Biref Introduction of Lisu Ethnic Group

A nationality skilled in using crossbow

The Lisu nationality is one of the minority nationalities in China. Its population is over 570,000. It mainly distributes over counties in the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, such as Lushui, Fugong, Gongshan, Lanping,etc. Others scatter over 30 counties in Yunnan Province, like Zhongdian, Deping, Weixi, Lijiang, Yongsheng, Huaping, Ninglang, Yangbi, Tengchong, Longchuan, Ruili, Lianghe, Luxi, Lincang, Genma, Chuxiong, Yuanmou, and Xichang, Muli, Yanyuan, Yanbian, Miyi, Huili, Huidong in Sichuan Province.

The Lisus have very long history. Their ancestors used to live on either bank of the Jinshajiang River. They began to move to Nujiang, Dehong and other places in the 16th century. Their name had been recorded in history since the Tang Dynasty. The name Lisu is transliteration of their calling themselves, and it had different literary style in Chinese history.

The Lisus have their own language, and it belongs to Yi language branch of Tibeto-Burmese in Sino-Tibetan Family. It has had three kinds of writings one after another. One is alphabetic writing formulated by western missionaries; one is syllabic writing created by peasants of Weixi county; and one is the Latin alphabet writing newly formulated after the establishment of new China.

The Lisus’ economy is based on agriculture. Corn and buckwheat are their staple food. They like to drink tea, wine and eat big chunks of meat. Most of their houses are two-storey pile-dwelling buildings made of bamboo or wood, and some are one-storey wooden ridge house or stabstone houses. Dress and personal adornments are different in different areas. Men often wear gunny kerchiefs. Women wear garments buttoned on the right side and pleated skirts. Women’s kerchiefs are pearl caps called “Ele”, which is stringed and decorated with seashell slices and coral beads. In the past, the Lisus were commonly called “white Lisus”, “black Lisus” and “florid Lisus” because of their different clothes colors. 

The Lisus are good at singing and dancing. They have very rich and colorful culture and art. Their main festivals are “Bathing Pool Party”, “New Product Tasting Festival”, “Kuoshi Festival”, “the Lisu New Year”, etc. The Lisus believe in original religion. At the beginning of the 20th century, some western missionaries came to Nujiang and Dehong regions and Christianity was spread into these areas.

The Lisus are industrious and valiant. In history, they rose in rebellion for resisting class exploitation, national oppression, and foreign invasion from English, Japanese, etc. They fight movingly time and again and made great contribution to the protection and construction of the Southwest China.