Open Access Articles- Top Results for Yi people

Yi people

For the peoples living to the east of the early Chinese civilization, see Dongyi.



Alternative names:
Nuosu and dozens of others
Total population
Regions with significant populations
China: Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou, Guangxi
Vietnam 4,541 (2009)[2]
Mandarin, Yi (minority)
Bimoism, minority of Buddhists and Christians
Related ethnic groups
Naxi, Qiang, Tibetan, possibly Tujia.

The Yi or Lolo people[3] are an ethnic group in China, Vietnam, and Thailand. Numbering 8 million, they are the seventh largest of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. They live primarily in rural areas of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi, usually in mountainous regions. As of 1999, there were 3,300 "Lô Lô" people living in Hà Giang, Cao Bằng, and Lào Cai provinces in northeastern Vietnam. Most Yi are farmers; herders of cattle, sheep and goats; and nomadic hunters.[citation needed]

The Yi speak various Loloish languages, Sino-Tibetan languages closely related to Burmese. The prestige variety is Nuosu, which is written in the Yi script.


Of the more than 8 million Yi people, over 4.5 million live in Yunnan Province, 2.5 million live in southern Sichuan Province, and 1 million live in the northwest corner of Guizhou Province. Nearly all the Yi live in mountainous areas,[citation needed] often carving out their existence on the sides of steep mountain slopes far from the cities of China.

The altitudinal differences of the Yi areas directly affect the climate and precipitation of these areas. These striking differences are the basis of the old saying that "The weather is different a few miles away" in the Yi area. This is the primary reason why the Yi in various areas are so different from one another in the ways they make a living.[4]


Although different groups of Yi refer to themselves in different ways (including Nisu, Sani, Axi, Lolo, Acheh) and sometimes speak mutually unintelligible dialects, they have been grouped into a single ethnicity by the Chinese, and the various local appellations can be classified into three groups:

  • Ni (). The appellations of Nuosu,[5] Nasu, Nesu, Nisu, and other similar names are considered derivatives of the original autonym “” (Nip) appended with the suffix -su, indicating "people". The name "Sani" is also a variety of this group. Further, it is widely believed that the Chinese names 夷 and 彝 (both pinyin: ) were derived from Ni.
  • Lolo. The appellations of Lolo, Lolopu, etc. are related to the Yi people’s worship of the tiger, as “lo” in their dialects means "tiger". "Lo" is also the basis for the Chinese exonym Luóluó 猓猓, 倮倮, or 罗罗. The original character 猓, with the "dog radical" 犭and a guǒ 果 phonetic, was a graphic pejorative,[6] comparable to the Chinese name guǒran 猓然 "a long-tailed ape". Languages reforms in the PRC replaced the 猓 character in Luóluó twice. First by Luó 倮, with the "human radical" 亻and the same phonetic, but that was a graphic variant for luǒ 裸 "naked"; and later by Luó 罗 "net for catching birds". Paul K. Benedict noted, "a leading Chinese linguist, has remarked that the name 'Lolo' is offensive only when written with the 'dog' radical.[7]
  • Other. This group includes various other appellations of different groups of Yi. Some of them may be of other ethnic groups but are recognised as Yi by the Chinese. The "Pu" may be relevant to an ancient ethnic group Pu (Chinese: 濮). In the legends of the northern Yi, the Yi people conquered Pu and its territory in the northeastern part of the modern Liangshan.

(Groups listed below are sorted by their broad linguistic classification and the general geographic area where they live. Within each section, larger groups are listed first.)

