Prayer Profile
The Tho of China

[IMAGE] More than one million Tho (a Thai people) live in northern Vietnam. Almost as many Tho live in the adjacent region of China. They are closely related to the Thai of Thailand as well as the Black Tai, Red Tai, and White Tai of Vietnam and Laos.

The Tho prefer to be known as "Tay," since the term "Tho" is now considered derogatory. They speak Tho (or Tay), which is a Daic language that is closely related to Nung. Most of the Tho also read Chinese. The Tho in China have been classified with the Nung people group to form the official Zhuang minority.

The Tho are descendants of several ethnic groups that merged with Vietnam's indigenous Thai speakers in the late nineteenth century. Since the Communist takeover of China in 1949, the Tho way of life has changed a great deal. Efforts have been made to mainstream them into the Chinese lifestyle and raise their standard of living.

What are their lives like?
The homeland of the Tho is an area of low and sloping mountains running northeast to southwest between high mountains and plains. The Tho are basically farmers, who use two main methods for farming. Wet rice is grown in irrigated paddies; while they use "slash and burn" agriculture to cultivate maize, sugarcane, manioc, watercress, and vegetables. This method of agriculture involves clearing an area of forest, burning the clearing, and removing the debris left by the burning. The Tho also grow hemp that they use to make bags and nets. Surplus products are then sold or exchanged for necessary household items. Forest products are also gathered to supply additional food items.

Hunting was at one time an important activity, and the Tho were master hunters, using traps, cages, and automatically triggered arrows to capture game, especially deer. However, hunting has declined in importance in recent years and most families keep domestic animals such as buffaloes, oxen, horses, pigs, geese, and ducks.

Tho villages were once the center of regional economic activity, with local markets rotating between villages. The Tho generally traded with Vietnamese and Chinese communities. However, since the advent of Communism, the regional economic activity of the Tho has changed significantly.

The Tho live in houses that are either built on the ground or on stilts. Houses and their accompanying gardens are seen as private property. In contrast, land has traditionally been seen as common property that people are free to use but not own.

Tho society is patrilineal, (inheritances are passed down through the males). Families tend to be small and most families are patriarchal (dominated by the oldest man). Young people choose their own marriage partners, and after a betrothal ceremony, many marriage rituals are performed. The groom is expected to perform some work for the bride's family as payment.

What are their beliefs?
The Tho have been influenced by Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism (emphasis on moral teachings), ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for guidance), and animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits). Traditionally, most villages had temples where they worshipped a multitude of gods associated with earth, water, fire, and important ancestors. Many other spirits and ghosts were also worshipped. The major ceremony of the year was held at the beginning of the farming season, when the various deities were asked permission to prepare the farm and plant the seeds. Folk literature and art were also of importance in religious life. However, since the Communist takeover, all religious practices have been suppressed in China.

What are their needs?
Less than 1% of the Tho in China are Christian, and all Chinese Christians risk persecution by the Chinese government. Currently, there are only portions of the Bible available in Tho. Prayer is the first step toward seeing these people reached with the Gospel.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go the China and share Christ with the Tho.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible and the Jesus film into the Tho language.
  • Pray that the doors of China will soon be opened to missionaries and the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Tho through dreams and visions.
  • Ask God to strengthen and encourage the small number of Tho believers and give them boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Tho bound.
  • Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Tho church for the glory of His name!

See also the following Group:
The Tho of Vietnam

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Tho
  • Country: China
  • Their language: Tho
  • Population: (1990) 964,800
    (1995) 1,019,900
    (2000) 1,072,900
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionist 95%
    Nonreligious 4.4%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 6,119
  • 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: 189,700 (19%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 57,100 (6%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 132,600 (13%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 830,200 (81%)
  • Country: China
  • Population: (1990) 1,135,043,400
    (1995) 1,199,901,200
    (2000) 1,262,195,800
  • Major peoples in size order: Han Chinese (Mandarin) 67.7%
    Han Chinese (Wu) 7.5%
    Han Chinese (Cantonese) 4.5%
  • Major religions: Nonreligious 55%
    Chinese folk-religionists 17%
    Atheists 12.7%
  • Number of denominations: 42

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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