Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
Although they were initially noted in the 1982 census, the Beidongnuo were not granted status as a separate people group. They have since been buried under several artificially constructed layers. Chinese scholars came in and found that the Beidongnuo speak the same language as the Numao, another ethnic group living in Libo County. The Numao (now including the Beidongnuo) were then counted as one of 11 groups of Bunu people. Finally, the Bunu were placed under the Yao nationality, one of China's 55 official minority groups. Because of the government's methods, very few people have ever heard of the Beidongnuo. Even local people in Libo County are not familiar with their name. Although the Beidongnuo may speak the same language as the Numao, they claim they are a different people group and are upset by the government's official classification.
The Beidongnuo are believed to have migrated to their present location at least 300 years ago. The remote mountains of Libo County are home to several small unofficial groups including the Mo and the Numao.
The few Chinese people in the area who are aware of the existence of the Beidongnuo people call them by the nickname Changsha Yao, meaning "long shirt Yao." Terms that reflect the clothing of minority groups are commonly given by the Han. The nearby Numao people, for example, are commonly known as the Heiku (Black Trouser) Yao.
The Beidongnuo are polytheistic animists. They worship numerous spirits and deities. Their religious ceremonies also include rituals borrowed from Daoism, including elements of ancestral worship.
The tiny Beidongnuo people group have absolutely no knowledge of the gospel or of the existence of Christianity. They are a people who have been effectively hidden away from the outside world for centuries. Pre-1949 missionaries in Dushan (to the north) once listed the Pei Tong Nuo as one of the groups in the region, but no outreach was ever undertaken to reach them.