Classification Approximate total population Groups
Southern 1,082,120 Nisu, Southern Nasu, Muji, A Che, Southern Gaisu, Pula,
Boka, Lesu, Chesu, Laowu, Alu, Azong, Xiuba
Southeastern 729,760 Poluo, Sani, Axi, Azhe, Southeastern Lolo, Jiasou, Puwa,
Aluo, Awu, Digao, Meng, Xiqi, Ati, Daizhan, Asahei, Laba,
Zuoke, Ani, Minglang, Long
Central 565,080 Lolopo, Dayao Lipo, Central Niesu, Enipu, Lopi, Popei
Eastern 1,456,270 Eastern Nasu, Panxian Nasu, Wusa Nasu, Shuixi Nosu,
Wuding Lipo, Mangbu Nosu, Eastern Gepo, Naisu, Wumeng,
Naluo, Samei, Sanie, Luowu, Guopu, Gese, Xiaohei Neisu,
Dahei Neisu, Depo, Laka, Lagou, Aling, Tushu, Gouzou,
Wopu, Eastern Samadu
Western 1,162,040 Mishaba Laluo, Western Lolo, Xiangtang, Xinping Lalu,
Yangliu Lalu, Tusu, Gaiji, Jiantou Laluo, Xijima, Limi, Mili,
Lawu, Qiangyi, Western Samadu, Western Gepo,
Xuzhang Lalu, Eka, Western Gaisu, Suan, Pengzi
Northern 2,534,120 Shengba Nosu, Yinuo Nosu, Xiaoliangshan Nosu, Butuo Nosu,
Suodi, Tianba Nosu, Bai Yi, Naruo, Naru, Talu, Mixisu, Liwu,
Northern Awu, Tagu, Liude, Naza, Ta'er
Unclassified 55,490 Michi (Miqie), Jinghong Nasu, Apu, Muzi, Tanglang, Micha,
Ayizi, Guaigun


Some scholars believe that the Yi are descended from the ancient Qiang people of today's western China, who are also said to be the ancestors of the Tibetan, Naxi and Qiang peoples. They migrated from southeastern Tibet through Sichuan and into the Yunnan Province, where their largest populations can be found today.

They practice a form of animism, led by a shaman priest known as the Bimaw. They still retain a few ancient religious texts written in their unique pictographic script. Their religion also contains many elements of Daoism and Buddhism.

Many of the Yi in Liangshan and northwestern Yunnan practiced a complicated form of slavery. People were split into the nuohuo or Black Yi (nobles), qunuo or White Yi (commoners), and slaves. White Yi were free and could own property and slaves but were in a way tied to a lord. Other ethnic groups were held as slaves.[8][9][10][11][12][13]


Most Yi believe they have the same ancestor, ꀉꁌꅋꃅ or ꀉꁌꐧꃅ (Axpu Ddutmu or Axpu Jjutmu). It is said that Apu Dumu married three wives and had six sons: each of the wives bore two sons. In the legend, the oldest two sons leading their tribes conquered other aborigines of Yunnan and began to reside in most territory of Yunnan. The youngest two sons led their tribes eastwards and were defeated by Han, before finally making western Guizhou their home and creating the largest quantity of Yi script documents. The other two sons led their tribes across the Jinsha River and dwelled in Liangshan. This group had close intermarriage with the local (Pup).

Known history

Most Yi live in Liangshan, Chuxiong, and Honghe. At the Lizhou archaeological site (Chinese: 礼州遗址) near Xichang of Liangshan, dating to 3,000 years ago, many artifacts of the Neolithic Age have been discovered. Although no evidence proves that these ancient cultures of stone age have direct correlation with modern Yi people, their descendants, local bronze culture, may have had some influence on Yi people, as the ancestors of Yi people had frequent contact and intermarriage with local tribes, such as Dian (Chinese: 滇), Qiong (Chinese: 邛) and Zuo (Chinese: 笮), during their southwards migration from north eastern edge of Tibetan Plateau. Today, the Yi people still call the city of Xichang as ꀒꎂ (Op Rro). In spite of the affix “or-”, the root “dro” is believed by some scholars as related to the tribe Qiong (Chinese: 邛) as the pronunciation is quite close to the ancient pronunciation of Chinese character 邛.

During the Han dynasty, the central sovereign of China conquered the valley of Anning River, which is a tributary of Yalong River, and founded a county there named Qiongdu (Chinese: 邛都). The site is Xichang of present day and from that time onwards, Xichang has become the bridge of Chengdu and Kunming across Yi area. Since Han dynasty, Yi people have been involved in the history of China. In the north dialect of modern Yi language, Chinese Han is still called ꉌꈲ (Hxie mgat), which is related to the Chinese word 汉家 (pinyin: Hànjiā), which means household of Han.

