Lahu Nationality


Population and Distribution:

The Lahu ethnic minority now has a population of 453,705. Most of them are scattered around the Lancangjiang Lahu Autonomous County and Menglian, Shuangjiang Autonomous Counties, with others in the Simao, Lincang and Xishuangbanna Regions. It is said that the Lahu ethnic minority has been living there since the 18th century.

Language and Character:

The Lahu language is a member of Tibetan-Burman group of the Sina-Tibetan phylum. Their written characters were formed based on early ones that were more unified in 1957. Lahu, in their language, means to roast the meat of the tiger. It indicates that this ethnic group was quite good at hunting.


Most of the Lahu ethnic minority people believe in Mahayana (one of the major schools of Buddhism, teaching social concern and universal salvation) as well as the group's original religion, that is, they think everything in the world has its spirit. A few of them are Christians.


The Lahu people consider black to be very beautiful. Traditionally the men wear black coats, trousers, and black belts around their heads. Women's gowns greatly resemble cheong-sam (the traditional long dress with high collar and slit skirt).


The Lahu people normally cook in bamboo containers, which can both retain the pristine flavor of materials and add the fragrance of the fresh bamboo. They also like to make tea in bamboo wares. Through frying, pressing and baking, when the tea is taken out and steeped, it smells extremely distinctive.


In Lahu literature, there are many poems handed down orally. According to those, they are confident that their ancestors were born from cucurbit. This also affects their music. Many musical instruments are formed from cucurbit. Lusheng, a wind instrument constructed from bamboo and a gourd is their favorite.


The Lahu people regard the Spring Festival as the grandest days which are called 'Kuota' in their language and can be divided into the great year and the lesser year. The great year, from the first day to the fourth of the first lunar month, is celebrated especially for women and the other one from the ninth day to the eleventh, for men. The 'full year' indicates the twelfth day of that month and is celebrated by all the people.

This is derived from an old custom. Long ago, the men of the Lahu ethnic minority hunted afar and could not arrive home by the start of the New Year. When they returned, women would celebrate the New Year again with them. On the first day, they hurry to carry the first barrel of 'new water' that is the token of happiness, then worship their ancestors, and feed oxen with tender grass; on the third day, they visit each other with gifts of food, singing and dancing; after the 'full year' they hold various activities like swinging and playing the peg-top. This will last till the fifteenth day.


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