The Wa people number over 430,000 and live mainly in compact communities in the Ximeng, Cangyuan, Menglian, Gengma, Lancang, Shuangjiang, Zhenkang and Yongde counties in southwestern Yunnan Province where they coexist with other ethnic groups. Over 558,000 Wa people live in Myannar. The Wa are an official Minority Group in China.
The Wa language is of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austroasiatic linguistic family. The Wa people had been hunters and forgers until 18th century when migrations brought Han and other peoples into their regions. Some of the Wa (the tame Wa) made transitions to agriculture while others (the wild Wa) continued in hunting. The Chinese refer to others of the Wa Nationality as Sincized Wa.
The Wa have long been known for their practice of headhunting, a custom the Chinese Communists have been unable to totally abolish. As late as 1956 and 1957 144 cases of headhunting were reported.
American Baptist missionary William Young brought the gospel, first to the Wa in Myanmar and then in the 1920s to the Wa in China. By 1948, 22,000 Wa in China had been baptized.
Around 300,000 Wa, pronounced Wa, live in western Yunnan Province, in Gangyuan, Ximeng, Lancahg, Gengma, Menglian, Yongde, Shuangjiang, and Zhenkang Counties. The 558,000 Wa who live in Myanmar are closely related to the Wa in China. They are called Va, Praok, Parauk, Baraoke, and Baraog.
The Wa in Yunnan Province shared the Wa custom of headhunting until recent years. The practice of headhunting was thought to insure a good harvest. A statement among the Wa has been that there is nothing so beautiful as the three-pronged fork—a reference to the poles on which they formerly hanged the heads of their victims.
Before 1956, a Wa settlement in Ximeng County sacrificed 3000 cows a year to appease the evil spirits and obey the orders of local shamans. Yuesong Village was reported to have sacrificed 874 cows between 1955 and 1957—almost two cows for every household. This practice of sacrifice kept the people poor.
Most of the Wa villages were built on hilltops or slopes. The styles of houses vary depending on their location. Most houses are constructed with bamboo and straw and are usually two storied. The upper floor is for family accommodation while the ground floor is reserved for their livestock. It’s sort of like having a traditional barn and house all in one.
The erection of a new house is a community affair. People in the same village will offer to help and present timber and straw as gifts. Generally a house will be completed in one day through a collective community effort. Following the completion of the house, all the young people in the village will be invited to the new family’s abode to attend a celebration that includes dancing, singing and drinking.
Missionary William Young, who began his ministry among the Wa in Myanmar contined into China in the 1920s and baptized over 22000 Wa. He translated the New Testament in to their language in 1938. One report cites a total of 75000 Christians among the Wa in China but many of these, due to a lack of biblical teachings and the pattern of early Christian work that emphasized church attendance more than a personal walk with the Lord, are nominal and do not understand the basics of salvation.
Many among the Wa still practice animism and ancestor worship. They have some Scripture portions, gospel recordings, and the Jesus Film. The Far Eastern Broadcasting Corporation has some radio gospel programs aimed at the Wa. A need for continued evangelization and Christian discipleship is a great need among the Wa.
As many as 73,000 Kawa, pronounced Kah-wa, live ing remote villages in the high mountains of western Yunnan Province—in Ximeng, Mengilan and Lancang Counties. Their villages are often situation at least 5000 feet above sea level. The Kawa are often known as the wild Wa but are also called Vo, Wa Pwi, Wakut, and Awa. They are officially classified under the Wa Nationality.
Living in such remote regions, the Kawa seldom come into contact with other peoples. They have continued ther practice of headhunting as late as the 1960s. They have the reputation of being the most cruel and ruthless of all the peoples of China. Of the reported 75000 Christians among the Wa in China, most are among the Parauk Wa and the Lawa. Most Kawa have resisted the gospel. One estimate sees as many as 100 Christians among the Kawa who have no Christian resources. They continue in their traditional religion that inclues polytheism, animisim, and shamanism. The Kawa constitute a needy and Unreached People Group who might be reached through their neighboring Wa Christians.
Around 55,000 Lawa live in Yongde and Zhenkang Counties in Yunnan Province. Others live in Myanmar and Thailand (around 14000). Some 30,000 members of the Bulang Nationality also speak the Lawa langaguge as their mother tongue. They are known as the Tame Wa and also as the Western Lawa, Mountain Lawa, Lava, Luwa, L”wa, and Lavua. The Lawa adjusted rather quickly to agricultural activities. They are part of the Mon-Khmer race of Asia.
