The Black Tai of China
The Black Tai live along the upper reaches of the Black River, which is located in the Yunnan province of south central China. The Black Tai and their neighbors, the White Tai, were named for the color of the blouses worn by their women.
Their language, Tai Dam, is part of a larger cultural language group known as "Tai." The Laotian, the Shan, and other people groups also speak languages within this cluster.
China is the original homeland of the Black Tai; however, many have now moved further south. Migrating Chinese have taken over the more fertile and accessible areas, forcing the Black Tai into the hills.
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution (between 1965 and 1976), more than 60 million urban Black Tai were sent to the countryside to settle the borderlands. Chinese shops can now be found in these market towns, and merchants trade in their villages.
What are their lives like?
The Black Tai are extraordinarily polite, respectful, and hospitable people. Children are taught from a young age to accept a code of social behavior based on respect for their elders. They place particular emphasis on independence and self-reliance. They are very sympathetic people and have a good sense of humor.
The Black Tai live in valleys where they cultivate wet rice using irrigation and terraces. They also do some "slash and burn" farming on the mountainsides, and opium is grown as a cash crop.
Black Tai society is organized on the basis of age, occupation, wealth, and residence. For example, rural farmers have a place below the government officials, craftsmen, and merchants within the cities. Clergymen are in a separate group.
The Black Tai are organized into small villages which are limited to a single valley. These villages are under the control of the chao muong, or prince, to whom commoners pay taxes. Tribesmen are considered citizens of Laos, but most of them have no representation in the government.
The basic social unit is the family. Entire immediate families often live together under one roof, and there is a mutual respect one for one another. They live, eat, and farm together. Sometimes newlyweds will live with the wife's family, but only until they can establish their own home.
The men have adopted Chinese clothing in some areas, but the women still dress in traditional Black Tai costumes. They wear long cloaks with large sleeves, or black bodices with narrow, tight-fitting sleeves and a black skirt.
Men and women share the work equally. Both men and women plow and fish. The women also cook, care for the children, clean the house, and wash clothes. Most Black Tai are subsistence farmers. However, some have specialized in other occupations such as blacksmithing. In villages that are along trade routes, merchants sometimes travel to sell their goods. New road construction projects have made traveling between villages much easier.
What are their beliefs?
Ninety-eight percent of the Black Tai practice "folk animism." (Animism is the belief that inanimate objects have souls.) They are also known for ancestor worship, which is the belief that the spirits of deceased ancestors are alive and need to be fed and cared for. These spirits are said to become dissatisfied when they are not properly appeased, turning into evil spirits. They are looked to for help and guidance, and one must please them to avoid curses and to receive blessings.
The Black Tai also believe that individuals have multiple souls. Special ceremonies are held to call on and strengthen these "other souls."
What are their needs?
Currently, there are no missions agencies working among the Black Tai of China. There are 600 known Black Tai Christians, but they only have portions of the Bible available in their language.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Black Tai bound.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to China and share Christ with the Black Tai.
- Pray that the doors of China will soon be opened to missionaries.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Black Tai Christians, and equip them to minister the Gospel to their people.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete translation of the Bible into their language.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Black Tai towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will open the hearts of China's leaders to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Black Tai by the year 2000.
See also the following Black Tai Groups:
Black Tai of Thailand;
Black Tai of Vietnam; and the
Black Tai of Laos.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Black Tai
- Country: China
- Their language: Tai Dam
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 2%
- Church members: 600
- Scriptures in their own language: Portions
- 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: 6,900 (23%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 23,100 (77%)
- 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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