Lahu history:
From the women's kingdoms to the continuous uprising


Linguistic analysis suggests that the Lahu descend from the old Qiang that lived in Northwest China in times of the first Chinese dynasties.

Legends collected in recent times make us think that in remote times the Lahu inhabited the loess plateaus of the basin of the Yellow river. In those remote times the Lahu society was a matriarchy.

More than 3.000 years ago, war and worsening climatic conditions provoked a first migration that led them to the shores of Qinghai Lake. From where moved centuries later to the south of Qinghai Province, until they reached the present Yushu Prefecture.

It is believed that in the 7th century existed two Lahu political entities in the southeast of Qinghai: The Supi Kingdom and the Daomi Kingdom. These two kingdoms are supposed to be the Women's Kingdoms, described by early Tang dynasty documents in that area. Both kingdoms were conquered by Tubo dynasty of the Tibetans in the 7th century. After their defeat at the hands of the Tibetans, the Lahu emigrated toward the south, settling down in the border between Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

The Lahu maintained good relationships with the Nanzhao Kingdom, as well as with Dali's Kingdom. Later differences with this kingdom drove to the war, and to a new migration of the Lahu.

The conquest of the Dali Kingdom for Kublai Khan's Mongolian in the year 1253 supposed a stir for all the peoples of the area. The Lahu began a new migration, going some to the east and others to the west. It is in this moment when surge the two main branches of the Lahu, the Lahuna who went to the west and the Lahuxi who migrated to the east. This long separation has created important linguistic and cultural differences among them. The history of the Lahuxi and the Lahuna also separated.

The Lahuxi migrated east until the territory of the Dai. Under the nominal dominance of the Tusi Dai, the Lahuxi of Lincang rebelled numerous times along the 15th and 16th centuries against the Dai. The defeated warriors escaped to Shuanjiang, Gengma and Cangyuan districts, where they are still living nowadays.

The Lahuna went to the basin of the Lancang River that was known as the "river of the Lahu" during some time.

From the beginning of the 18th century the history of the Lahuxi comes defined by continuous uprisings against the authority of the Tusi (local chiefs) Dai. In fact, during the two following centuries there are more than 20 uprisings of major or minor duration and intensity. The own development of the Lahu society made that during the first hundred years of this period their rebellions had a strong ethnic component, against the Dai that oppressed them. During the second part, the development of the inequalities among the Lahu becomes apparent, the chiefs share the same economic interests than the Tusi Dai, and their rebellions take a mixed ethnic and social character.

Among the Lahuna, isolated in the remote mountains, their social structure was kept intact until the end of the imperial era. After 1912, the republican government's intents to maintain under their control the minorities of the border areas modified the traditional structure of the Lahuna society.

With the arrival to the power of the Communist Party, that structure is totally abolished. The Lahu were grouped in villages, communes or production teams according to the political fashions in the capital.

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