earlier to make the most of this exceptionally vibrant and colourful affair. The early bird certainly catches the worm or at least some very photogenic scenes and characters if your on time. I personally was based in Luchwin another small town perched on a mountain ridge with not much more than a high street to it consisting of modern Chinese buildings and few Minority peoples. Nevertheless it was a pleasant enough place to put up for a night or two with cracking views of terraced hillsides to look out upon from several vantage points in town.
landscape image rice terraces in yunnan mountains
Luchwin with Rice terraces in mountains
The trick again with Laomeng is to either overnight there the day before the market or travel early from wherever else you might be to get there to see the vividly coloured crowd ‘en masse’ so to speak doing all things indigenous. I did the latter by taking a minibus from Luchwin which took a little bit longer to cover the 40 odd kilometres than I had anticipated due to the endless hairpin bends or twists and turns in the mountain road although the scenery on the way was absolutely breathtaking. It took between one and half to two hours! And I nearly got off half way through the journey being a little bit impatient to catch ‘A’ tribal market as we passed a small village called Habo where it all seemed to be kicking off. A small market which seemed to be catering to only one Minority group dressed in mainly black attire, they were the Hani. My desire to jump off was held in check for this simple reason and on reflection I thank the Lord it was.
hani indigenous woman at laomeng market
miao indigenous woman at laomeng market
Hani Ethnic Woman and Miao Ethnic Woman


Laomeng Market was well worth the journey, a very flamboyant place with a variety of different minority groups such as the Hani, the Yao, the Yi and extremely colourful Miao. The vast majority of buyers and sellers at Laomeng market where Miao but that’s not to say there wasn’t a small abundance of the other tribal or indigenous groups. The Miao are very reminiscent of the Flower H’mong in Northern Vietnam. These two ethnic groups are amongst the most colourful ethnic minority groups one will come across visiting tribal areas of Asia. And the resemblance regarding the rich tapestry of colorfully and intricately embroidered clothes with they adorn is no coincidence. The Flower H’mong or at least Hmong in general are actually a Miao sub group.
miao indigenous people at laomeng market

Miao at Loameng Market

The difference between Loameng and Xiding mentioned in the previous post which is situated in Xishuangbanna prefecture is that there is a lot more space to roam at Laomeng, Xiding in comparison is very compact and quite dense with bodies which is fine if you don’t mind rubbing shoulders ‘quite literally’ with the friendly minority peoples but it is also nice to have some space with which to take in the crowd, to observe what they are doing without your view being hindered. The market takes up almost all of the streets within the town and due to Laomeng being a bigger place than Xiding there are noticebly a few more streets with a wider variety of goods.
miao indigenous ethnic people at laomeng market
Yi indigenous women at Laomeng Market
There are places where one can have a bite to eat but not so much at temporary stalls geared up for the job on the day but at small permanent restaurants that are part of the towns makeup. There are sections selling lovely multi coloured ethnic minority clothes and materials, sections selling fresh fruit and vegetables, metalware and bamboo items. An interesting little meat market also keeps the punters busy with a chance to display their shrewd bargaining skills and of course a chance to get there hands dirty as they man handle pieces of raw meat.


traditional miao skirts at laomeng market
Miao Skirts
miao textiles at laomeng market
Indigenous Materials
As with other markets in the area Laomeng is no different with regards to it not only being an open air or outdoor supermarket but also a place for socializing. The Indigenous peoples it can be said are on a high, everyone is in fine fettle and not only is the market itself part of the day out but getting there and back home is also an adventure in itself to a lot of the ‘day trippers’.



miao indigenous man at laomeng market
Indigenous Man – Laomeng Market
As with Xiding I was very lucky to be visiting Laomeng market on a day when no other foreigners happened to be there, it was just me and them yet the me drifted into insignificance as I wandered quite aimlessly around the place unhindered, not being stared at or feeling in anyway different to the good peoples there, I felt like one of the family, part of the vibrant collective consciousness, exchanging smiles and how do you do’s, feeling very welcome amongst a culture that is so different from my own.


shopping at laomeng marketyao indigenous woman at laomeng market


Yi  Costume and Yao Headdress
As well as a mind boggling array of products on sale at the market services can also be had which are specifically tailored to meet the needs of certain communities. On the whole Laomeng is a fascinating insight into minority groups with their traditional ways of life and preserved cultural habits. The tribal costumes or finery of each different minority group contrast starkly with each other and before long one is able to recognize due to the colour of the cloth, the headdress or ornamentation which group a person belongs to.
laomeng market
hani tribal women at laomeng market
miao indigenous people at laomeng market
As with most of the Minority Groups it is the females who are the most flambouyant with the men tending to wear quite bland dress in comparison. In a lot of cases this tends to be a simple black outfit of jacket and trousers as can be seen with the Miao man in the picture above, still, they are’nt shy about carrying those hefty bamboo baskets around that are so typical of the tribal peoples.
ethnic minority men at laomeng market

Miao guys with ethnic man bags

ethnic minorities woman at laomeng market
Laomeng Market Ethnic Minorities
As is the norm and right on cue, shortly after lunch time the market winds down, the hustle and bustle wanes and truckloads of Indigenous peoples can be seen leaving Laomeng with sacks of produce or heavily laden baskets. Clambering onto whatever vehicle they can commandeer to ship them back to or within walking/trekking distance of their respective villages. Another week of daily life must pass before the next big event, before it all happens again………….
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  1. Gary O'Connor


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