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  • Lisu People

  • Area: Shangrila
  • The Lisu people (Burmese: [lìsʰú]; Chinese: 傈僳族, Lìsù zú; Thai: ลีสู่) are a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group who inhabit the mountainous regions of Burma (Myanmar), Southwest China, Thailand, and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

    About 730,000 live in Lijiang, Baoshan, Nujiang, Diqing and Dehong prefectures in Yunnan Province, China. The Lisu form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. In Burma, the Lisu are known as one of the seven Kachin minority groups and an estimated population of 350,000 Lisu live in Kachin and Shan State in Burma. Approximately 55,000 live in Thailand, where they are one of the six main hill tribes. They mainly inhabit the remote country areas.Their culture has traits shared with the Ayi culture.


The Lisu are believed to originate from eastern Tibet. Research done by Lisu scholars indicates that they moved to northwestern Yunnan. They inhabited a region across Baoshan and the Tengchong plain for thousands of years. The Lisu, Lahu, Akha and Kachin languages are Tibetan–Burman languages, distantly related to Burmese and Tibetan.After the Han Chinese Ming Dynasty, around 1140-1644 A.D. the eastern and Southern Lisu language and culture were greatly influenced by Han culture of China.[9Taiping village in Yinjiang, Yunnan, China, was first established by Lu Shi Lisu people about 1000 years ago.[citation needed] In the mid-19th century, Lisu peoples in Yinjiang began moving into Momeik, Burma, a population of Southern Lisu moved into Mogok, north-eastern Burma, and then in the late 19th century, moved into northern Thailand

The Lisu of India:

Lisu is one of the minority tribes of Arunachal Pradesh of India. They live mainly in vijoynagar Circle. Lisus are found in Miao, Kharsang etc. of Changlang District.

The Lisu people have never really migrated into India. The Lisus traditionally lived in the Yunan Province of China and Northern Myanmar. Those who live in China side of the mountain called themselves as NOMIPHA (Men of NOMI). And those who live in Myanmar are called CHOMIPHA (MEN OR People of CHOMI)

And according to Lisu traditional understanding, this CHOMI extends from China-Myanmar border to MOLOSHIDILO (Gandigram)

INDIAN GOVT DISCOVERS THE LISUS: It was on 7th-May-1961 (Sunday), the 7th Assam Rifles expedition team led by Late Major Sumer Singh entered the Moloshidi valley and reached the largest village in the valley, Shidi (now called Gandhigram). They were accorded warm reception by the villagers and further told by the villagers that they were the first ever to have visited in the Lisu land, Moloshidi valley. The Assam Rifles team assured the villagers that from now on this virgin land will be under India and the people will be protected from any enemy aggression. Till then there was no International Boundary line in the Moloshidi valley. In 1972 only Demarcation of International Boundary with Burma was done and for which the guides were the local Lisus who had full knowledge about nook and corner of the valley as they had been living in the valley since time immemorial. During Demarcation, cement pillars were erected at strategic high rise locations guided by the local Lisus and in the process the Moloshidi valley fell in Indian side.

The LISUS WHO CAME TO INDIA FROM MYANMAR-LEDO ROAD. Some groups of Lisus took the then "Ledo" road. Some of them worked as coal miners under Britishers. (One certificate originally belonged to one Aphu Lisu is a British Coal Miner's certificate as old as 1918 preserved by the Lisus)This certificate bears the sign of the then governor who administrated from Lakhimpur, Assam. Most of the Lisus who thus lived in Assam have gone back to Myanmar. However, Some are still found in Kharangkhu area of Assam, Kharsang Circle of Arunachal Pradesh. While most have lost their mother tongue, some have preserved the language and the culture almost intact.


The Lisu tribe consists of more than 58 different clans. Each family clan has its own name or surname. The biggest family clans well known among the tribe clans are Laemae pha (Shue or The Grass), Bya pha (The Bee), Thorne pha, Ngwa Pha (Fish), Naw pha (Thou or Bean), Seu pha ( the Woods), Khaw pha. Most of the family names came from their own work as hunters in the primitive time. However, later, they adopted many Chinese family names.

