Yao hilltribe


The Yao originally come from Southern China. From the late 1800s to the early 19th century, the Yao migrated into Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.

Where do they live?

In Thailand Yao settlements can be found in Chiang Rai, Phayao, Nan, Lampang, Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok and Kamphaeng Phet provinces.


There are various subgroups among the Yao. The Lanten is an important subgroup, living in Laos.


The Yao have no written script and use Chinese figures.  Several languages are spoken according to the various subgroups.

Culture and lifestyle

The traditional attire of the Yao is extraordinarily beautiful.  The women wear long black jackets that are accented with woolen scarlet lapels.  In addition to this they wear loose black pants that are embroidered with exquisite designs and a matching black turban.  The Yao babies are also known for their exquisite attire. Yao babies commonly wear intricately embroidered caps.  Men wear loose jackets that are accented with embroidered pockets and trim.

Jewelry is popular in Yao culture as well.  During special events women and children often wear silver neck rings along with an intricate set of chains and ornaments, the silversmiths of the Yao hill tribe are renowned throughout Thailand for their impressive skill. 
The women are known for their rich embroidery and cross stitch.  The intricate designs are unique facets to the clothing of each member of the Yao family.  The Yao are also known for producing exquisite silver pieces.  These skills account for a large part of their economy.
The Yao prefer high altitude dwellings.  Their homes are typically built on solid ground.  In a traditional Yao home you will find a communal living area, a few bedrooms, and a guest area.

The Yao typically grow corn and rice as their major agricultural crops, though they are known to grow other smaller crops as well.  The Yao are adapting to Thai culture and agriculture and learning to produce a variety of new crops with each passing year.
Opium farming is still relevant in some sections of Yao culture, though the tradition is on the decline. 


The Yao in Thailand are primarily Buddhists. Most of them have mixed elements of Buddhism with their traditional animistic beliefs.
Animism encompasses the beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) world.Animists believe that souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment. Animists often seek help through supernatural spirits and objects.

Important festivals

The most important Yao festival is that of New Year. This falls on the same date as the Chinese New Year. More on the Yao New Year here: (https://bit.ly/MK8sJH)

Tiger Trail Tours that include visits to Yao villages

Momentarily we don’t have any tours that include visits to a Yao village.

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