Photo by Chen Haiwen
The Lahus ethnic minority has a population of 453,705, mainly distributed in the Lancang Lahu Autonomous County in Simao Prefecture, Southern Lincang Prefecture and Menghai County in western Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province. Others live in counties along the Lancang River.
The subtropical hilly areas along the Lancang River where the Lahu people live in compact communities are fertile, suitable for planting rice paddy, dry rice, maize, buckwheat as well as tea, tobacco, and sisal hemp. There are China fir and pine, camphor and nanmu trees in the dense forests, which are the habitat of such animals as red deer, muntjacs, wild oxen, bears, peacocks and parrots. Found here are also valuable medicinal herbs like pseudo-ginseng and devil pepper.
Mineral resources in the area include iron, copper, lead, aluminum, coal, silver, mica and tungsten.
The Lahu language belongs to the Chinese-Tibetan language family. Most of the Lahus also speak Chinese and the language of the Dais. In the past the custom of passing messages by wood-carving was prevalent. In some parts the alphabetic script invented by Western priests was in use. After liberation, the script was reformed and became their formal written language.
Lahu men wear a collarless jacket buttoned on the right side, baggy long trousers, and a black turban. The women wear a long robe with slits along the legs. Around the collar and slits are sewn broad strips of color cloth with beautiful patterns and studded with silver ornaments. Women's headdress extends a dozen feet long, hanging down the back and reaching the waist. Where the Lahus come into frequent contact with the Hans and Dais, they also are fond of the garments of those two ethnic groups.
Their houses are built on stilts, with the space below reserved for domestic animals. The style of building is similar to the Dais'.
Monogamy was practiced. In some areas such as Bakanai Township in Lancang County and Menghai County in Xishuangbanna, young people were free to choose their marriage partners, and only a few marriages were arranged by parents. Women played the dominant part in marital relations. After the wedding, the husband stayed permanently in the wife's home, and kinship was traced through the mother's side. In other areas, men played the dominant part in marriage. Betrothal gifts were sent through a matchmaker before the wedding. On the evening of the wedding day the husband was required to stay in the bride's home with his production tools. After 1949, with the implementation of the marriage law, the old custom of sending betrothal gifts had been less strictly observed.
Traditionally, the dead were cremated. During the burial, mourners were led to the common cremation ground by women, who carried on their backs articles used by the deceased people during their life time. In some places, the dead person was buried, and the tomb piled with stones. The whole village stopped working in mourning on the burial day.
Hani Ethnic Minority
Xishuangbanna Tropical Plants
Xishuangbanna Wild Elephant