For Miens, the death of a family member requires carrying out a very specific set of ceremonies. If a parent has died, for example, then the first son would have to help shut the eyelids, and insert a silver coin in the corpse’s mouth. Miens believe that when a person dies with his/her eyes open, it means he/she died unhappily (may still have regrets). Therefore, by closing the eyelids of a corpse means “please go happy, leave any regrets behind.” The Mien have a saying, “A rich, valuable individual died with a silver coin in his mouth," something similar (but opposite) to the American saying, “A rich individual was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.”

When a father dies, the corpse is laid flat on a wooden board, facing up. The sons must then take turns to hold their father’s head with both hands, gently raising it up, and lowering back down. It means, “Go in peace father.” The corpse is then washed, dressed in traditional clothes, and put in front of the altar with the feet facing out toward the main door.
Mien casket Upon a Mien person's last gasp of breath, the first thing that must be done is to fire a gun into the air three times, in order to call heaven to help watch for the spirit and soul. The noise from the gunfire also helps warn the neighbors that a family member has just passed away. The surrounding residents often show courtesy and respect by taking a few days off from farming to help the family cope with their loss. Usually, one person or two from every family in the village would come and help prepare for the ceremony. The chief of the village selects six special helpers to help cut down a tree to carve a casket. When the casket is completed, the helpers bring it from the forest. A sorcerer performs a ritual around the casket, knocking the casket inside and out, chasing away the evil spirits, which may be hiding inside the casket. Once the corpse is put inside, the casket is sealed, nailed tight, and decorated with variety of paper-designs. The sorcerer keeps the dead person informed on every step of the way.
During the ceremony (which takes three days and three nights), all of the children, and relatives who are younger than the dead must wear a white cloth over their head. It is a sign of honor and respect. On the first day, friends and family prepare paper money, make dolls out of dough, make a paper boat, dress up the dead, and make the casket. On the second day, they build a miniature wooden bridge with towers, calling all known spirit ghosts to come down from the heaven to help guide the way. The third day encompasses finalizing the ceremony and taking the corpse to nearby cemetery for cremation and/or burial.

Choosing a Burial Spot

A burial site is usually a mid-size forest near the village. Before the casket is carried out of the main door, there are more rounds of gunfire. A group of men help carry the casket on their shoulders walking from the house to the nearby cemetery, accompanied with family, and relatives, playing drums, gongs, and other music instruments. At the cemetery, the casket is laid on the ground. A lady holding a rooster walks around the casket three times to ensure that the soul is separated from the body. Immediately after that a sorcerer steps atop of the casket does his chanting, steps down, and the casket is lit on the four corners. Minutes later, everyone turns his/her back and walk away from the site, never to look back at the fire. There’s a saying “if you look back, your spirit may go back with the death.”

The next morning, a sorcerer and few of his helpers return to the burning site to collect the bones for a permanent burial. A burial site can be a pre-selected spot, chosen by the dead person (when he was alive); it can be a peaceful place away from the cemetery, atop of the mountains, etc. The group brings with them an egg and a chicken to the selected burial area. The sorcerer does his chanting, informing the dead what he is about to do and tosses the egg on the ground. If the egg breaks, it means that particular spot is desired by the dead for the burial of his bones. But if the egg does not break, they will have to keep on tossing it around in different spots until it breaks. After the burial is done, those in attendance prepare the chicken and have a picnic as a compliment for a job well done. The above ceremony is for adults only. If a child dies before the age of twelve, before his cuotv biangh liemh ("flower blossoming") ceremony, he is usually buried in the village cemetery, no need for selecting sites, nor preparing a big ceremony.