After the Han dynasty, the Shu of the Three Kingdoms conducted several wars against the ancestors of Yi under the lead of Zhuge Liang. They defeated the king of Yi, ꂽꉼ (Mot Hop; Chinese: 孟获) and expanded their conquered territory in Yi area. After that, the Jin Dynasty succeed Shu as the suzerainty of Yi area but with weak control.

After the Jin dynasty, central China entered the era of the Southern and Northern Dynasties with frequent wars against the invading nomads from the north and lost its control of Yi and Yi area.

Although the Sui dynasty reunited China, it did not retrieve control of Yi but had close communications with Han residential spots scattered within Yi area (most along Anning River). After the Sui dynasty's mere 37 years, the situation continued in Tang dynasty. During Sui and Tang dynasty, the local aborigines of present-day Yunnan and Liangshan were distinguished by Chinese Han as Wuman (Chinese: 乌蛮, meaning black barbarian) and Baiman (Chinese: 白蛮, meaning white barbarian). Some scholars believe that Wuman is the ancestor of modern Yi while Baiman is the ancestor of modern Bai people (Chinese: 白族) of Yunnan.

The Wuman and Baiman people founded six independent cities on Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau.[citation needed] The cities were known as zhao (Chinese: 诏) in Chinese texts, meaning 'city chieftain'. In 649 the king Xinuluo (Chinese: 细奴逻) of the Mengshe Zhao (Chinese: 蒙舍诏) extended his city's territory into a kingdom that assumed the name Great Meng (Chinese: 大蒙国). Great Meng was near Erhai Lake. Yi people[who?] believe[citation needed] the capital of the Great Meng was located in the area of nowaday Weishan county. In 737 with the support of the Tang dynasty of China, King Piluoge (Chinese: 皮罗阁) of the Great Meng united the six cities (zhao) in succession, establishing a new kingdom. As the Great Meng was the most southern of the six, the Tang dynasty recorded the united Great Meng as Nanzhao (Chinese: 南诏), which means the southern city. Although academic arguments exist (see Controversy of Nanzhao), there is a popular[citation needed] view that the royal family of Nanzhao were Yi people and ministers were Bai people. In the Weishan county of today, the saga of King Piluoge is still widely told.[citation needed]

Tibet also noted the spring of Nanzhao, which in Tibetan is called Jang. Although Tibet had maintained suzerainty over Nanzhao for decades, Nanzhao finally turned to the Tang dynasty. At the era of King Geluofeng (Chinese 阁罗凤), who was the son of King Piluoge, the Tang dynasty performed three expeditions against Nanzhao to conquer it, but all failed.

Nanzhao existed for 165 years until A.D. 902. After 35 years of tangled warfare, Duan Siping (Chinese 段思平) of the Bai birth founded the Kingdom of Dali, succeeding the territory of Nanzhao. Most Yi of that time were under the ruling of Dali. Dali’s sovereign existed for 316 years coterminous with the Song dynasty of central China, until it was conquered by Kublai Khan. During the era of Dali, Yi people lived in the territory of Dali but had little communication with the royalty of Dali.

Kublai Khan included Dali in his domain, grouping it with Tibet. The Yuan emperors remained firmly in control of the Yi people and the area they inhabited as part of Kublai Khan's Yunnan Xingsheng (Chinese: 云南行省) at current Yunnan, Guizhou and part of Sichuan. In order to enhance its sovereign over the area, the Yuan dynasty set up a dominion for Yi, Luoluo Xuanweisi (Chinese: 罗罗宣慰司), the name of which means local appeasement government for Lolos. Although technically under the rule of the Yuan emperor, the Yi still had autonomy during the Yuan dynasty. The gulf between aristocrats and the common people increased during this time.

During the Ming dynasty the Chinese emperor expedited its cultural assimilation policy in southwestern China, spreading the policy of Gai Tu Gui Liu (Chinese: 改土归流). The governing power of many Yi feudal lords had previously been expropriated by the successors of officials assigned by the central government. With the progress of Gai Tu Gui Liu, the Yi area was dismembered into many communities both large and small, and it was difficult for the communities to communicate with each other as there were often Han-ruled areas between them.

