Identity The name Luoluopo means "tigerdragon people" in the Luoluopo language. It is not the same name as Lolo, which was used by the Chinese in a derogatory manner to describe all Yi people until recently. The Central Luoluopo are one of more than 100 subgroups of Yi in Yunnan.
The Central Luoluopo speak a language belonging to the Central Yi language group, which in 1987 contained a total of 470,000 speakers. The Yi script is not used by the Central Luoluopo.
History The Central Luoluopo have been in their present location for many centuries. Over time the best land on the plains was taken by the Han. The Central Luoluopo were forced to migrate into the isolated mountains.
Customs The Central Luoluopo celebrate numerous festivals over the course of the year, most of which have religious significance. In January they observe the two-day Dragon Worship Festival. Sacrifices are made to the dragons of the water to ensure a good harvest and to prevent drought and famine. In Dayao County, the Central Luoluopo celebrate the Open Street Festival every February. It affords the chance for Luoluopo from different locations to meet and trade. Luoluopo youth dress in their finest clothes and take the opportunity to meet prospective partners. The social activities of the week include a unique traditional dance in which participants may only dance on their left foot. At all Central Luoluopo festivals a huge feast is prepared. Luoluopo men and women have the habit of smoking long pipes. Central Luoluopo youth are expected to be sexually active before marriage. All villages have a "flower house" where young people are allowed to come together after dark. Fidelity in marriage is stressed only after the first baby is born.
Religion The Central Luoluopo celebrate the Tiger Festival between the eighth and the 15th days of the first lunar month. The Luoluopo believe they are descended from tigers. The hero of the festival is the tiger, a person in costume who, after dancing on the open ground, rides a Mountain god float to call on each home in the community and offer them a blessing.
Christianity French Catholic missionary Alfred Lietard and his team worked among the Central Luoluopo in the early part of the twentieth century. They wrote a detailed account of the group in 1913. The missionaries also translated the text of the "Prodigal Son" into Central Luoluopo, although this is no longer available. Today there are a small number of Central Luoluopo Christians attending churches in the townships, but the majority of Luoluopo have never heard the gospel. Central Luoluopo gospel recordings were produced in 1998.
More than 350,000 Central Luoluopo live in the central and north central parts of Yunnan Province. The great majority are located in Chuxiong Prefecture. In a 1957 study, Chuxiong reportedly contained 140,000 Luoluopo. (Source: Operation China, 2000)