Lama in Myanmar (Burma)





Largest Religion

Main Language



The Lama are one of several distinct language groups combined to form the official Nu nationality in China.


In 1896 the explorer Henri d'Orleans said the wild Lisu constantly raided the Lama and took them as slaves. Today, Lama villages in Bijiang retain vestiges of a patriarchal clan system. Ten clans were located in ten different villages where each had communal land. According to a 1953 survey, "a landlord economy had emerged in Bijiang County, with an increasing number of land sales, mortgages, and leases. In some places, rich peasants exploited their poorer neighbors by a system called washua, under which peasants labored in semi-serf conditions. Slavery was practiced in a fraudulent form of son adoption.

More than 1,000 Lama are located within a thin strip of land along the China-Myanmar border, primarily in and around the town of Bijiang in Yunnan Province. A 1977 figure placed a total of 3,000 Lama in both China and Myanmar. Their villages are constructed on steep 75 degree slopes. Yesterday's dangerous cane bridges across the turbulent river have given way to today's chain and rope bridges. The region is extremely mountainous, with the highest peaks rising more than 3,000 meters (9,840 ft.) above sea level. "Dense virgin forests of pines and firs cover the mountain slopes and are the habitat of tigers, leopards, bears, deer, giant hawks and pheasants.


The Lama have a custom of naming a man three times during his lifetime. The first time occurs just after birth. A male elder, usually a grandfather, gives the baby a name which will be used all his life. At the age of 14 or 15 he is given another name which can only be used among his friends and people of his own generation. When a man gets married, he is named a third time. His name is connected to his father's by prefixing his name with the last sound of his father's name.


In the past, clan leaders among the Lama also doubled as the village shamans. Their main job was to practice divination to ensure a bountiful harvest.


Today there are believed to be a small number of Catholic believers among the Lama in China. The first Catholic missionaries in the Lama region were sent out by the Paris Foreign Missionary Society in the late 1800s. Father Jen Anshou established a work at Bai Halo. Most Catholic churches in China are not plagued by the idolatry that is often a feature of Catholicism in other countries. A Protestant mission book in the 1920s went as far as to state: "Go where you will in China, enter their churches when you will, and you will almost invariably find someone at prayer. Or again, if you are passing a little country church at the hour of its daily mass, you will find on any week day a goodly few from the village gathered there for worship.

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

People Name General Lama (Lah-ma)
People Name in Country Lama
Population in Myanmar (Burma) 5,500
World Population 7,700
Countries 4
Progress Scale 3.2
Least-Reached No
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Bodh, Lamba, Lima, Losso, Namba
Affinity Bloc Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster Tibeto-Burman, other
People Name General Lama (Lah-ma)
Ethnic Code MSY50r
People ID 12964
Country Myanmar (Burma)
Region Southeast Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 25  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)

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Enthologue Language Map

Ethnolinguistic map from University of Texas or other map

Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Lama (5,500)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Lama 5,500
For Primary Language: Lama

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Translation Need Questionable
Resource Format
None reported  
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
25.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 10.00 %)
16.00 %
Ethnic Religions
59.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
97.0 %
Roman Catholic
3.0 %
Photo Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Profile Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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