Merced Cultural Treasures: The Hmong Qeej (gheng)



The Power of Stories is an archive of projects submitted every year to Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Statewide Convening. It showcases work created throughout California highlighting the power of individual and collective efforts to promote health and demonstrates how stories have the power to re-imagine and transform our communities. Produced in partnership with the California Endowment.

Project Submitted by: Alliance for California Traditional Arts

Project Summary: The qeej is taught to Hmong youth in an effort to create pride among the younger American-raised generations.

BHC Site: Merced

The qeej (pronounced "gheng"), a traditional bamboo reed instrument, is a crucial element to key life cycle events such as marriage negotiations, funeral rituals, and New Year ceremonies. Instruction is provided to the Hmong Cultural Youth Group, ages eight to eighteen, in an effort to create pride among the younger American-raised generations. Traditional arts activities developed self-esteem, bridged cultural gaps, and built upon leadership skills.

This video is part of the statewide Cultural Treasures of the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) project organized by the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA). This project was made possible by support from The California Endowment in partnership with the BHC Southwest Merced - East Merced County hub. Special thanks to Ber Xiong, master qeej teacher for the Merced Lao Family Community.

ACTA used a method called "participatory cultural asset mapping" mobilizing community members to identify the cultural treasures most meaningful to them. As part of efforts to improve community well-being, cultural workers from ACTA began identifying community-based cultural treasures to assist and support residents and groups engaged with The California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities. It started in Boyle Heights and the Eastern Coachella Valley in 2011 and in 2013, expanded to Merced and Santa Ana.



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