The Kangxi Emperor of the Qing dynasty defeated Wu Sangui and took over the land of Yunnan and established a provincial government there. When Ortai became the Viceroy of Yunnan and Guizhou during the era of Yongzheng Emperor, the policy of Gai Tu Gui Liu and cultural assimilation against Yi were strengthened. Under these policies, Yi who lived near Kunming were forced to abandon their convention of traditional cremation and adopt burial, a policy which triggered rebellions among the Yi. The Qing dynasty suppressed these rebellions.

After the Second Opium War (1856–1860), many Christian missionaries from France and Great Britain visited the area in which the Yi lived. Although some missionaries believed that Yi of some areas such as Liangshan were not under the ruling of Qing dynasty and should be independent, most aristocrats insisted that Yi was a part of China despite their resentment against Qing rule.

Long Yun, a Yi, was the military governor of Yunnan, during the Republic of China rule on mainland China.

The Fourth Front Army of the CCP encountered the Yi people during the Long March, and many Yi joined the communist forces.[according to whom?]

Much like their Tibetan neighbors, the Yi, specifically the Lolo, actively resisted the Communist occupation of their homeland. This manifested in a large scale armed revolt against the Communist Chinese in 1955, leading to thousands of losses on the Chinese side before the revolt was finally put down. In retribution, the Communist forces staged mass executions in which Lolo men, women, and children were bayoneted and shot. The true scale of these reprisals remains a mystery.[14]

After the establishment of the PRC, several Yi autonomous administrative districts of prefecture or county level were set up in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou. With the development of automotive traffic and telecommunications, the communications among different Yi areas have been increasing sharply.


The Chinese government recognizes six mutually unintelligible Yi languages, from various branches of the Loloish family:[15]

Northern Yi (Nuosu 诺苏), Western Yi (Lalo 腊罗), Central Yi (Lolopo 倮倮泼), Southern Yi (Nisu 尼苏), Southeastern Yi (Sani 撒尼), Eastern Yi (Nasu 纳苏).

Northern Yi is the largest with some two million speakers, and is the basis of the literary language. There are also ethnically Yi languages of Vietnam which use the Yi script, such as Mantsi.

Many Yi in Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi know Standard Chinese, and code switching between Yi and Chinese is common.


By province

By county

County-level distribution of the Yi 2000 census

(Only includes counties or county-equivalents containing >1% of county population.)

