Chue Doua Xiong
When Hmong families are joined by marriage, a complicated tradition of rituals are observed that resolves any existing problems between the clans and sets new rules for the future. The ritual defines relationships between people and is important in maintaining harmony in Hmong society. It is just as important in Hmong communities in the United States as it was in Laos. The official of the ceremony, responsible for all the details being done correctly is the maykhong. The maykhong conducts most of the ritual through a specific repertory of songs and chants. There are penalties for chanting or singing incorrectly. The erring maykhong must take a drink of wine, while the other clan’s maykhong sings it correctly back to him.
Chue Doua Xiong began learning to become a maykhong at the age of 11 from his father and elder brother. He became an official maykhong when he was 16. He continued to learn from other maykhong despite dislocation by war, the trials of refugee camps in Thailand, and challenges of making a new home in the United States. He has become confident of his skills as a maykhong over the last thirty years. Chue Doua says, “This traditional art sets laws that govern our everyday life. It is perhaps the most important ritual in a person’s life. It is the ritual that ends the single life and starts the marriage family circle of families. For me personally, being able to know and practice what my ancestors have done for centuries is the greatest knowledge I can contribute back to my people.”
Chue Doua Xiong served as a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2000 with his apprentice, his cousin, Ghia Xiong.