Lables: Ethnic Groups, Lahu ethnic group, Tibeto-Burman Group

Proper name: Lahu.

Other names: Xa la vang, Co Xung, Khu Sung, Kha Quy, Co So, Ne Thu.

Local groups: Lahu Na (black), Lahu Su (yellow), and Lahu Phung (white).

Po[censored] tion: 5,319 people (1999 census).

Language: The Lahu language belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese language group (Sino-Tibetan language family), but is closer to the Burmese.

Production activities: The Lahu mainly practice slashes and burn cultivation, with high rotation schedule. Lately, they have moved to wet rice cultivation on step terraces. They are famous for bamboo plaiting (place mats, chairs), and for their metal work and smithing. Hunting, fishing, and gathering fruit play an important role in their economy.

Diet: The Lahu have shifted from eating mostly corn and sticky rice to a diet of regular rice. They like to eat bird and animal meat which they hunt themselves, or fish caught from the brook. Bamboo, bean soup, and pumpkin also form part of the Lahu diet.

Clothing: The Lahu don't have a tradition of planting cotton. In former times, women used to bring wild animal meat, field mushroom, opium, and precious forest and native products to trade with other ethnic groups for cotton. Then they wove the cotton into textiles themselves. Women wear long pants and blouses. They wear two layers of blouses; the one inside has long sleeves and buttons on the right underarm. The outside one has short sleeves with buttons on the front. They only wear the outside blouse on festival occasions.

Housing: In the past, the Lahu built houses and tented shelters randomly right on the field site, on the high mountains of Pa U and Pa Ve Su villages of Muong Te district (Lai Chau province). The roof was traditionally made from leaves; it is said that when tMarriage: Young Lahu men and women are free to date when they reach the marrying age. A Lahu marriage has to go through many steps. Among all the gifts that the groom's family bestows to the bride's, there has to be squirrel meat. After the wedding, the bride will move to the groom's family. However, the custom of staying at the bride's family is still practiced for those who don't have all the necessary gifts, especially silver.

Birth: Lahu women are allowed to give birth in their rooms with their mother-in- law's or her sister's help. After the first day, the child will have a naming ceremony. The infant is named according to the day it was born; thus within the Lahu community, many people have the same name. If a child grows up slowly or is often sick, it might have another naming ceremony.

Funerals: When there is a death, the family of the deceased will fire some shots to chase away the ghosts and to announce the news to neighbors and relatives. The coffin is usually a piece of log, cut in half, and then hollowed out the hour and dates of the burial are chosen very carefully.

The Lahu do not have a permanent cemetery. Children mourn their parents for three years, though there are no visible signs of mourning worn on their clothes or in their hair.

Beliefs: The Lahu worship their ancestors and deceased parents and loved ones on particular occasions: on new rice day, the mid-July festival, when rice planting is completed, or when there is a wedding or funeral. They don't have the custom of worshiping on death anniversary day. The only things the Lahu have when they worship their ancestors is rice wrapped in jungle leaves.

Hunting wild game and the gathering of fruits and vegetables help supplement the Lahu diet. These activities-as well as other work like cutting firewood, felling a tree, or weeding in the forest-are avoided for three days during the New Rice festival held in October or November. This practice offers the hope that plants and trees will be green and plentiful for the whole year.

The Lahu believe that God gives life and death. Moreover, they believe that there are two houses in heaven: one called na de (sick house), the other called xo de (dead house). If a person's spirit was sent to xo de, it is believed that person will definitely die. If a spirit was sent to na de, then he/she will have to arrange a worshiping ritual to ask for the spirit to come back, so he/she can live longer. The Lahu believe that each person will live only for a certain time that was already decided when he/she was born. However, sometimes, one can live longer if one holds a worshiping called di cha. One has to go to a fortune teller to find out his/her bad luck.

Education: In former times, the Lahu did not have their own writing system. Today, they learn the national language. The Lahu use an oral. calendar system which divides a year into 12 months, with each month compared to a different animal. They know much about herbal medicines found in the forest. So, to keep the secret, and to hope to have the most results from these medicines, the Lahu usually imbue herbal medicines with ritual and religious beliefs. When the Lahu want to go get the medicine, they keep this information to themselves and won't talk to anybody for the whole day; then they creep into the forest for the medicine.

Artistic activities: The Lahu like to listen to, and are good at, pan-flute, flute, and drum. Every afternoon, children gather around the family hearth, or by a creek side, to play and sing while tapping at a tree to make the rhythms.

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