county/city Yi % Yi Total
Longlingezu autonomous county 1,03 3563 347462
Sichuan province 2,58 2122389 82348296
Panzhihua city 10,11 110326 1091657
Dong district 1,25 3945 315707
Xi district 1,84 3148 170862
Renhe district 19,06 38907 204170
Miyi county 13,21 27381 207300
Yanbian county 19,08 36945 193618
Leshan city 3,53 117355 3324139
Jinkouhe district 10,15 5373 52916
Ebian Yi autonomous county 30,65 43269 141166
Mabian Yi autonomous county 39,15 66723 170425
Pingshan county 2,00 5004 250620
Yaan city 2,04 31013 1522845
Hanyuan county 4,51 15686 347471
Shimian county 11,17 13769 123261
Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture 2,56 22946 897239
Luding county 4,40 3424 77855
Jiulong county 37,01 18806 50816
Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture 44,43 1813683 4081697
Xichang city 16,48 101369 615212
Muli Tibetan autonomous county 27,71 34489 124462
Yanyuan county 47,67 149568 313765
Dechang county 23,18 43810 188980
Huili county 17,33 75064 433185
Huidong county 6,91 24279 351310
Ningnan county 21,85 37134 169962
Puge county 76,55 106521 139156
Butuo county 95,44 132285 138604
Jinyang county 78,42 109813 140028
Zhaojue county 96,75 200951 207712
Xide county 85,74 118048 137676
Mianning county 33,39 108289 324332
Yuexi county 72,54 172505 237800
Ganluo county 68,66 120445 175426
Meigu county 97,81 172356 176214
Leibo county 51,36 106757 207873
Guizhou province 2,39 843554 35247695
Baiyun district 1,04 1961 187695
Qingzhen city 1,65 7761 471305
Liupanshui city 9,56 262308 2744085
Zhongshan district 5,64 25549 453293
Liuzhite district 11,32 61319 541762
Shuicheng county 11,70 79339 678228
Pan county 8,97 96101 1070802
Qianxi'nan Bouyei Miao autonomous prefecture 2,05 58766 2864920
Xingyi city 2,02 14521 719605
Xingren county 2,44 10372 425091
Puan county 2,66 6905 259881
Qinglong county 6,76 17436 258031
Anlong county 2,28 9094 399384
Bijie prefecture 7,41 468800 6327471
Bijie city 4,26 48094 1128230
Dafang county 10,84 92295 851729
Qianxi county 8,67 60420 697075
Jinsha county 4,17 20696 496063
Zhijin county 3,81 31420 825350
Nayong county 5,72 37840 661772
Weining Yi Hui Miao autonomous county 9,06 95629 1056009
Hezhang county 13,48 82406 611243
Yunnan province 11,11 4705658 42360089
Kunming city 6,65 384531 5781294
Wuhua district 2,56 10580 413420
Panlong district 1,59 5468 344754
Guandu district 3,38 47311 1398305
Xishan district 5,07 30617 603363
Dongchuan district 3,26 8984 275564
Chenggong county 1,22 2202 180685
Jinning county 7,64 20443 267739
Fumin county 7,44 10422 140046
Yiliang county 6,06 24051 396677
Shilin Yi autonomous county 32,49 72779 223978
Luquan Yi Miao autonomous county 22,45 96388 429355
Xundian Hui Yi autonomous county 8,91 42934 481721
Anning city 3,34 9872 295173
Qujing city 3,85 210351 5466089
Qilin district 2,16 14041 648956
Malong county 3,41 6326 185766
Shizong county 6,21 21718 349770
Luoping county 6,44 33159 515211
Fuyuan county 7,16 47076 657474
Huize county 2,00 16910 844485
Zhanyi county 2,16 8406 389838
Xuanwei city 4,46 57708 1292825
Yuxi city 19,32 400412 2073005
Hongta district 9,02 36905 409044
Jiangchuan county 5,48 14087 257078
Chengjiang county 1,82 2726 149748
Tonghai county 5,82 16017 275063
Huaning county 21,29 41844 196519
Yimen county 26,75 45362 169581
Eshan Yi autonomous county 52,36 79289 151426
Xinping Yi Dai autonomous county 46,20 122259 264615
Yuanjiang Hani Yi Dai autonomous county 20,97 41923 199931
Zhaotong prefecture 3,23 148521 4592388
Zhaotong city 2,58 18758 727959
Ludian county 2,51 8686 345740
