Bai Yi in China

Joshua Project has identified the Bai Yi only in China






Largest Religion

Main Language



The Bai Yi are the former slaves of the fearsome Nosu tribe. In the 1950s they were freed by the Communists and the yoke of slavery was broken. Thousands of people who had been enslaved for decades were relocated to the southern Sichuan area. It is important to note this Profile only refers to those slaves who banded together to form their own communities after their liberation, and not to the lower class of Yi also formerly known as the White Yi. These latter White Yi have seen their low status gradually vanish. Today they are virtually indistinguishable from the Black Yi, the former ruling class. The Bai Yi speak a different language from the many other groups called "Bai Yi" in southern China.


Until the 1950s, Nosu tribesmen regularly raided Chinese villages and seized the inhabitants to use them for slave labor. The Bai Yi, many of whom are a Yi-Han ethnic mix, are the descendants of these slaves. Samuel Clarke was one of the first to document their plight in 1911: "It is not uncommon to meet Chinese slaves, boys and girls, in Nosu families. They have either been kidnapped and sold, or their parents, unable to nourish them, have bartered them in exchange for food. ... The masters have absolute control over them. The girl slave he marries to other men's male slaves. The lot of these unfortunate people is hard beyond description. Being looked upon as of little more value than the cattle they tend ... the cruel beatings and tortures they have endured have completely broken their spirit, and now they seem unable to exist apart from their masters. Very seldom will any of them try to escape, for no one will give them shelter, and the punishment awarded to a recaptured slave is so severe as to intimidate the most daring. ... These poor creatures are born in slavery, married in slavery, and die in slavery."


The Bai Yi could scarcely believe it when they were liberated from the grip of the Nosu. One former slave explained, "In the beginning ... everyone was skeptical and refused to believe the ganbu's [cadre's] promises to end slavery. But then a few who dared to run away from their masters were protected by the ganbu and allowed to start new lives. Word got around, and eventually we all became free."


The Bai Yi contain a mixture of polytheists, animists, and atheists.


In the past a few Nosu slave owners who became Christians "changed their slaves into tenants, thus showing the way to the solution of this difficult problem. Missionaries were barred from speaking to the slaves and saw no hope for their conversion. One wrote, "Of the Nosu there are some believers. ... Of the serfs - well, what chance has a slave, anyway." There are presently only a handful of known Bai Yi believers.

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

Prayer Links
Global Prayer Digest: 2006-08-15
People Name General Bai Yi (Bai-Yee)
People Name in Country Bai Yi
Population in China 27,000
World Population 27,000
Countries 1
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Baiyi, White Yi, Yi, White
Affinity Bloc Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster Tibeto-Burman, other
People Name General Bai Yi (Bai-Yee)
Ethnic Code MSY50i
People ID 18410
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 Approximately 20,000 Bai Yi (White Yi) live along the Sichuan-Yunnan border, especially around the town of Panzhihua..   Source:  Operation China, 2000
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Nuosu (27,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Nuosu 27,000
For Primary Language: Nuosu

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes
New Testament Yes   (2005)
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Jesus Film: view in Nuosu Film / Video
My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime) Film / Video
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
80.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
20.00 %
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: Nico van Geldere  
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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