The Lawa language is not intelligible with the Lawa languages of Thailand. The Lawa now use a Roman script but in previous times communicated by engraving bamboo strips or sending smbolic objects to other villages. Sugarcane, banana, or salt meant friendship. Peper meant anger. Feathers meant urgency. Gunpower and bullets meant an intention to clan warfare.
The Lawa have been greatly influrnced by Theravada Buddhism but this Buddhism is heavily cloaked with traditional religion—animistic and polyhtheistic rituals—and ancestor worship. They believe in house spirits and spirits of the iron mines. They rely on shaman or witchdoctors. Disembodied spirts of past heros are considered deities also.
Some 10,000 of the Lawa are Christians. This group stems from the early work of William Young and his sons. Part of the breakthrough into the Lawa culture eventuated from acts of loving service such as his care for a dying woman. The Lawa have the New Testament and some gospel recordings. They do not have the Jesus Film or Christian broadcasting. The majority are aware of the gospel. Evangelical Christianity should seek to aid the Christians among the Lawa in reaching their own people.
Around 1120 Ben, pronounced Ben, live in several villages in Zhenkang and Gengma Counties is western Yunnan Province. The Ben are a distinct people group but since 1950 have been counted as part of the Wa Nationality. The name Ben means indigenous people.
Little is known about the Ben. They have been described as a Burmese people and as an unidentified people group. Their religion is basically animistic but with some influences from Buddhism. They have no Christian resources but Christians are found among neighboring peoples. No Christians are known among the Ben. They should be considered an Unreached People Group.
The Qiang Nationality (k”iang), one of the Official Minorities of China, may number as many as 600,000 (according to Olsen) but also are estimated at around 266,900 by Hadaway. The discrepancy probably results from the numbers of people considered within the Nationality. The Qiang people, divided into many sub groups, live across a great arc stretching from Nanping in the northwest parts of Sichuan Province to Lijiang in northern Yunnan Province. Their homeland is the mountainous corridor that connects the Tibetan highlands in the west to the the Chinese lowlands in the east. At one time the Qiang people were a contiguous population but in the last century their territory has seen the entrance of Han, Tibetan, and Yi peoples who have settled among them. The Chinese character for Qiang is a combination of yang (sheep) and ren (people) with the meaning of people who tend sheep.
The Qiang languages are a separate branch fo the Tibeto-Burman cluster of the Sino-Tibetan linguistic family. Over 3000 years ago, the Qiang people maintained close contact with the Zhuangs. They also show contact with the Han People during this period. Many Qiangs migrated into the mountains to the west to escape Han oppression. In the fourth century, the Qiangs were one of the “Five Barbarian” groups that overrun much of China. In the face of Tibetan and then Mongol pressure, the Qiangs became a conquered people and accepted the tusi system by which the Mongols and later the Hans controlled the Qiangs through Qiang agents.
By 1900 most Qiang peoples were under the control of the Chinese government. Some Jiaroung groups remained independent until the Communist takeover in 1949. The Qiang are known for their stone towers, some as high as 150 feet, constructed for defensive purposes. Qiang society was traditionally matrilineal and matriarchs functioned as village chiefs. This pattern in changing but mothers maintain a strong position in Qiang families.
Qiang religion is a mixture of traditional animistic beliefs and practices, with Daoism, Buddhism, and ancestor worship. The White Stone Religion is important and revolves around the belief that these stones can ward off evil spirits. The large Qiang people demonstrate a variety of religious beliefs. The majority are polytheists and animists, deifying mountains, sheep, trees, storms, fire, etc. They believe that everything in the universe embodies a spirit. The Qiang believe in and greatly fear demons that cause illnesses, accidents, earthquakes, and other natural calamities. Much of Qiang culture revolves around trying to satisfy the demons so that they will not cause harm, or to appease the demons if they have been offended. Qiang priests have detailed rituals for exorcising demons. They use incantations and charms for this purpose. The people are required to pay for the services of the priest, even though the priest often fails to accomplish the desired results
Other Qiang follow Tibetan Buddhism (also called Lamaism), Daoism, (belief in an unnamed and unknowable god), and Rujiao. Many of them are very superstitious. Often the religion is a combination of traditional Qiang and Chinese belief systems.
Many of the customs and beliefs of the Qiang minority have been set aside since the Communists took over China. The younger generation has been educated in atheistic government schools and encouraged to ridicule their parents' religious beliefs, which are mocked and branded as superstitions. The Southern Qiang especially have rejected the practices of their forefathers and are mostly atheistic.