Qiaojia county 2,86 13183 461034
Daguan county 1,98 4667 235802
Yongshan county 4,72 17130 362943
Zhenxiong county 5,78 63463 1097093
Yiliang county 4,24 20269 477811
Chuxiong Yi autonomous prefecture 26,31 668937 2542530
Chuxiong city 19,05 95959 503682
Shuangbai county 43,10 66110 153403
Mouding county 22,03 43032 195322
Nanhua county 36,07 82223 227970
Yaoan county 25,38 50526 199071
Dayao county 29,52 82620 279838
Yongren county 49,44 51223 103606
Yuanmou county 24,25 49179 202779
Wuding county 30,18 79254 262601
Lufeng county 16,61 68811 414258
Honghe Hani Yi autonomous prefecture 23,57 973732 4130463
Gejiu city 20,27 91902 453311
Kaiyuan city 33,09 96647 292039
Mengzi county 29,38 99917 340051
Pingbian Miao autonomous county 18,51 27596 149088
Jianshui county 29,02 149071 513712
Shiping county 53,67 148987 277580
Mile county 30,92 153235 495642
Luxi county 7,99 29202 365585
Yuanyang county 24,01 87137 362950
Honghe county 14,23 38086 267627
Jinping Miao Yao Dai autonomous county 11,97 37837 316171
Lvchun county 4,92 9894 201256
Hekou Yao autonomous county 4,42 4221 95451
Wenshan Zhuang Miao autonomous prefecture 10,62 347194 3268553
Wenshan county 17,28 74255 429639
Yanshan county 21,11 92356 437508
Xichou county 3,95 9332 236120
Malipo county 2,25 6036 267986
Maguan county 9,16 32056 350002
Qiubei county 18,05 78327 434009
Guangnan county 5,84 42675 730376
Funing county 3,17 12157 382913
Simao prefecture 16,58 411120 2480346
Simao city 15,12 34904 230834
Puer Hani Yi autonomous county 19,45 36589 188106
Mojiang Hani autonomous county 9,23 32812 355364
Jingdong Yi autonomous county 39,92 140556 352089
Jinggu Dai Yi autonomous county 20,59 59476 288794
Zhenyuan Yi Hani Lahu autonomous county 27,28 56119 205709
Jiangcheng Hani Yi autonomous county 13,47 13503 100243
Menglian Dai Lahu Va autonomous county 2,40 4999 208593
Lancang Lahu autonomous county 6,74 31255 464016
Ximeng Va autonomous county 1,05 907 86598
Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture 5,61 55772 993397
Jinghong city 5,56 24673 443672
Menghai county 2,28 7175 314068
Mengla county 10,15 23924 235657
Dali Bai autonomous prefecture 12,94 426634 3296552
Dali city 2,95 15385 521169
Yangbi Yi autonomous county 46,09 48565 105380
Xiangyun county 7,26 31733 437371
Binchuan county 6,27 20332 324412
Midu county 8,35 24791 296860
Nanjian Yi autonomous county 47,24 99159 209887
Weishan Yi Hui autonomous county 34,07 100879 296124
Yongping county 26,56 47391 178438
Yunlong county 5,45 10739 196978
Eryuan county 3,00 9443 315003
Jianchuan county 2,88 4771 165900
Heqing county 5,40 13446 249030
Baoshan prefecture 3,23 75877 2348315
Baoshan city 4,61 39025 846865
Shidian county 3,62 11360 314187
Longling county 1,83 4758 260097
Changning county 6,04 20123 333241
Lijiang prefecture 18,68 210431 1126646
Lijiang Naxi autonomous county 2,42 8871 366705
Yongsheng county 12,43 46703 375769
Huaping county 8,26 12808 154968
Ninglang Yi autonomous county 61,97 142049 229204
Nujiang Lisu autonomous prefecture 1,99 9805 491824
Lushui county 2,28 3915 171974
Lanping Bai Pumi autonomous county 2,91 5727 196977
Diqing Tibetan autonomous prefecture 3,29 11616 353518
Zhongdian county 6,50 9586 147416
Weixi Lisu autonomous county 1,38 2016 146017
Lincang prefecture 15,77 367880 2332570
Lincang county 5,43 15478 285163
Fengqing county 27,61 117883 426943
Yun county 37,96 158099 416507
Yongde county 8,68 29521 339918
Zhenkang county 17,19 31334 182258
Shuangjiang Lahu Va Blang Dai autonomous county 1,57 2605 165982
Gengma Dai Va autonomous county 3,57 11193 313220


