Prayer Profile
The Sansu of China

[IMAGE] China is a land of great diversity in geography, climate, languages, and ethnic groups. It is home to approximately 180 distinct ethnic groups, including the 12,000 Sansu who live in Yunnan Province of southern China. They are generally included with the Hani, one of China's 55 national minorities. Although the origin of the Sansu is not known, legends say that their nomadic ancestors gradually migrated southward from a far away northern plain. However, since their language—also called Sansu—belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese group, some believe that they are of Tibetan origin.

This region of the Yunnan Province in China is close to the Myanmar border and is characterized by forested mountains, abundant rainfall, and rich soil. The farmers are noted for building tiered terraces along steep mountain slopes. The small farming villages usually consist of 30 to 40 homes. Centuries of isolation in the high mountain terrain have left the Sansu socially and economically backward.

What are their lives like?
The family unit is considered to be very important among the Sansu. 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 polygamy (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 Sansu are well-known for their sincere hospitality. When a guest enters a Sansu 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 Sansu 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 downthe frame of the swing to signify the end of the festival and the beginning of a new work year.

During times of celebration, the Sansu 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, Sansu beliefs were a combination of animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits), polytheism (worship of many gods), and ancestor worship (praying to the dead for help or guidance). Trees in the "holy hills" were believed to be their guardian spirits. Today, most still adhere to similar beliefs, but some are Buddhists. 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 Sansu have three major religious leaders. The zuima is a male from the oldest household who directs all religious activities. The beima are males who perform magic and exorcisms. Male and female nima are in charge of making predictions and administering medicinal herbs.

What are their needs?
Since China's government strictly forbids Christianity, there are currently no missions agencies working among the Sansu. A translation of the Bible, Christian broadcasts, increased prayer, and missions efforts are desperately needed.

Prayer Points

  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities that are keeping the Sansu bound.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Sansu through dreams and visions.
  • Pray that God will give the Sansu believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
  • Ask God to speed the completion of the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials into the Sansu language.
  • Pray that the doors of China will soon open to missionaries.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Sansu Christians.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into the Sansu language.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Sansu by the year 2000.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Sansu
  • Country: China
  • Their language: Sansu
  • Population: (1990) 11,400
    (1995) 12,000
    (2000) 12,500
  • Largest religion: Ethnic religionist 97%
  • Christian: 3%
  • Church members: 360
  • 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: 2,400 (20%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,100 (9%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 1,300 (11%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 9,600 (80%)
  • Country: China
  • Population: (1990)1,135,043,000
  • Major peoples in size order: Han Chinese (Mandarin) 67.7%
    Han Chinese (Wu) 7.5%
    Han Chinese (Cantonese) 4.5%
    Han Chinese (Hunanese) 3.5%
  • Major religions: Nonreligious 55%
    Chinese Folk Religionist 17%
    Atheist 12.7%
    Christian 7.5%
    Buddhist 5.3%
    Muslim 2.4%
  • Number of denominations: 42

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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