After the Ming Dynasty, most Lisu tribe people had become a people that lived in villages high in the mountains or in mountain valleys. However, those who still lived in the Paoshan plains, standing on the side of the Qing Dynasty, fought against the kingdom of Ming. The Lisu knife ladder climbing festival was first held as a memorial event of victory over Ming in 1644 A.D. The Lisu people invented their own traditional dance so called "che-ngoh-che" along with the Lisu guitar which has no bars on the fretboard. They invented another musical instrument called fulu jewlew as well. It is a kind of flute that has about six or seven small bamboo tubes tied up together to a dried-hollow-gourd.[citation needed] Songs and dances are different from each other according to the occasions. They have different songs and dances for weddings, homecoming hunters, harvest time and so on, separately.

Lisu villages are usually built close to water to provide easy access for washing and drinking.[9] Their homes are usually built on the ground and have dirt floors and bamboo walls, although an increasing number of the more affluent Lisu are now building houses from wood or even concrete.

Lisu subsistence was based on paddy fields, mountain rice, fruit and vegetables. However, they have typically lived in ecologically fragile regions that do not easily support subsistence. They also faced constant upheaval from both physical and social disasters (earthquakes and landslides; wars and governments). Therefore, they have typically been dependent on trade for survival. This included work as porters and caravan guards. With the introduction of the opium poppy as a cash crop in the early 19th century, many Lisu populations were able to achieve economic stability. This lasted for over 100 years, but opium production has all but disappeared in Thailand and China due to interdiction of production. Very few Lisu ever used opium, or its more common derivative heroin, except for medicinal use by the elders to alleviate the pain of arthritis.

The Lisu practiced swidden (slash and burn) horticulture. In conditions of low population density where land can be fallowed for many years, swiddening is an environmentally sustainable form of horticulture. Despite decades of swiddening by hill tribes such as the Lisu, northern Thailand had a higher proportion of intact forest than any other part of Thailand. However, with road building by the state, logging (some legal but mostly illegal) by Thai companies,enclosure of land in national parks, and influx of immigrants from the lowlands, swidden fields can not be fallowed, can not re-grow, and swiddening results in large swathes of deforested mountainsides. Under these conditions, Lisu and other swiddeners have been forced to turn to new methods of agriculture to sustain themselves.

Lisu Women in Traditional Dress, Northern ThailandPerhaps the best-known subgroup of the Lisu is the Flowery Lisu in Thailand, due to hill tribe tourism. Lisu women are remarked for their brightly colored dress. They wear a multi-colored knee-length tunics of red, blue or green with a wide black belt and blue or black pants. Sleeve shoulders and cuffs are decorated with a dense applique of narrow horizontal bands of blue, red and yellow. Men wear baggy pants, usually in bright colors but normally wear a more western type of shirt or top.


Animism, shamanism, ancestor worship
Lisu practice a religion that is part animistic, part ancestor worship, but is mixed within complex local systems of place-based religion. Most important rituals are performed by shamans. The main Lisu Festival corresponds to the Chinese New Year and is celebrated with music, feasting and drinking, as are weddings; people wear large amounts of silver jewelry and wear their best clothes at these times as a means of displaying their success in the previous agricultural year. In each traditional village there is a sacred grove at the top of the village, where the sky spirit or, in Thailand, the Old Grandfather Spirit, are propitiated with offerings; each house has an ancestor altar at the back of the house.See later sections of this article for Christianity among the Lisu.

Beginning in the 20th century, some Lisu people in China and Burma converted to Christianity. Missionaries such as James O. Fraser, Allyn Cooke and Isobel Kuhn and her husband, John, of the China Inland Mission (now OMF International), were active with the Lisu of Yunnan.[23] The Chinese government's Religious Affairs Bureau has proposed considering Christianity as the official religion of the Lisu.[24] According to OMF International estimates, as of 2008, there are now at least 300,000 Christian Lisu in Yunnan, and 150,000 in Burma (between 40-50% of the Lisu population of each country). The Lisu of Thailand have remained largely unchanged by Christian influences.