The equalitarian Lahu

 

The Lahu are one of the most interesting peoples of Southeast Asia, since they still preserve in his cultural, social and religious life, numerous remains of the gender equality that should have been common among them until very recent times.

The Lahu inhabit the southern part of Yunnan Province and the northern part of the bordering countries. There are several theories on the origin of their name; most of them make reference to their relationship with tigers. Some scholars translate their name as "those who adore the tiger", other "those who roast the tiger" and other "those who hunt the tiger."

It is considered that there are four branches of Lahu: Lahu na, Lahu shi, Lahu nyi and Lahu shehleh. All they maintain an astonishing cultural homogeneity in spite of being dispersed for a wide territory.

Their current population is distributed among five countries in the following way:

China: 475.000 inhabitants.
Burma: 100.000 inhabitants
Thailand: 60.000 inhabitants
Laos: 5.000 inhabitants
Vietnam: 4.000 inhabitants.

Inside China, in Yunnan Province, the regions where the Lahu concentrates are:

Simao Prefecture: with 273.302 Lahu, most of them in the Lancang Lahu Autonomous County.
Lincang Region: with 72.000 Lahu
Shuangjiang County: with 25.000 Lahu
Menglian County: with 32.000 Lahu

Their language belongs to the Tibetan-Burmese family, Yi branch. Officially it is considered that there are several dialects. The Lahuna and the Lahuxi are the most important, intelligible between them. There are others spoken by a minor number of Lahu.

Officially the Kucong are considered to be a branch of the Lahu. A fact with scarce scientific consistency, related more to the interest of the Chinese government in not to recognize too many minorities. The culture, mythology, history, language and form of life of the Kucong are different from that of the Lahuxi, who live near them. Besides, genetic tests have demonstrated that the Kucong are not related with the Lahu, but with the Miao peoples.

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