The Yi script was originally logosyllabic like Chinese, and dates to at least the 13th century. There were perhaps 10,000 characters, many of which were regional, since the script had never been standardized across the Yi peoples. A number of works of history, literature, and medicine, as well as genealogies of the ruling families, written in the Old Yi script are still in use, and there are Old Yi stone tablets and steles in the area.

Under the Communist government, the script was standardized as a syllabary. Syllabic Yi is widely used in books, newspapers, and street signs.


The Yi play a number of traditional musical instruments, including large plucked and bowed string instruments,[16] as well as wind instruments called bawu (巴乌) and mabu (马布). The Yi also play the hulu sheng, though unlike other minority groups in Yunnan, the Yi do not play the hulu sheng for courtship or love songs (aiqing). The kouxian, a small four-pronged instrument similar to the Jew's harp, is another commonly found instrument among the Liangshan Yi. Kouxian songs are most often improvised and are supposed to reflect the mood of the player or the surrounding environment. Kouxian songs can also occasionally function in the aiqing form. Yi dance is perhaps the most commonly recognized form of musical performance, as it is often performed during publicly sponsored holidays and/or festival events.

Yi people's son's given name is patronymic, based on the last one or two syllable of father's name.



Main article: Bimoism

Bimoism is the ethnic religion of the Yi. Shaman-priests of this faith are known as bimo, which means "master of scriptures". Bimo officiate at births, funerals, weddings and holidays. They are often seen along the street consulting ancient scripts. The Yi worship deified ancestors similarly to the Chinese traditional religion practitioners, besides gods of local nature: fire, hills, trees, rocks, water, earth, sky, wind, and forests.

Ritual performances play a major role in daily life through healing, exorcism, asking for rain, cursing enemies, blessing, divination and analysis of one's relationship with the gods. They believe dragons protect villages against bad spirits, and demons cause diseases. However, the Yi dragon is neither similar to dragon in Western culture nor the same as that in Han culture. After someone dies they sacrifice a pig or sheep at the doorway to maintain relationship with the deceased spirit. The Yi believe that bad spirits cause illness, poor harvests and other misfortunes and inhabit all material things. The Yi also believe in multiple souls. At death, one soul remains to watch the grave while the other is eventually reincarnated into some living form.

The Nosu form of Bimoism (the religion of the Nosu or Nuosu subgroup of the Yi) distinguishes two sorts of shamans: the bimo and the suni, respectively hereditary and ordained priests. One can become bimo by patrilineal descent after a time of apprenticeship or formally acknowledging an old bimo as the teacher, a suni must be elected. Bimo are the most revered, to the point that the Nosu religion is also called "bimo religion". Bimo can read Yi scripts while suni cannot. Both can perform rituals, but only bimo can perform rituals linked to death. For most cases, suni only perform some exorcism to cure diseases. Generally, suni can only be from humble civil birth while bimo can be of both aristocratic and humble families.

In recent decades the Bimoist faith has undergone a revival, with large temples built in the early 2010s.[17][18][19]

Other religions

In Yunnan, some of the Yi have adopted Buddhism as a result of exchanges with other predominantly Buddhist ethnic groups present in Yunnan, such as the Dai and the Tibetans. The most important god of Yi Buddhism is Mahākāla, a wrathful deity found in Vajrayana and Tibetan Buddhism. In the 20th century, some Yi people in China converted to Christianity, after the arrival of Gladstone Porteous in 1904 and, later, medical missionaries such as Alfred James Broomhall, Janet Broomhall, Ruth Dix and Joan Wales of the China Inland Mission. According to missionary organization OMF International, the exact number of Yi Christians is not known. In 1991 it was reported that there were as many as 150,000 Yi Christians in Yunnan Province, especially in Luquan County where there are more than 20 churches.[20]


