Ati in China

Joshua Project has identified the Ati only in China





Largest Religion

Main Language



The Ati are one of dozens of distinct tribes and ethnolinguistic groups the Chinese authorities combined to form the official Yi nationality. There are 120 distinct subgroups of Yi in China. The Ati are only distantly related to other Yi groups in the area, such as the Axi, Adu, Long, Xiqi, and Sani.


Several hundred years ago, tribes like the Ati lived relatively uninterrupted lives in the hills of central Yunnan. The Han Chinese then flooded the area in massive waves of migration, especially over the last 150 years. Today groups like the Ati, swamped amid the sea of Han Chinese, are barely noticeable to outsiders. As the Han grew in numbers and influence, they forced the Ati off the best land and into the mountains. The Ati were forced to move in order to retain their own customs and ethnicity. Those who stayed in the rural areas were soon absorbed culturally and linguistically.


The Ati share many cultural traits with the Adu, Long, and Xiqi groups who also inhabit Huaning County and speak Yi languages. The Ati live in two-story wooden homes that are built as a safeguard against intruders and wild animals. Most Ati are engaged in agriculture, but in recent years many youth have ventured into the cities and towns of Yunnan looking for work. Those fortunate enough to gain employment send most of their income home to support their families.


The Ati are ardent animists and polytheists. In particular they revere and worship the Dragon god. Most Ati villages have a "dragon tree" set aside for this purpose. The antireligion and antisuperstition campaigns of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) caused many Ati rituals to cease. As government opposition has eased, the Ati have slowly revived their former beliefs.


A Chinese government survey in 1989 found there to be 23 Christians among the Yi in Huaxi District of Huaning County. These are probably people from the Ati tribe. Little mission work was done in this part of Yunnan Province, although some Catholic endeavors may have resulted in the small amount of fruit that remains today. Despite the presence of these few families of believers, most Ati are completely unaware of the gospel.

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

People Name General Ati (Ah-tee)
People Name in Country Ati
Population in China 16,000
World Population 16,000
Countries 1
Progress Scale 1.2
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Biritai, Obokuitai
Affinity Bloc East Asian Peoples
People Cluster Mongolian
People Name General Ati (Ah-tee)
Ethnic Code MSY41y
People ID 18402
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 In 1999 it was estimated that 12,600 Ati people lived in parts of central Yunnan Province in southwest China. The Ati have lived with a shrouded identity for centuries, known only to those who live close enough for direct contact. The majority live in Huaning County, situated south of Kunming City. Smaller numbers also live in neighboring Jianshui County..   Source:  Operation China, 2000
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Sani (16,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Sani 16,000
For Primary Language: Sani

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions No
New Testament No
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.20 %)
0.30 %
Ethnic Religions
95.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
4.70 %
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  
Profile Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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