The Guizhou Yi of China
The Guizhou Yi are a part of the larger group of Yi, who are one of China's officially recognized minority groups. While most Yi live in the southwestern provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan, nearly 600,000 have settled in the south-central province of Guizhou. The Guizhou Yi language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Today, many Guizhou Yi speak Chinese in addition to their native language.
The Yi first appeared in Guizhou in the fourth century A.D. For much of their history, they have been indirectly governed by the Han Chinese. However, relations between the two ethnic groups have often been tenuous. In fact, before the Communist takeover of China in 1949, the Guizhou Yi often captured Han Chinese and kept them as slaves.
After 1949, the lifestyle of the Guizhou Yi changed greatly, and they have seen some improvements in farming methods, stock raising, and education.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Most Guizhou Yi make a living by farming. Their main crops are corn, potatoes, buckwheat, and oats. In the past, farming was done by the "slash and burn" method, in which a section of forest is cut down, the debris burned, and the clearing used as a field for planting crops. Farmers raise such animals as cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, and chickens. A number of Guizhou Yi are employed as shopkeepers in state-run shops in the towns and villages. Some are involved in the industrial production of farm equipment; and others work as miners of copper, iron, or coal.
The majority of the Guizhou Yi live in towns and villages. Traditionally, they lived in windowless single-storied houses made of wood and earth. The homes had double-sloped roofs covered with small pieces of wooden plates that were held down by stones. Inside, the main area was a fire pit, cornered by three stones. Families usually slept next to the fire and penned their animals at the other end of the house at night. Recently, the Guizhou Yi have begun to live in houses made of brick and tile, with separate quarters for their livestock.
The Yi were traditionally divided into several social classes: the Black Yi, White Yi, and slaves. The Black Yi, the highest class, owned nearly all the land and ruled the other two classes. The White Yi were the common people and were controlled by the Black Yi in many ways. At the bottom of the social scale were the slaves, who were freely bought and sold at the whims of their owners. They had no property, no personal rights, and were treated as domestic animals.
Guizhou Yi marriages are usually monogamous; that is, they involve only one man and one woman. Traditionally, the parents had the final say in the arrangement of the marriages, but young people had considerable leeway in the selection of their mates. Guizhou Yi couples treat their children indulgently and teach them through instruction and example. Children are taught customary laws and moral standards and are expected to learn family genealogies by heart.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Traditionally, the Yi of Guizhou were polytheists, believing in a multitude of gods. They combined polytheism with ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for guidance), Buddhism, and Taoism. Since the advent of Communism in 1949, all religions in China have been harshly suppressed, and many Guizhou Yi now do not profess to follow any particular religion.
The Guizhou Yi traditionally believe that when a person dies, his body travels to the "underworld," where he continues his life. A sacrificial ceremony is considered necessary to satisfy and calm the deceased, or else the spirit of the dead person will haunt the people and offer no protection to its descendants and kin.
What Are Their Needs?
The Yi of the province of Guizhou have remained largely untouched by Christianity, although other Yi have had the chance to hear the Gospel. They have always been bound by superstition and false religion, and now face the possibility of becoming trapped in humanism and materialism. Intercession for the Guizhou Yi is desperately needed.
- Ask the Lord of the harvest to open the doors of China to Christian missionaries.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Guizhou Yi through dreams and visions.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Guizhou Yi bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Pray that Christian radio broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be made available to the Guizhou Yi.
- Pray that God will soften the hearts of the Guizhou Yi to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to China to share the love of Christ with the Guizhou Yi.
- Ask God to raise up strong local churches among the Guizhou Yi by the year 2000.
See also the following Groups:
The Bai of China; and the Yi-Central.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Guizhou Yi
- Country: China
- Their language: Yi Guizhou
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 2%
- Church members: 11,910
- 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: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 256,000 (43%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 330,300 (57%)
- Country: China
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 42
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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