Nguan in Laos

Joshua Project has identified the Nguan only in Laos





Largest Religion

Main Language


Introduction / History

More than 26,000 people in the Nguan ethnic group were listed in the 1995 Lao census. Ethnographer Laurent Chazee, earlier in that same year, estimated a lower population of 12,000 Nguan people. There is some confusion surrounding the existence of the Nguan. Despite the fact they are a relatively large group, and are very ethnically distinct and isolated, the Nguan do not appear in the authoritative Ethnologue, and have therefore also not appeared on Christian mission lists. This is probably due to the fact that until recently, the Lao government counted the Nguan as part of the Khmu, and did not recognize them as a distinct tribe. In the 1985 census, however, the Nguan were treated separately. There is no doubt that ethno-linguistically the Nguan qualify as a distinct group.

The majority of Nguan live in the districts of Nale, Viangphoukha and Luang Namtha in Luang Namtha Province, where their villages are near the Khuen, Lamet and Khmu Rok. In 1975 a number of Nguan families migrated to Houayxay District in Bokeo Province, where today they inhabit several communities. The Nguan live in stilted houses. Craftsmen carve images into the stilts. Nguan roofs are made of wooden tiles, and are not simply thatch as is the case with most tribal groups in Laos. Their villages are arranged with the houses in a circular pattern, facing towards a communal house in the middle.

The Nguan language is a distinct member of the Mon-Khmer family. It is partially related to Khmu and Samtao. The Nguan can understand only a little of the Lamet language.

The Nguan divide into two main clans, which are named after two different kinds of birds: Sim Takok and Sim Ome. To the clan members, these birds are sacred and must never be killed.

The Nguan are animists. They sacrifice chickens to appease the spirit of the forest, kill pigs to placate the spirit of the village, and cows or buffaloes to the spirit of the house. Shamans are still active among the Nguan. Their main job is to preside over the annual rice festival, when a pig is sacrificed.

There are at least two churches among the Nguan, containing more than 200 believers. Most this group, however, have yet to hear the Gospel.

Prayer Points

* Pray that they will choose to follow Christ rather than to sacrifice and worship evil spirits.
* Ask God to empower the Nguan Christians to witness for His glory.
* Pray for an outpouring of the conviction and grace of God to come upon Nguan people everywhere.

Profile Source:   Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  

People Name General Nguan
People Name in Country Nguan
Population in Laos 37,000
World Population 37,000
Countries 1
Progress Scale 1.2
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Nhuane, Yoan, Youane
Affinity Bloc Southeast Asian Peoples
People Cluster Mon-Khmer
People Name General Nguan
Ethnic Code AUG03z
People ID 13369
Country Laos
Region Southeast Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 28  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Luang Namtha province, Nale, Viangphoukha, and Luang Namtha districts.   Source:  Faces of the Unreached in Laos, 1999
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Khmu (37,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Khmu 37,000
For Primary Language: Khmu

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1918)
New Testament No
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Jesus Film: view in Khmu Film / Video
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.85 %)
1.00 %
Ethnic Religions
99.00 %
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 %
75.0 %
Roman Catholic
25.0 %
Photo Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Map Source: Joshua Project / Global Mapping International  
Profile Source: Peoples of Laos, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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