The Ongbe of China
The Ongbe live on the island of Hainan, which is located off the coast of southern China in the South China Sea. They are a branch of the Li minority, one of China's 55 officially recognized ethinic minorities. To a large degree, the Ongbe have been assimilated into the culture of the Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group of China. In fact, the Ongbe even see themselves as Han now and follow Han customs. However, many of them continue to speak their native language, Lingao, which is a Thai language related to the languages of other Li groups.
Hainan was long considered a disease-infested outpost of China. Although it had great potential for growth, it was economically backwards. Beginning in the late 1980's, the island was flooded with Han immigrants from the mainland. Since that time, the economy of Hainan has grown at an astounding rate, as the Communist government of China has allowed the people to follow capitalist business practices.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Many of the Ongbe are employed in agriculture. The hot, tropical weather provides heavy rain year round, allowing crops to be grown continuously. Rice, sugar, coffee, tea, and rubber are all important crops. Other Ongbe are involved in mining salt, iron, gold, and other minerals. Fishing is an important industry as well. If not involved in agriculture, mining, or fishing, the Ongbe are sometimes small business owners.
Although the Ongbe have great economic freedom, their personal lives continue to be regulated by China's Communist government. Couples are allowed to have only one child, a law which fosters a very high abortion rate.
The Ongbe follow Han wedding customs, which traditionally had many different patterns. Sometimes a very young girl would be given to another family, raised as a daughter, and married to one of the sons in her new family. Other times, parents would match a young man with a young woman, then exchange a dowry and bride price. In the ideal marriage, a husband and wife met each other for the first time at the wedding. Regardless of the type of marriage, the Ongbe practiced strict exogamy; that is, they married outside their own families. They even refused to marry someone with the same surname. However, since China has passed under Communist rule, such customs as marriages between minors, arranged marriages, and payments of dowries and bride prices have been banned.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Many of the Ongbe follow ancient Chinese folk religion. Chinese folk religion is characterized by a blending of religions. It has added Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist elements over the course of time and is centered on the concept of maintaining harmony. The Ongbe are very superstitious, consulting horoscopes in an attempt to determine which course of action will promote harmony and bring good luck.
The Ongbe also believe in a pantheon of spirits who inhabit the earth. The spirits of their ancestors supposedly roam the earth, and if treated properly, are benign and bring good luck. Ghosts are believed to exist as the spirits of people who are angry at the circumstances of their death; these spirits are malicious and capricious. Deities are supposedly the souls of people who lived especially virtuous lives. They are believed to have spiritual powers that they can use to benefit those who worship them.
What Are Their Needs?
In recent times, the people of Hainan have experienced a level of prosperity unknown in most parts of China. With that prosperity, however, have come many difficulties. Though many people have become quite wealthy, others remain very poor. In addition, the growth of the economy has slowed in the last few years, causing many difficulties on the island.
Although persecution of Christians in Hainan is less severe than in other parts of China, the Ongbe continue to be unreached with the Gospel. Christians comprise only 0.5% of their population. Neither the Bible nor the Jesus film is available in the Lingao language at this time.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Ongbe of China.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Ongbe through dreams and visions.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Ongbe bound for so many generations.
- Ask the Lord to raise up prayer warriors who will intercede for the Ongbe of China.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Ongbe.
- Pray for qualified linguists who will be able to translate the Bible into the Lingao language.
- Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Ongbe so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Ongbe by the year 2000.
See also the following Group:
The Li of China
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Ongbe
- Country: China
- Their language: lingao
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 3,115
- 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: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 115,300 (19%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 507,700
- 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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