Gelao in China

Joshua Project has identified the Gelao only in China





Largest Religion

Main Language



The Gelao, despite their considerable size, are one of the least known of China's official ethnic minorities. Gelao means "human beings" as well as "bamboo." Today, most Gelao are culturally indistinguishable from the Chinese. Even back in 1911 one observer wrote, "The Gelao are now nearly extinct; many of them have married into Bouyei and [Chuanlan and Chuanqing] families."


The Gelao are thought to be descended from the ancient Liao race who established the Yelang Kingdom in Guizhou about 2,000 years ago. A folk tale tells how the king of Yelang was born from bamboo, so the whole group came to be called Bamboo. The Gelao are considered the original inhabitants of each region where they live. "Where the Miao and Gelao occupy the same district, the Miao allow that the Gelao were there before themselves."


The Gelao primarily grow maize, wheat, potatoes, sorghum, millet, tobacco, and tea. "In the past, the Gelao practiced initiation rites for their young men, including toothbreaking and hair-cutting rituals. The Gelao were once head-hunters and cannibals." Among the Yaya (Tooth) Gelao, the custom of breaking the front tooth of a bride was observed until recently.


The Gelao are primarily ancestor worshipers. "They also worship the gods of giant trees, of mountains, of sky and earth, cows, etc. They have no idols, temples or monasteries, and no systematic religious creeds or organization. But they have a number of primitive superstitions and taboos, which affect every aspect of their lives."


Because it is difficult to convey the Gelao as a cohesive people group with a common identity, it is also difficult to gauge the status of Christianity among them. The Gelao were reached with the Gospel by French Catholic missionaries in the late 1800s, but little fruit from that effort remains today.

Profile Source:   Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  

Prayer Links
Global Prayer Digest: 2008-07-16
Global Prayer Digest: 2010-07-05
Video Links:
The Path to Truth and Life
People Name General Gelao (Ger-laow)
People Name in Country Gelao
Population in China 731,000
World Population 731,000
Countries 1
Progress Scale 1.2
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Cờ Lao, Ilao, Keh-lao, Kelao, Thu
Affinity Bloc Southeast Asian Peoples
People Cluster Miao / Hmong
People Name General Gelao (Ger-laow)
Ethnic Code MSY47a
People ID 11857
Country China
Region Northeast Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 29  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country The 1982 Chinese census recorded 53,800 Gelao people in China, but by 1990 that figure had dramatically jumped more than eight-fold to 438,000. There are several reasons for this peculiarity. The Gelao are widely scattered across 40 counties in six provinces of southern China. The majority live in western Guizhou Province. Other communities are in Yunnan, Guangxi, Hunan, Sichuan, and Jiangxi provinces. Approximately 7,000 Gelao are also located in northern Vietnam..   Source:  Operation China, 2000
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Chinese, Mandarin (731,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Chinese, Mandarin 731,000
For Primary Language: Chinese, Mandarin

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1864-1986)
New Testament Yes   (1857-1981)
Complete Bible Yes   (1874-1983)
Audio Bible Online
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Bible Gateway Scripture Text / Printed Matter
Bible Visuals General
Bible-in-Your-Language Text / Printed Matter
Bible: Chinese Union Version, Shangti Edition, Simplified Text / Printed Matter
Bible: Chinese Union Version, Shangti Edition, Simplified Text / Printed Matter
Bible: Chinese Union Version, Shen Edition, Simplified Text / Printed Matter
Bible: Chinese Union Version, Shen Edition, Simplified Text / Printed Matter
Bible: Revised Chinese Union Version, Traditional Text / Printed Matter
Bible: 新譯本(繁體字版) Text / Printed Matter
Bibles, Bible League Text / Printed Matter
Cartoon Gospel tract Text / Printed Matter
Chinese Blog about Unreached Peoples General
Christ for the Nations Audio Recordings
EasyBibles Text / Printed Matter
EasyBibles Text / Printed Matter
EasyBibles Text / Printed Matter
Fathers Love Letter Film / Video
Four Spiritual Laws General
General Ministry Resources Film / Video
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.09 %)
0.20 %
Ethnic Religions
94.80 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
5.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
70.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
30.0 %
Photo Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Map Source: Joshua Project / Global Mapping International  
Video Source: Create International
Profile Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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