Last Friday, I attended the opening parade of the Soul Release Ceremony for General Vang Pao, a hero to the Hmong people. Here are a few photos from the parade, along with some interesting facts I learned from Bao Xiong, our Food Shelf Coordinator at HQB.
General Vang Pao was the first person in 500 years to unite the 18 Hmong clans in Laos. Following the Vietnam war, he founded the Hmong 18 Clan Council in Fresno, California in order to preserve Hmong culture and resolve disputes among Hmong refugees. Each of the clans was well-represented last weekend.
HQB’s very own Bao Xiong, former Miss Hmong California, participated in the parade.
When the parade began, these boys played the wooden flutes slung around their shoulders. Unique to the Hmong culture, the “qeej” (pronounced “gaeng”) flute captures what Wikipedia describes as the “lyrical qualities of the tonal Hmong language.” The flute is used to welcome the spirit of General Vang Pao.
The boys dance as they blow into their flutes. Dancing symbolizes the joy they feel in the presence of GVP’s spirit.
The front of the parade.
At the back of the parade, a house of silver and gold paper (“kauj vab,” pronounced “gao wa”), believed to contain GVP’s spirit, is carried. After the three day soul release ceremony is complete, the paper house is burned, so that GVP can take the silver and gold with him to heaven.
Another shot of the house of silver and gold. Within the house is a very thin basket, on the top of which sits GVP’s army hat and jacket.
A man looks at photos of GVP in the gallery room of the building where the ceremony was held.
The woman holding the hat is GVP’s widow. She is welcoming him and preparing for his spirit’s release.
For more information about General Vang Pao or the Hmong people, visit the GVP Memorial website or stop by the HQB food shelf and talk to Bao.