See also


  1. ^ - The Yi Ethnic Group
  2. ^ "The 2009 Vietnam Population and Housing Census: Completed Results". General Statistics Office of Vietnam: Central Population and Housing Census Steering Committee. June 2010. p. 135. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  3. ^ Nuosu: ꆈꌠ [nɔ̄sū]; Chinese transcription: 诺苏 Nuòsū; Chinese: 彝族; pinyin: Yízú; Vietnamese: Lô Lô; Thai: โล-โล, Lo-Lo
  4. ^ "Ethnic Groups -". Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  5. ^ Some scholars, however, argue that the Nuosu-series appellations are from the word "black" instead (, Nuo).
  6. ^ Ramsey, Robert S. (1987). The Languages of China, p. 160. Princeton University Press.
  7. ^ Benedict, Paul K. (1987). "Autonyms: ought or ought not." Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area 10: 188. Italics in original.
  8. ^ Martin Schoenhals Intimate Exclusion: Race and Caste Turned Inside Out 2003- Page 26 "A non-slave-owning Black Yi, or a poor one, was nonetheless always higher in caste status than any White Yi, even a wealthy one or one owning slaves, and the Black Yi manifested this superiority by refusing to marry White Yi even if the latter ..."
  9. ^ Barbara A. West Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania 2009 - Page 910 "Yi society prior to the revolution in 1949 was divided into four ranked classes or castes: Nuohuo, or Black Yi; Qunuo, or White Yi; Ajia; and Xiaxi. The Nuohuo, or Black Yi, was the highest and smallest caste at just about 7 percent of the ..."
  10. ^ Yongming Zhou Anti-Drug Crusades in Twentieth-Century - China: Nationalism, ... - 1999 - Page 150 "The black Yi (about 7 percent of the population) made up the aristocratic ruling class, and the white Yi held subordinate status. Within the white Yi, however, there were three subgroups: Qunuo, Anjia, and Jiaxi. Qunuo (about 50 percent of the ..."
  11. ^ S. Robert Ramsey The Languages of China 1987- Page 253 "The Black Yi looked down on farming, and all cultivation was traditionally done by White Yi and slaves. The Black Yi were responsible only for administration and military protection. Even so, however, they usually took great care to tend to their ..."
  12. ^ Stevan Harrell Perspectives on the Yi of Southwest China 2001 - Page 174 "One village is for Black Yi, who speak Black Yi language. One village is for White Yi, who speak White Yi language. One place is for Red Yi, who speak Red Yi language. One village is for Gan Yi, who speak Gan Yi language. One village is for ..."
  13. ^ Daniel H. Bays Christianity in China: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present 1999- Page 144 "In the local hierarchy of ethnic groups, they ranked near the bottom, below the Chinese, the Yi aristocracy (Black Yi) and free men (White Yi), and the Hui, closer to the Yi slave caste."
  14. ^ Norbu, Jamyang. "Learn from the Wisdom of Chairman Mao." In Warriors of Tibet: The Story of Aten and the Khampas' Fight for the Freedom of their Country, 96-97. London, England: Wisdom Publications, 1986.
  15. ^ Andrew West, The Yi People and Language
  16. ^ "彝族人网-中国彝族文化网络博物馆,创建最早,规模最大的彝族文化门户网站-网站地图". Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  17. ^ 彝族六祖分支.
  18. ^ 彝族分支圣地,神奇乌蒙昭通.
  19. ^ 2012年中华彝族祭祖节祭祖大典在南诏土主庙举行.
  20. ^ "OMF International". Retrieved 2008-02-18. 


  • Cheng Xiamin. A Survey of the Demographic Problems of the Yi Nationality in the Greater and Lesser Liang Mountains. Social Sciences in China. 3: Autumn 1984, 207–231.
  • Clements, Ronald. Point Me to the Skies: the amazing story of Joan Wales.(Monarch Publications, 2007), ISBN 978-0-8254-6157-6.
  • Dessaint, Alain Y. Minorities of Southwest China: An Introduction to the Yi (Lolo) and Related Peoples. (New Haven: HRAF Press, 1980).
  • Du Ruofu and Vip, Vincent F. Ethnic Groups in China. (Beijing: Science Press, 1993).
  • Goullart, Peter. Princes of the Black Bone. (John Murray, London, 1959).
  • Grimes, Barbara F. Ethnologue. (Dallas: Wycliffe Bible Translators, 1988).
  • Cultural Encounters on China's Ethnic Frontiers. The History of the History of the Yi. Edited by Stevan Harrell. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995).
  • Perspectives on the Yi of Southwest China. Edited by Stevan Harrell. (Berkeley / Los Angeles / London: University of California Press, 2001), ISBN 0-520-21988-0.
  • China's Minority Nationalities. Edited by Ma Yin. (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1994).
  • Zhang Weiwen and Zeng Qingnan. In Search of China's Minorities. (Beijing: New World Press).
  • Ritual for Expelling Ghosts: A religious Classic of the Yi nationality in Liangshan Prefecture, Sichuan (The Taipei Ricci Institute, Nov. 1998), ISBN 957-9185-60-3.


  • Benoît Vermander. L'enclos à moutons: un village nuosu du sud-ouest de la Chine. Paris: Les Indes savantes (2007).

Further reading

  • Ollone, Henri d', vicomte (1912) In Forbidden China: the d'Ollone mission, 1906–1909, China--Tibet--Mongolia; translated from the French of the second edition by Bernard Miall. Chapters II-V & VII. London: T. Fisher Unwin

External links

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