The Lahu Minority in Southwest China
A Response to Ethnic Marginalization on the Frontier
By Jianxiong Ma
Routledge – 2013 – 254 pages
The Lahu, with a population of around 470,000, inhabit the mountainous country in Yunnan Province bordering on Burma, Laos and northern Thailand. Buddhists, with a long history of resistance to the Chinese Han majority, the Lahu are currently facing a serious collapse of their traditional social system, with the highest suicide rate in the world, large scale human trafficking of their women, alcoholism and poverty. This book, based on extensive original research including long-term anthropological research among the Lahu, provides an overview of the traditional way of life of the Lahu, their social system, culture and beliefs, and discusses the ways in which these are changing. It shows how the Lahu are especially vulnerable because of their lack of political representatives and a state educated elite which can engage with, and be part of, the government administrative system. The Lahu are one of many relatively small ethnic minorities in China – overall the book provides an example of how the Chinese government approaches these relatively small ethnic minorities.
1. Introduction 2. The Escape of E Sha Buddha: Ethnicity and Political Movements in the Black River Valley 3. Death Threat and Self-negation: Tension and Pressure in the Spiritual World 4. Marriage and Land Property: Bilateral Non-lineal Kinship and Communal Authority 5. 'To Become Wives of the Han': Conflicts, Marriage Squeeze and Resettlement of Women 6. Poverty Reduction and Education 7. Suicide as a Cultural Response and an Indicator of the Change of Social Relationships 8. Concluding Remarks
Jianxiong Ma is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Humanities at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.