Sayaboury Hmong [NEW]

At least half-a-dozen of the many known Hmong scripts have been messianic, perhaps the most remarkable of which appeared in a UN refugee camp in Thailand during the Vietnam War. It consisted of nine volumes, said to be 700-800 years old.

The text had reportedly been passed from the Hmong deity La Bi Mi Nu, transcribed, and preserved. The script that had been used, though, being intimately connected to Hmong beliefs about political, spiritual, and ethnic identity, was as remarkable as the content. It has been named the Sayaboury Alphabet, after its region of origin in Laos.

“As with other spiritual writing systems,” John Duffy writes in Writing from These Roots: Literacy in a Hmong-American Community, “the Sayaboury Alphabet was unique. For example, all words appear to be represented by only five letters, the first two always identical. Another unique element of the Sayaboury is that it includes characters representing nonspeech sounds, such as the intonation used for chanting, the sound for calling chickens, the sound for shooting chickens….”

In his article “The art of not being legible: Invented writing systems as technologies of resistance in mainland Southeast Asia,” Piers Kelly adds: “A final Hmong script entered the scene in 1965 just outside the village of Muang Pieng in the Laotian province of Sayaboury. Here a mysterious deity revealed a holy script and several sacred texts to an eight-year-old boy by the name of Nga Va. For seven years Nga Va laboured to learn the script and decipher the texts which were discovered to be founding documents for a future Hmong nation. The eight illustrated volumes, encompassed a guide to learning the writing system, social and philosophical commentaries, instructions for future government and education, as well as moral treatises and blueprints for future flags, currency and government buildings. In contrast to Pahawh Hmong, knowledge of the Sayaboury writing system remains highly regulated, as does access to the sacred texts. It is not known whether the script is still in use today….”

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