The Secret Behind The 12 Clans Iu-Mien Names (You'll Be Surprised) - Part 1

This article was written in collaboration with Author David Saechao (Chao Yao Tzio) and BAONG Co-founder Michael Saelee (Leiz Zanx Fin).

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Have you run into Mien people that you’ve never met and the first thing they asked is, “where are you from?”

Followed by “what’s your last name, and who are your parents?”

If you're like me, you've scrambled to think about what other Mien people call your parents so that you can respond with the right name.

While doing this, did you ever sense that they were activating some sort of triangular, ancient Mien GPS tool to track down who you and your parents are?

If so, you were probably right.

What I’m about to share with you lies the secret to the 12 Clans Mien Names and after discovering this will take you on a journey that will change your life. 

Are you ready? Here we go!

It begins with Mien child names

I’m talking about the most common names seen in almost every Mien family where the boys have names like Kao and Cheng, or Meuy and Fahm for girls. 

Coincidence? Hardly.

Now what if I told you that it was all part of a grand plan? Hang with me for a second. 

You see, these names are quite important because they’re kind of like markers for a tracking system (and a really good one too).

For example, a first-born son is named Kao (the eldest son), followed by Nai (usually) as the second boy.

For girls, a first-born daughter is Mey/Meuy followed by Nai (a unisex name like Andy) as the second girl.

Here’s a quick chart to illustrate:


(This chart doesn't include all the different child names out there)

Got it? Cool, it’s about to get more interesting.

Inheriting the Legacy

Let’s suppose we want these names of Kao and Meuy to be unique, well how do we do that?

It’s simple: we add a unique modifier which is inherited from your parent’s Mien adult name.

Answer these two questions:

  • What is your dad’s Mien adult name?
  • What is your Mien name as a child?

For BAONG’s co-founder Michael Saelee:

  • His father’s adult name is Ee Cho/Ee Tzo.
  • Michael is the third son in his family.

What's his Mien child name? San Cho/San Tzo, or the third boy of Cho/Tzo.

Now Michael has a brother and his Mien name is Sou, or Sou Cho as the fourth boy of Cho.

Pretty cool huh? We think so too.

Now, suppose we want to make these names even more unique for tracking purposes. How would we do that?

We look towards your last name (finx) and your clan name (the really cool stuff).

Now, every Mien last name contains a secret path (think of it like inheriting the "Will of Fire," a reference to the anime Naruto and passing on your legacy).

The importance of your last name begins with your clan and forms a generational name.

The Path Begins at the End

To the untrained eye, these last names look like Saelee, Saefong, Saephan and going up to 12 clans.

But for the Mien O.G. versed in the ancient ways, there’s more to it.

For Saelee, there are 5 generational naming paths and it looks like this in exact order:

  • Saeng (1st generation in the cycle of Saelee)
  • Fou
  • Ee
  • Zanx / Zanh
  • Wuonh (5th generation in the cycle of Saelee)

These ancient generational names are bestowed upon every Mien child before they are even born (again, kinda like Naruto for Hokage ranks: Shodai (1st), Nidaime, Sandaime, Yondaime (4th Hokage) and Naruto's dad).

Crazy huh? Awesome because it gets even better.

When a child grows up (no more siep wuonh), they let go of their child name and inherit an adult Mien name.

So if Michael’s dad is an Ee or third generation, then Michael becomes a Zanx or a 4th generation of Saelee.

Michael now has an adult Mien name which is Zanx Fin Saelee or proper Leiz Zanx Fin (Leiz is Mien for Saelee and each of 12 Clans has a unique version).

Michael inherits the 4th generational name of Saelee which is Zanx and is given the modifier Fin by his parents (if you don't have one, ask your parents or local elder because they would love to tell you more).

Passing on the Legacy

Now, Michael can still keep his child name (San Cho) and his childhood friends may continue to call him that as a term of affection (kinda like in Japanese, Naruto-kun).

Later, Michael has a daughter and her name is Mey.

Guess what her full name is?

If you guessed Mey Fin, then you are correct!

Let's recap:

  • Michael's dad is a 3rd generation Saelee (Ee)
  • His father's adult name is Ee Cho (Cho given to him by his parents)
  • Michael inherits a child name as San Cho, 3rd boy of Cho
  • Michael is a 4th generation Saelee (Zanx)
  • His adult Mien name is Zanx Fin
  • Michael has a daughter and she inherits the name Mey Fin Saelee

What does this all mean?

This naming system is an ancient and powerful method for tracing our lineage as Iu-Mien people. From descendants and going all the way back to our ancestors (each Mien family has a book that contains all of these names, more on that in another article).

This system, it helps us to identify kinship and shows respect to our elders and those before us.

It serves a higher purpose and you belong to a greater purpose.

Embracing Our Mien Identity

At the beginning of this article, I asked you about your encounters with Mien people who you've never met and how they wanted to know about you and your parents.

Did you also ever feel like you were brought closer the moment they were able to pinpoint who your parents were, or who your uncle was, or perhaps who your grandparents were?

How did that make feel you feel when they acknowledged who you were?

For me, it helps to instantly become closer with them.

Our naming system is built on trust. A trust network of the highest levels.

You have to wonder who or why would someone do this and for what reason.

Remember that purpose-finding, grand plan I mentioned earlier?

Now, it could just be me but I believe this is all-part of a system designed to help us find our way back.

Back to where you might ask? Perhaps to our lost homeland.

Homeland, what??

Well, as Mien people, we have a truly unique and ancient story unlike any other Asian group.

(Pictured above is a statue commemorating our Iu-Mien history, in China)

It dates back to over 1,500 years ago (maybe even older) to a hidden paradise involving a cave and an Ox horn cut into 12 pieces. You can check out this quick video that tells more.

Now it’s your turn

  • What is your child name?
  • What is your adult name?
  • And what is your generational name? 

Let’s explore our Mien culture together and drop a comment below if this article was helpful.

Up Next

Catch the next article here: The Secret Behind The 12 Clans Iu-Mien LAST Names (Part 2)

Welcome to #BAONGFAMILY - we're on a mission to elevate Mien communities and unify our people. Find out why we created BAONG here.



Still there?

Have you ever been scolded by an auntie or uncle and told to use proper Mien names when referring to your relatives? Well, there's a really good reason for that too. We'll share more in an upcoming new article.

Additional reading by David Saechao - The Significance of Mien Generational Names (Buic)

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