The traditional Hmong live a horticultural society they depend on domesticated plants, they are well-adapted on soils of the tropical rain forests and poor soil places which are unsuitable for intense agriculture. Prehistoric Hmong are thought to have moved from Eurasia and made a few stops at Siberia. As their custom they settled in the highlands (mountains) from Vietnam and Laos and later in Thailand. They inherited the name "Miao", from living in the mountains. Today Five million Hmong reside in China, more than any other country. The Hmong people have straight black hair and have a short, sturdy stature.
In the southern margins of the Sahara Desert, going southward toward East Africa are tall, rather thin dark skin peoples called the Nuer. To the Nuer horticulture is degrading toil. The Nuer live the pastoral mode of production with their primary dependency on animal husbandry, cattle. Although the cattle is not raised for the meat, unless they become barren, or injured they eat them under special conditions. Usually adapt in dry grassland with short growing seasons. Although they do eat / grow crop it is very little.
Milk is one of the main foods of the Nuer. Both cultures sacrifice animals to heal souls. The Hmong believe in the dab as the evil spirit, the Nuer believe in the evil eye. The evil eye is a person with supernatural power who causes damage to people who look at them. For the Hmong the most common cause of illness is soul loss in which the dab steals. They both categorize by age set system.
Age is an important factor, the Nuer clearly state when one has reached puberty. They are put through series of rituals of initiation. Using a razor and a stick of wood they slice the skin to make some what rounded scars that form a pattern also known as Gar marking performed by Shamans. The men usually do this on their face which consists of 6 long cuts from ear to ear, women's scars are mostly on their body or stomach, around their naval. This ritual is most important for boys, even though they go through no educational or moral training everyone now treats them as adult men. They have more duties and who's main goal is proving his worth of his wife-to-be.
In the Hmong the girls dress up in their clothing that their mother has made. The Hmong also believe in Shamans, one who heals souls. Although the most powerful for the Nuer is the Deng, who is associated with illness. Both practice levirate (ghost marriage) and polygyny. Normally in the Nuer if a husband dies the younger brother of the dead husband will take over responsibilities. Polygyny is more common for the Hmong than the Nuer.
The Hmong kings had a high number of wives. This is how they managed to multiply with their low number of people. Bride price is an important aspect of both cultures marriage. The payment of several head of cattle from the Nuer, the kind of Best man negotiates how much is given. Hmong pay the family bride price and dowry. Usually in money, silver, gold, or traditional Hmong embroidered costumes.
At the wedding the Hmong women wear a bridal dress that consists of many layers of cloth intended to fatten up the bride, called phu am. They both are self sufficient tribes, they have political leaders called "big men". Big men lead example by working hard, who's function is to intensify production. A tribe is made of several clans, there is usually one tribe that is more important than the other, which are not based on economic classes. There is no true authority or laws. Egalitarian redistributive exchange is common in both.
When the Nuer men leave for several days or weeks and come back with the meat they distribute it with the whole tribe. Nobody is left without food. They are both patriarchal, where the men have more power than woman. Woman are known in the Hmong to stay home and watch the children and make the clothes.
They take great pride in their embroidery dress making. The Nuer woman also stay home. They may walk around and dig for roots to eat, but never hunt with the men. Women pound the millet to make beer or make jewelry out of bones. Both use a uni lineal descent system. Nuer people is traced through an exogamous patrilineal descent line, their kin is traced through males.
This is their most significant relationship with each other, their closest relatives. They both have patrilocal residency, when the bride lives with the grooms family. This however only happens after the child is born. Until the wife gives birth she lives with her parents.