Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The Ban Yao are officially considered part of the large Yao minority group. Although they recognize historical kinship with the Yao peoples, the Ban Yao now have their own customs, dress, and language. They are unable to use their own language to communicate with other Yao groups in Yunnan, and must speak Chinese to communicate.
Military campaigns were waged by the Chinese during the Hong Wu (1368-1398) and the Jia Qing (1522-1566) periods of the Ming Dynasty, causing the Ban Yao to migrate to their present location. The campaigns were often launched because the Yao refused to pay taxes. They claimed that they were once granted Imperial privilege to avoid taxes from generation to generation, a fact clearly enshrined in their special document, The King Ping's Charter, or The Register for Crossing the Mountains.
Until recently, a young Ban Yao man wishing to take a wife had to pay a price for her. Betrothal was therefore little more than a negotiation of the bride-price. The price was divided into three different levels, 72, 60, and 48 ounces of silver, depending on the beauty and health of the young woman. The young woman's parents kept their daughter until the price had been paid in full, in case the young man might refuse to pay after having "received the goods." Some Ban Yao share communal family homes with many of their relatives. The oldest living male is considered the head of the household.
The Ban Yao are primarily worshipers of nature and the spirits that they believe control it. They believe demons dwell inside large mountains, and the fate of people's lives is linked to whether the spirits are pleased with them or not.
There are no known Christians among the Ban Yao, although about one-fifth are aware of the gospel through the witness of the small number of Hmong and Han believers who live in Funing County. Evangelization of the Ban Yao is difficult because of their isolation and independent mind-set. They are relatively closed to change; decisions are made at a community level, not individually. The Ban Yao have lived and died for centuries without knowledge of Christ.