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Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The self-named Chrame were commonly known in the past as Xifan, a derogatory Chinese name meaning "barbarians of the west". It was a name not only applied to this group but sometimes also used for all Tibetans. The Chrame "are a member of the Tibetan minzu [nationality], but feel they have little in common with the Tibetans."
Muli was formerly a Buddhist monastery town resided over by a king until the 1950s. "The rulers of Muli are said to be of Manchu origin. They were given the sovereignty of the kingdom in perpetuity in recognition of valorous services rendered to Yungcheng, the famous Manchu emperor, who ascended the throne in 1723." In the past the Chrame were often attacked by Nosu raiders from the east. The Chrame king ruled with "absolute spiritual and temporal sway" over his subjects. "The villagers occupy wooden shanties scattered over the hillsides below the town. They are very poor, and live in constant fear of the lama king and his parasitic satellites".
A 1981 survey of 131 households in Muli found 52% of the marriages engaged in monogamy, 32% practiced polyandry (brothers sharing a wife), and 16% practiced polygamy (sisters sharing a husband). The king of Muli was fond of feeding visitors "dried legs of mutton and yak cheese... propelled by squirming maggots the size of a man's thumb."
All Chrame adhere to Tibetan Buddhism. It forms a major part of their ethnic and cultural identity. The Chrame inwardly long for the restoration of their kingdom and their former prestige among the other peoples of the area.
The Chrame are one of the most unreached people groups in China. There has never been a single known Chrame church or Christian believer. The Baptist missionaries Dan and Lucy Carr planned to work in Muli in the late 1940s, but they were evacuated from China before they had the opportunity to move there.