The Palaung of China
The Palaung, also known as the De'ang, live scattered across the Yunnan Province of southwestern China. The Palaung are the smallest registered minority in China, due largely to a high infant mortality rate. Fortunately, China's medical care has greatly improved since the 1950's, and their population growth rate has seen a steady increase.
Most of the Palaung live in mountainous areas that are also inhabited by the Jingpo, Han, Lisu, and Va peoples. A small number of Palaung also live in flatland villages among the Dai. Because they generally share villages with other minority groups, most of the Palaung are bilingual. Their native language is called Benglong.
Although most of the Palaung are farmers or lumberjacks, many earn their incomes by growing and selling opium.
What are their lives like?
Though the Palaung resemble the Dai in many aspects, they are easily identifiable when wearing their traditional costumes. The women keep their hair cut short and wrap their heads in black turbans. They also wear heavy earrings and silver necklaces. The men are fond of tattoos.
The Palaung usually settle in isolated farming villages that consist of a few dozen households. Their chief crops are grain and tea. In addition to farming, they also engage in the production of various handicrafts such as bamboo weaving, making gunnysacks, and fashioning silverware. With profits earned by selling such items, the Palaung are able to buy metal tools, salt, cloth, and other manufactured goods at neighboring Dai or Han markets.
Among the Palaung, everyone's primary work is directly related to agriculture. Tasks are divided by age and sex. The men perform heavy work in the fields such as plowing, while the women are responsible for transplanting rice seedlings. The elderly engage in weaving and taking care of household chores.
Traditionally, all land was the property of the entire Palaung village. Each family had the right to use the land, but not to own it. In the late 19th century, the economic forces of the Dai and Han peoples gradually began infiltrating the Palaung villages. By 1956, they had occupied 80-90% of the rice fields by buying the land from Palaung landowners. Losing the fields, many Palaung were reduced to being tenants of the Dai and Han land owners.
What are their beliefs?
The Palaung are 99.9% Hinayana Buddhists. Most of their villages have a temple, and the monks who live there depend on the offerings of the followers to provide for their daily needs. The villagers, in turn, depend on the monks for spiritual guidance. Each village also looks to one layman who directs the offering-making ceremonies and practices divination.
Like all Buddhists, the Palaung believe that they should try to do good works in order to gain merit for their next life. Since they believe that fate predetermines the events of their lives, they have little concern for changing their ways. Their consciences have long been deadened in regard to sin.
Although the Palaung consider themselves to be Buddhists, their practices are heavily mixed with animism, (the belief that non-human objects have spirits). Shamans, or witch-doctors, are powerful figures in the Palaung society. In funeral rites, monks chant for the dead. They believe that this will release the soul of the dead from purgatory, so that the ghost will not harm the people or the livestock.
What are their needs?
A majority of the Palaung have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. The Bible has not yet been translated into Benglong, and there are currently no missions agencies working among them. Trapped in bondage to demons, the Palaung have no hope without Jesus.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Palaung bound.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to China and share Christ with the Palaung.
- Pray that the doors of China will soon open to missionaries.
- Ask God to protect and encourage the small number of Palaung believers.
- Pray that the Palaung Christians will be a clear witness to their people of God's goodness and grace.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Palaung so that they will be convicted of their sins.
- Pray for God to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into Benglong.
- Ask God to create a hunger within the hearts of the Palaung to know the Truth
- Pray for a strong church to be raised up among the Palaung by the year 2000.
See also the following Group:
The Golden Palaung of China; and The Western Lawa of China.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Palaung
- Country: China
- Their language: benglong
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 1%
- Church members: 163
- 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: None
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 3,300 (20%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 13,000 (80%)
- Country: China
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 42
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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