The Qiang have legends of lost books. According to one legend, two nations existed, Tzu La (the Chinese people) and Gu La (the Qiang). The Gu La people were defeated, and were forced to move a long distance from their homeland. While crossing a river in boats, the people suffered a leaking boat and the sacred books were lost. Now the Qiang have no books, but the contents of the books are handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth
The Qiang do have two other kinds of sacred books. The one is a picture book used for divination such as determining lucky days for activities of all kinds, foretelling the future, and solving problems. The second type of sacred books are not actually books at all, but are oral chants which are memorized and recited by the priests.
Many Qiang practice a worship of white quartz stones. They place these stones on the corners of their roofs or towers and worship them as the sun god, or heavenly god. Worship of white stones is not nearly as common as it used to be. There are several legends that explain the origin of this stone worship. The Qiang have various legends to explain the origin of the white stone worship. The Qiang also use the white stones to start fires. This contributes to their belief in the power of the stones.
The Qiang also treat the white stones as good luck symbols. In Maoxian prefecture, people believe that bringing the white stone into a house on New Year's day brings more prosperity. They also worship the white stone every time before they go out on a hunting trip, praying for good luck. In some districts, when the Qiang arrange an engagement, they cut the white rock in half, each family keeping one part of it until the wedding day. Then they check whether the parts match, foretelling the fortune of that marriage. The Qiang place white stones on the roofs, corners, and windows of their houses, and on the edges of their fields as symbols of their gods protecting them and their animals from evils and illness.
The Qiang people think the number nine is a lucky number. They build pagodas on their roofs either on the ninth day of the first lunar month or the ninth day of the ninth month. The Qiang people also have the tradition of offering sacrifices to the mountains in the first, fourth, fifth, and tenth month of the lunar calendar. At this time, people from different villages will gather at the edge of a forest and pay homage to the god of heaven and the god of mountains, which are both represented by white stones.
Some Qiang have a tradition of carrying a sacred roll of white paper that has nothing written on it. Each year they would add a fresh piece of paper that represented the purity of the Word or Heaven sent sin bearer they called, “Je-Dzu, Nee-Dzu, or Rin-Dzu. The early missionary Thomas Torrence used this custom as a point of contact to tell the Qiang of Christ.
Less than 0.1% of the ^ are Christian. There are a few scattered believers, possibly 200-400 of them. These believers live in Wenchuan and Maoxian counties, with three families in Songpan Township to the north. There are no known indigenous congregations among the Qiang. Reports indicate that within the last few years a few Qiang people have believed in the Lord and are meeting together in a home.
In 1888, the Anglican Church first came to ^ Later the Catholic Church of France founded a church in Maoxian. In 1906, an English missionary, Feigesheng preached in Maoxian. In 1906 and 1909 the Catholic Church of England also founded a Catholic church, a hospital, and a school in the Qiang area.
Thomas F. Torrance of Scotland was the first Protestant missionary among the Qiang. He served with the China Inland Mission from 1895 until 1909 and then with the American Bible Society until the 1930's. Torrance reported conversions and the construction of churches. These churches were destroyed and all the church leaders and most of their families martyred when the Communists passed through the region during the Long March in the summer of 1935.
The Communists tried to burn all Bibles and New Testaments, and even tried to destroy the Christian's grain, so as to eliminate the Christian communities established in Wenchuan and Lifan Counties. But in Tongmenwai the Christians saved some of their Bibles by burying them in caves. They resurrected them after Mao's forces had passed on. Today, the main church building at Tongmenwai, the entrance of Longqi Township, lies in ruins. The Wenchuan government offices now stand on the site where the China Inland Mission premises once stood. After all of the Qiang church leaders had been martyred in 1935, the church met secretly. Torrance was forced to leave the Qiang area, and returned to Scotland.
Torrance once declared the ^ to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. This opinion stemed from his finding customs that sounded much like the Old Testament. For example, the Qiang had a two-fold sacrifice that called for killing one goat to atone for the people’s sins and leading another to the wilderness to be set loose to symbolize the going of the sin from the people. This ritual sounded to Torrance like the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus.
Since the Peoples Republic of China is closed to all missionary work, the Christian task force targeting the Qiang is currently developing creative platforms in an effort to begin a church planting movement.
There are no known Christian scriptures available to the Qiang and no Christian broadcasts in their language. One Gospel recording is now available in the dialect spoken by the people living in the town of Song Ping Gou. Recently there has been an attempt to broadcast to them via Gospel Radio but receptivity is poor because of the mountains.
The Qiang Peoples are divided into some eleven subgroups.
Over 12,600 Cimulin Qiang, pronounced , Chee-ung , live in Heishui (Black Water) County in northwest Sichuan Province in the Cimulin, Gewo, Wumushu, Rewo,and Qinglanggou Districts. The Cimulin Qiang People belong to the northern Qiang language group. Their language is not tonal while the southern tongues have between two and six tones. Many of the Cimulin Qiang are bilingual in Tibetan and others can speak Mandarin.
