The Western Lawa of China
Although the Westeren Lawa are related to the Eastern Lawa of Thailand, there are no similarities in their dialects. The Western Lawa were gradually reduced in number and forced into the hills, possibly by migrating Chinese who took over the more desirable land areas. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution (between 1965 and 1976) more than 60 million students, officials, peasant migrants, and unemployed were sent to the countryside to settle borderlands for economic reasons. Otherwise, the minorities are little affected by changes in the rest of the country.
The Lawa are known as great ironsmiths, but very little of their work is exported due to lack of transportation. Isolation has helped them retain their traditions.
What are their lives like
The Western Lawa who live in the hills generally have a lower standard of living than those in the valleys, and they speak only Western Lawa. For this reason, there is a steady trickle of migration from the hills into the valleys. Where the land permits, the Lawa cultivate rice, pickled tea, and some opium.
There has been some development in the remote regions of western Yunnan recently, even though goods are still transported on men's backs or by pack animals. Truck transport does reach most villages, bringing necessities to the farmers and enabling their products to be sold in distant markets.
Traditionally, the Lawa selected the oldest male of the family as a village head. They also elected a chief to be a representative of the village. However, since the Chinese Communist government was established in 1949, the administrative system has been submitted to the Communists. They have divided the country into provinces, districts, cities, counties, regions, townships, and local peoples.
Although there is a birth limit of only one child per family in China, the Western Lawa are exempt from this law. They may have two or more children if their living conditions permit them. Education is inadequate, giving rise to an illiteracy rate that is second only to Tibet.
What are their beliefs?
Half of the Western Lawa practice ethnic religions such as animism (a belief that non-human objects have spirits). The villagers believe in house spirits, local spirits, and spirits of the iron mines. They also rely heavily on witchdoctors. Many deities are regarded as disembodied spirits of ancient heroes.
Forty-eight percent of the Western Lawa claim to be Buddhists. Buddhist practices have had a greater affect on the animists living in the valleys than those in the hillls; however, they are still referred to as "Buddhist animists."
What are their needs?
The Western Lawa do not have the Jesus film or any Christian broadcasts available to them, neither are there any missions agencies working among them. Presently, there are only a handful of known Christians.
See also the following Group:
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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