Gelao in China

Joshua Project has identified the Gelao only in China





Largest Religion

Main Language


The Path to Truth and Life

Source Create International


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
People Name General Gelao (Ger-laow)
People Name in Country Gelao
Population in China 727,000
World Population 727,000
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 (727,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Chinese, Mandarin 727,000

For Main Lanugage: Chinese, Mandarin

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1864-1986)
New Testament Yes   (1857-1981)
Complete Bible Yes   (1874-1983)
Audio Bible Online
Format Resource
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio Recordings Christ for the Nations
Audio Recordings Online New Testament (FCBH)
Audio Recordings Online New Testament (FCBH)
Audio Recordings Online New Testament - Simplified (FCBH)
Audio Recordings Online New Testament - Traditional (FCBH)
Audio Recordings Online Scripture (Talking Bibles)
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video Fathers Love Letter
Film / Video General Ministry Resources
Film / Video General Ministry Resources
Film / Video God's Story Video
Film / Video Han Language Film
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Chinese, Mandarin
Film / Video Magdalena (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime)
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project)
Film / Video The Hope Video
General Bible Visuals
General Chinese Blog about Unreached Peoples
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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