Like other northern Qiang, many Cimulin Qiang have embraced Tibetan Buddhism. They also worship many other gods of whom the sky god is surpreme. The people also believe in and seek the practice of local shaman and sorceress.
No Christians are known among the Cimulin Qiang and they have no Christian rescourses. Over 99% are estimated to have never heard the gospel. Some short-term missionaries in the area of the Cimulin Qiang were expelled from the region for distributing literature in the 1990s. The Cimulin Qiang are an Unreached People Group.
Almost 10,000 Dajishan Qiang, pronounced Chee-ung Dah-jee-shahn, live in western Sichuan Province near the cities of Maoxian and Wenchuan. The Dajishan Qiang are among the southern Qiang peoples. The southern Qiang languages are so divergent that communication between peoples using any one of the them is impossible with the others.
The Dajishan Qiang follow the usually Qiang religious pattern of polytheisim, animism, and ancestor worship. They also follow the ^ tradition of the veneration of the white stones. Some of Torrance’s missionary work centered around the towns of Wenchuan and Weizhou in the Maoxian areas. It is not know if any of the estimated 200 Christians among the Qiang Nationality are Dajishan Qiang. The Dajishan Qiang have no Christian resources and few contacts with any Christian people. Over 87% have yet to hear the gospel. This group, who may reach a population of over 12.000 by 2010, are an Unreached People Group.
Over 20,000 Heihu Qiang, pronounced Chee-ung Hay-hoo, live in nine districts in central and southern Maoxian County in western Sichuan Province. They are one of the eleven Qiang sub groups. The the Heihu Qiang are among the southern Qiang peoples. Their language is practically unintelligible with other Qiang tongues. Like other Qiang peoples, the Heihu Qiang follow trandtional religion that includes belief in spirits, ancestors, and other supernatural powers that can be appeased by ritual.
Some 150 Heihu Qiang may be Christians. Missionary Thomas Torrance served in this area in the 1900s. Due to the heavy persecution of the Communists on their Long March in 1935, most of the churches and Christians were lost. Today, the Heihu Qiang have no Christian resources. This group who may reach a population of well over 26,000 by 2010 are an Unreached People Group.
More than 24,500 Jaiochang Qiang, pronounced Chee-ung Jeeow-chung, live in western Sichuan Province, in Maoxian County, Songpan County, and Belchuan County. The Jaiochang Qiang are among the southern Qiang groups. They participate in the Qiang customs relating to the stone defensive towers and the worship of the white stones.
Mostly the Jaiochang Qiang follow traditional religion, deifying mountains, sheep, trees, fire, storms, and ancestors. Some who live closer to Tibetan Communities have adopted Tibetan Buddhism and Daoism. Some 100 are thought to be Christian. This number must be considered with the realization that both Catholic and Protestant work entered this region in the early 1900s. The Jaiochang, like other Qiang peoples, have almost no Christian resources—one gospel recording is available. Over 87% have not heard the gospel. The Jaiochang Qiang are an Unreached People Group who may reach a population of over 31000 by 2010.
Some 4250 Longxi Qiang, pronounced Chee-ung Long-shee, are among the southern Qiang and live in western Sichuan in Wenchuan County (Aba Prefecture) and the districts of Longxi, Bulan, Baduo, Xianzhuang, and Mushang. Their language (Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-Burman) is one of the southern Qiang languages and is a distinct language.
The Longxi Qiang participate in the general Qiang dedication to the white stones and other traditional religion. In their religious practices one finds animistic rituals, the following of shaman, and ancestor worship. Some Qiang have become Christian but it is uncertain if any of the Longxi Qiang are believers. They have no Christian resources and as high as 94% have yet to hear the gospel. They represent a definie Unreached People Group.
Around 18,000 Luhua Qiang, pronounced Chee-ung-Loo-hwa, live in the northwest of Sichuan Province in Heishui (Black Water) county in Aba Prefecture. While they speak a Qiang language and are classified in the Qiang Nationality, the Luhua Qiang consider themselves Zangzu (Tibetan) in Chinese but R’ma in their own language. Their languge is one of the four distinct languages of north Qiang.
The Luhua Qiang are especially devoted to the beliefs in the white stones. Like many other Qiang peoples, the Luhua Qiang have indicated some interest in Christianity in the past. Today, however, no Christians are known among the Luhua Qiang who have no Christian resources. Over 92% have not heard the gospel. They remain an Unreached people who may reach a population of 23,300 by 2010.
