Prayer Profile
The Shui of China

[IMAGE] The Shui (pronounced "Shway") live in the picturesque mountains of the Guizhou province of south central China. Their name, Shui, means "water" in Chinese. The Shui have an ancient past, that stretches back as far as 200 B.C. They were originally part of a group known as the "Luo-yue," a tribe that lived along China's southeastern coast. Centuries later they were forced to migrate inland to their present mountainous location.

Local records speak of "sixteen shui," referring to the many interlocking rivers and lakes which lie at the foot of the mountains. Each shui (body of water) originally had a large barricaded village and other smaller settlements on its banks. Today, Shui villages can still be found among the hills, alongside a network of streams.

Sui is the language of the Shui and belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family. Since this ancient language is used only in worship, Han Chinese is the language most commonly used.

What are their lives like?
Shui villages are very compact. Their wooden houses have either one or two stories. If there are two floors, the ground floor is used for the livestock.

By the time of the Ming dynasty (Mongolian rule lasting from 1279 to 1368), many of the Shui had become wet-rice farmers. In addition to rice, they also raise wheat, rape seed, ramie, and several types of fruit. Rice and fish, along with corn, barley, and sweet potatoes, are the staple foods that make up the their diet. While a majority of the Shui are farmers, some work as lumberjacks or fishermen. Others produce cloth for the national market.

The Shui often boast of the wealth of arts and colorful oral literature they possess. Their literature includes poetry, legends, and fairy tales. They are also very good dancers. The "Lusheng Dance" and the "Copper Drum Dance" are the most popular and are enjoyed by all on festive occasions. Traditional musical instruments include gongs, drums, lusheng, huqin, and suona horns. They are also known for their fine handicrafts such as embroideries, batiks (fabric paintings), paper cuts, and wood carvings.

The Shui are very proud of their identity. A traditional woman's costume consists of black and blue embroidered dress with a white head-wrap. The Shui always wear their costumes, even while working in the fields. This clearly distinguishes them from other peoples in the area.

Monogamy is practiced among the Shui, and marriages are usually arranged by the parents. This is done partly so that their status within the society will be preserved.

Their most important festival is the Duan Festival, which is celebrated each September after the crops have been harvested. A few days before the festival, the music of reedpipes and bronze drums can be heard in each village. To welcome the spirits of the ancestors, they thoroughly clean their houses and carefully wash the kitchen utensils. They neither eat meat nor use animal fat to cook during the festival. Early in the morning on the day of the festival, young people dress in their best clothes and gather for activities such as horse races and a dragon dance. On the evening of the festival, after offering sacrifices to their ancestors, whole families sit together for a feast.

What are their beliefs?
Though there are a few Catholics among the Shui, the overwhelming majority are polytheistic, meaning that they worship many gods. In the past, they used shamans (witch doctors) and sacrifices of animals to appease the spirits that they believed caused illnesses. Today, ancestor worship is their chief form of religion.

What are their needs?
In 1884, the French established 30 Catholic churches among the Shui. However, during the anti-Christian movement of 1906, many of these churches were destroyed, and today the Shui have little knowledge of who Jesus Christ is. Currently, they are less than 1% Christian. Neither the Bible, the Jesus film, nor radio broadcasts are available in their native language.

Prayer Points

  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Shui bound.
  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to China and share Christ with the Shui.
  • Pray that the doors of China will soon open to missionaries.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the few known Shui Christians.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into Sui.
  • Ask God to give missions agencies creative ways of reaching the Shui.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Shui towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will open the hearts of China's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Shui by the year 2000.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Shui
  • Country: China
  • Their language: sui
  • Population: (1990) 346,400
    (1995) 366,200
    (2000) 385,200
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionists (99.5%)
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 1,831
  • Scriptures in their own language: None
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 1
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 75,100 (20%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 20,100 (5%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 55,000 (15%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 291,100 (79%)
  • Country: China
  • Population: (1990) 1,135,043,400
    (1995) 1,199,901,200
    (2000) 1,262,195,800
  • Major peoples in size order: Han Chinese (Mandarin) 67.7%
    Han Chinese (Wu) 7.5%
    Han Chinese (Cantonese) 4.5%
  • Major religions: Nonreligious 55%
    Chinese folk-religionists 17%
    Atheists 12.7%
  • Number of denominations: 42

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

This profile may be copied and distributed without obtaining permission
as long as it is not altered, bound, published
or used for profit purposes.

[Home] [Calendar] [Country List]