Tai Nua, Chinese Shan in China





Largest Religion

Main Language



Although the Tai Nua are part of the official Dai nationality in China, they speak their own distinct language. They should not be confused with the identically named but different Tai Nua of Laos.

Linguists have pointed out that Tai Nua is "a name given to at least two quite different southwestern branch groups." The Tai Nua profiled here are members of the Southwestern branch of the Tai language family, while the Tai Mao language spoken throughout Dehong Prefecture is similar to the Shan language of Myanmar. The confusion of names is caused partly by "the Chinese tendency to group languages together into nationalities, exemplified by the Dai nationality, which includes all the Southwestern Tai languages of China."


The Tai Nua are historically part of the great Tai race of Asia, which dispersed during the past millennia to now inhabit parts of China, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, and, of course, Thailand. "Based on evidence from Neolithic finds unearthed by archeologists during recent decades it is now believed that before migrating southwards, the forefathers of the present day Thais lived in most parts of Guangxi and Sichuan, plus parts of Guizhou and Yunnan."


After a Tai Nua wedding ceremony the bridegroom goes to live with his bride's family. Traditionally he must take with him gifts of tea, rice, meat, bananas, four eggs, and two salted fish for his new in-laws. Upon arrival, the village elder takes the packets of tea and rice out to the road and calls on the spirits of heaven and earth to witness the marriage. He then ties a white thread seven times around the wrist of the bride and once around the wrist of the groom to indicate their unbreakable commitment to each other.


Although they are nominally Theravada Buddhists, the Tai Nua have many aspects of animism and polytheism mixed into their beliefs. The very first Tai god was Shalou, the god of Hunting. "Before a hunt, sacrifices were offered to Shalou to avert danger and to ensure success in the hunt."


There are no known Christians among the Tai Nua and very little outreach is presently focused on bringing the gospel to them. Little improvement in their spiritual condition has taken place since the 1920s when one missionary lamented, "There is not a missionary working south of [Kunming] to Mohei, I am here alone and my little candle is the only light. Yet in these mountains are thousands of tribesmen who have never heard of the Gospel."

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

People Name General Tai Nua, Chinese Shan (Tie-Nooua)
People Name in Country Tai Nua, Chinese Shan
Population in China 480,000
World Population 581,000
Countries 2
Progress Scale 1.2
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Chinese Shan, Dai, Dai Kong, Dai Le, Dai Loe, Dai Mao, Dai Mo, Dai Na, Dai Nue, Dai Nuea, Dehong, Dungan, Eastern Shan, Hakka, Han Chinese, Han-Paiyi, Kang, Kong, Loe, Mandarin, Mao Shan, Maw, Northern Shan, Nua, Paiyi, Shan Tayok, Tai Che, Tai Khe, Tai Kong, Tai Le, Tai Loe, Tai Neua, Tai Nua, Tai Nue, Tai Nuea, Tai Yai, Yunnanese
Affinity Bloc Southeast Asian Peoples
People Cluster Tai
People Name General Tai Nua, Chinese Shan (Tie-Nooua)
Ethnic Code MSY49a
People ID 15193
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 There is a great deal of confusion regarding the names used to classify the various Dai/Tai groups in China. Many publications call the Tai in the Dehong Prefecture Tai Nua, a name meaning "northern Tai." The Tai in Dehong are profiled in Operation China under the name Tai Mao, according to the classification of linguist David Bradley. "The Tai Nua or 'Northern Tai' live in southwestern Yunnan along river valleys; they number about 100,000.".   Source:  Operation China, 2000
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Tai Nua (480,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Tai Nua 480,000
For Primary Language: Tai Nua

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1931-1948)
New Testament No
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Religion Subdivision: Theravada

Major Religion Percent
51.81 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.17 %)
0.19 %
Ethnic Religions
46.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
2.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Map Source: Joshua Project / Global Mapping 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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