Prayer Profile
The Kopu of China

[IMAGE] China is a land of great diversity in geography, climate, languages, and ethnic groups. It is home to approximately 180 distinct groups, including the 359,600 Kopu who live in the southwestern region of southern China's Yunnan Province. Some scholars link the Kopu to the Yi minority, but their origin is not known. Legends say that their nomadic ancestors gradually migrated southward from a far away northern plain. Since their language Kopu is of the Tibeto-Burmese group, some believe that they originated in Tibet.

The Kopu live near the Myanmar border in an area that is characterized by forested mountains, abundant rainfall, and rich soil. Their farmers are noted for building tiered terraces along steep mountain slopes. Their small farming villages usually consist of 30 to 40 homes. Centuries of isolation in the high mountain terrain have left the Kopu socially and economically backward.

What are their lives like?
The family unit is considered to be very important among the Kopu. Some aspects of family life, however, differ from region to region. For instance, monogamy (one husband, one wife) is the rule in some areas, while having multiple spouses is common in others. "Family order" is both patriarchal (male dominated) and patrilineal, meaning that a male child becomes part of the father's lineage, while a female will become part of her husband's lineage. Male children are given names that are connected with their father's name, but females are not.

The Kopu are well known for their sincere hospitality. When a guest enters a Kopu home, he is offered wine and strong tea. If he declines the drinks, the family will be highly offended; if he drinks them, the host will generously serve him with the finest he has to offer.

The Kopu celebrate several major festivals each year, the most notable being the New Year festival. This seven day event is celebrated at harvest time, during the tenth month. At noon on New Year's Day, an announcer throws three balls of blackened rice behind him to bid farewell to the old year. He then greets the new year by tossing three balls of white rice in front of him. Next, he pushes the ropes of a special swing, and all of the people, regardless of sex or age, begin swinging. (They believe that this will ward off disaster and ensure a prosperous year.) That evening, the villagers stand around a bonfire eating, drinking, singing, and dancing. At midnight, the announcer cuts down the frame of the swing to signify the end of the festival and the beginning of a new work year.

During times of celebration, the Kopu wear attractive tribal costumes of hand-woven cotton dyed blue or black. The men wear distinctive jackets and turbans, while the women wear collarless blouses and special caps.

What are their beliefs?
Traditionally, Kopu beliefs were a combination of animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits),polytheism (belief in many gods), and ancestor worship (praying to the dead for blessings and guidance). Trees in the "holy hills" were believed to be their guardian spirits. Today, most still adhere to similar beliefs. They are very superstitious and view certain events, such as the birth of twins or handicapped children, as unlucky. These children are killed, their parents banished, and their homes and possessions burned. They believe in the existence of many ruling spirits, such as spirits that rule over heaven and earth, spirits that protect their villages, and evil spirits that bring diseases.

The Kopu have three major religious leaders: the zuima (a male elder who directs all religious activities), the beima (males who perform magic and exorcisms), and the nima (fortune tellers and medicine men).

What are their needs?
Since China's government strictly forbids Christianity, there are currently no missions agencies working among the Kopu. Portions of the Bible have been translated into their language, but there are no Christian broadcasts in their area. Intercession and missions activity are necessary for these people to hear the Gospel.

Prayer Points

  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities that are keeping the Kopu spiritually bound.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Kopu through dreams and visions.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to complete the work begun in the hearts of the Kopu believers through adequate discipleship.
  • Pray that God will give the Kopu believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Ask God to speed the completion of the Jesus film and other Christian materials into the Kopu language.
  • Pray that the doors of China will soon open to missionaries.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Kopu Christians.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Kopu by the year 2000.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Kopu
  • Country: China
  • Their language: Kopu
  • Population: (1990) 340,500
    (1995) 359,600
    (2000) 376,200
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionist 99%
  • Christian: 1%
  • Church members: 3,600
  • 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: 0
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 79,100 (22%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 25,200 (7%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 53,900 (15%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 280,500 (78%)
  • 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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