The Jiamao of China
Word count 662
The Jiamao are a branch of the Li, one of China's 55 officially recognized minorities. They live on Hainan, a large, tropical island in the South China Sea, just off China's southern coast. The Jiamao, like all Li groups, live in the interior of the southern end of the island.
The Jiamao are the descendants of an ancient people of China called the Yue, who moved to Hainan from the mainland over 3,000 years ago. Han Chinese began to migrate to Hainan about 2,000 years ago. Until World War II, the various Li groups and the Han remained completely apart from each other, with the Han living on the coast and the Li living in the interior.
The Japanese invaded Hainan in 1939, and many Han fled to the interior of the island. The Li resented this apparent invasion and staged a bloody uprising against the Han in 1943. The Li retreated further into the interior of the island, where they linked up with Communist guerrillas in China's Communist revolution.
What are their lives like?
The island of Hainan is sometimes described as a "tropical paradise." It abounds in fertile land and rainfall. Coconut palms and rubber trees line the beaches, and various types of monkeys and peacocks live in the thick interior forests. Most of the Jiamao are farmers who grow a variety of tropical crops such as cocoa, coffee, cashews, pineapples, cassavas, mangoes, and bananas. They also grow rice, and the wet tropical climate allows people in some areas to reap up to three rice crops each year. Other crops include corn and sweet potatoes.
Traditionally, the Jiamao lived in houses that resembled overturned boats. To build one of these houses, they would first dig out a pit about one and a half feet deep. Then, they would place bamboo or wooden poles over the pit to form an oblong frame. They covered the frame with straw. The hut had no windows or room divisions, and animals were kept inside with the family. In recent years, many Jiamao have left their traditional homes and moved into brick houses.
The Jiamao enjoy chewing the leaves and nuts of the betel palm. After many years of chewing, a person's teeth will become stained black and the lips will turn red. The Jiamao eat a dish that they call nansha. It is made by mixing distiller's grains, water, many kinds of vegetables, and herbs in a large earthenware jar. After the mixture ferments, it is salted and cooked. Among the Jiamao, favorite meats include rats, frogs, and snakes.
In years past, the Jiamao women tattooed their bodies. When a girl reached the age of thirteen or fourteen, she began to be tattooed, starting with the face and neck. After a while, her chest, arms, thighs, and legs would also be tattooed. This continued until all exposed skin had been tattooed. Men would also tattoo themselves, but only on their hands and wrists. Today, almost no Jiamao girls or men follow this custom.
The Jiamao, like other Li groups, are excellent weavers and enjoy their art of dyeing cloth to make complicated patterns. This technique has contributed greatly to the development of textiles in China.
What are their beliefs?
The overwhelming majority of the Jiamao follow the Li ethnic religion, which involves the worship of ancestors, local "earth gods," and various other spirits. They have not been substantially affected by major Chinese religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, or Confucianism. A very few have become Christians. The Chinese government has long discouraged any type of religious practice; as a result, the importance of religious tradition has declined in the lives of the Jiamao.
What are their needs?
The majority of the Jiamao have never heard the Gospel. Due to the decline of their traditional religion, they may now be more open to the Gospel than ever before. Witness to them in Communist China will be difficult, however, because missionary activity in China is very restricted.
- Ask the Lord to prepare the hearts of the Jiamao of China to hear the Gospel message.
- Pray for the doors of China to be opened to Christian missionaries.
- Pray that God will give the Jiamao believers in China boldness to share Christ with their own people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the Jiamao bound for so many generations.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Pray that the scriptures will be translated into the Jiamao language.
- Pray that the Jiamao of China will hunger to know Jesus and that God will reveal Himself to them through dreams and visions.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Jiamao church to the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Jiamao
- Country: China
- Their language: Jiamao (Kamau)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 3%
- Church members: 1,760
- 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: 14,100 (24%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 44,500 (76%)
- 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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