Saturday, August 8, 2009


The Lisu or Lisaw as they are called by Thais, inhabit the mountainous hinterland of North Thais, inhabit the mountainous hinterland of North Thailand. According to the 1995 survey, the number of Lisu in Thailand was 27,899 which totalled 4.02 percent of the total hill tribe population. Today Lisu are found living scattered throughout the nine northern provinces : Chiang Mai, Chaiang Rai, Phayao, Mae Hong Son, Tak, Lampang, Sukhothai, Kamphaeng Phet and Phetchabun.

The Lisu are believed to have originated in southern China and first appeared in Chiang Rai Province about 80 years ago. The Lisu belong to the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan linguistic family. They are divided into two ethnic subgroups:

1. The Flowery or Hua Lisu
2. The Black or He Lisu Most of the Lisu in Thailand are flowery Lisu.

Lisu settlements are located in the highlands at an average altitude of about 1,000 meters. Like most hill people, the Lisu are heavily engaged in agriculture. They grow rice, corn, and vegetables as subsistence crops and grow opium for sale. They draw additional income from the sale of domesticated animals such as pigs and cattle.

The Lisu tribe is made up of several patrilineal clans. The clan is important because it stands as the chief determinant of kinship relations and marriage rules. Monogamy and clan exogamy are the ideal practices which, when followed, strengthen familialties and provide a cohesive force in Lisu society. Kinship relations are centered on the family and extended in increasingly wider circles to the tribe as a whole. Lisu solidarity wider circles to the tribe as a whole. Lisu solidarity, despite the lack of a political secular leader at village level, depends on this in a way that differentiates them from other tribes.

Culturally speaking, the Lisu have adopted much which is Chinese. For example, they celebrate their New Year on the same day as the Chinese. They are, however, principally animists and ancestor worshippers and their reputation as individualists makes them quite distinct.

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