Over 15,500 Mawo Qiang, pronounced Chee-ang Mah-wo, live completely within the borders of Heishui County in northwestern Sichuan Province. They are a northern Qiang people and speak one of the four northern Qiang tongues. Most Mawo Qiang are bilingual in their own language and Tibetan but many are multilingual in both Tibetan and in the Sichuan dialect of Mandarin.
The Mawo Qiang participate in the Qiang ritual Zhuanshan (Mountain Circling). In the past they led an oxen and carried food and wine up to the mountain and sacrificed both the oxen and the food to the god of the mountain. They made monkeys, wild boars, and rats of paper and burned the images to symbolize the destruction of those pests that destroyed their crops.
The Mawo Qiang are among the least evangelized of all the Qiang groups in China. Their language is different from any of the southern Qiang tongues. They have no Christian resources such as the Bible, Jesus Film, or gospel recordings. 99% have yet to hear the gospel. This group that may reach a population of 20000 by 2010 is an Unreached People.
Over 20,000 Mianchi Qiang, pronounced Chee-ung-Mee-an-chee, are one of the southern Qiang peoples and live in western Sichuan Province (Wenchuan County). The Mianchi Qiang language cannot be understood by any of the other Qiang peoples in Sichuan Province.
The Mianchi Qiang follow traditional religion, worshipping a multitude of deities and their ancestors. They maintain memorial tablets for their ancestors. They have no Christian resources. The estimate is that some 150 Mianchi Qiang are believers. Other Christans also live in Wenchuan County. The believers in Wenchuan County intend that their church become a center for the spread of the Faith throughout the region. Evangelical Christians should pray and cooperate to help this dream become a reality. At present, the Mianchi Qiang also represent an Unreached People.
The Sanlong Qiang, onounced Chee-ung-Sahn-long, number around 19300 but may reach a population of 25,000 by 2010. They are one of the southern Qiang peoples. They live in western Sichuan Province, in the Aba Prefecture in Maoxian County. They share the area with Han Chinese, Tigetans, and some other minority groups.
The Sanlong Qiang share in the Zhuanshan Festival I(Mountain Circling. Their religion consists of polytheism, animism, ancestor worship, and shamanism. No Christians are known among the ^ . They have no Scriptures or gospel recordings in their language. They do not have the Jesus Film. Over 92% have yet to hear the gospel. The Sanlong Qiang are an Unreached People Group.
Some 6320 Toaping Qiang, pronounced Chee-ung-Taow-ping, live in Lixian County in western Sichuan Province. They are a southern Qiang people. The Toaping live in houses that have a lower floor for animals and an upper floor for people. They reserve one room for the Qiang ancestors.
No known Christians are among the Taoping Qiang today. Some of the early missionary work was in the region. The destroyed church building at Tongwenmai stands at the entrance to the Longqi Township. Perhaps some Christians in Wenchuan will share with the Taoping Qiang. They have no Christian resources. This Unreached People Group may reach a population of over 8000 by 2010.
The Yuda Qiang, pronounced Chee-ung-Yah-doo, are a northern Qiang people who live in the Chibusu, Yadu, Qugu, and Weicheng districts of Maoxian County in western Sichuan Province. Some others live in Heishui County. They number close to 30,000 now but may reach as many as 38,000 by 2010.
While the Yuda Qiang are among the more numerous Qiang groups in Sichuan Province, no known Christians are among them. Their language is Tibetan Buddhism mixed with a great deal of traditional belief and practice. They have no Christian rescources and as high as 95% have yet to hear the gospel. They are an Unreached People Group who stand in need of the gospel.
The ethnically mixed Ming, pronounced Ming, live in and around the towns of Maoxian and Wenchuan Counties in Sichuan Province. They are a mixture of Qiang, Tibetan, and Han Chinese who have been ostracized by the other peoples in the region. They call themselves Ming Zu (Ming Nationality). Their language is a mixture of Qiang and Chinese. Most all Ming also speak Mandarin for everyday communication.
During the power of the Tibetan Empire (AD 600-900), many Qiang were assimilated into the Tibetan and Han Chinese cultures. The descendents from these intermarried peoples were not socially accepted by either group and forced to form their own villages.
Some Ming are animists but most could be described as non religious. While some Protestant and some Catholic work existed in the region in the 1800s and early 1900s, no traces remain today. No Christians are known among the ^ who have no Christian resources. They can however, be reached through the Chinese language. Around 96% have no knowledge of Christ. The Ming are an Unreached People Group who may reach a population of 15000 (up from the present 12000) by 2010.