Cai in China

Joshua Project has identified the Cai only in China





Largest Religion

Main Language



The Cai, who are also known as the Caijia, have never been included as part of any official nationality by the Chinese authorities. In the 1982 census they were placed in a list of Undetermined Minorities. The Cai were just one of 80 groups in Guizhou on this list which totaled more than 900,000 people. In 1985 many of these groups were assigned into existing nationalities, but scholars remained baffled by the complexity of the Cai. They remain an unclassified group, although the authorities believe them to be related to the Miao. The Cai consider themselves distinct from all other ethnic groups in the region and strongly insist on being granted their own minority status.


During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when the Cai were a stronger and much larger group than today, they appeared in historical accounts as the Song Ren. They are believed to have fragmented into smaller groups over the past 300 years. Today the Lu ethnic group are ethnoculturally close to the Cai. The Cai intermarry with the Lu and consider them to have once been related.


Dafang, where most Cai live, is renowned across China for its beautiful lacquerware. More than 70 varieties of wild azaleas and rhododendrons also grow in the area. The Cai used to wear clothes made of fur. This can still be seen in some of the more remote Cai villages today. Many Cai are employed as shepherds and goatherds. A sizable number also work in the carpet-making industry.


Most Cai worship many gods and spirits, although in recent decades an increasing Christian presence has also emerged among them. The polytheistic Cai blow leaves to worship spirits. When a Cai person dies, the people attending the funeral are not permitted to cry or show any remorse. Instead, they walk around the corpse and sing.


A conservative estimate places the number of Cai Christians at 400. The true number of believers may be significantly higher. Most Cai Christians heard the gospel from Yi and Miao evangelists who were sent to reach out to them. The northwest Guizhou region was first focused on by missionaries in the late 1800s. A mass people movement to Christ occurred in the early 1900s, especially among the AHmao (Big Flowery Miao). Today there are numerous Christian communities in Dafang County, but believers live in dire poverty and have few Bibles.

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

People Name General Cai (Tsai)
People Name in Country Cai
Population in China 33,000
World Population 33,000
Countries 1
Progress Scale 3.1
Least-Reached No
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Ah-oh-ma, Awuzi, Cai Jia Miao, Caijia, Man Ni, Se-Ni, Song Ren
Affinity Bloc Southeast Asian Peoples
People Cluster Tai
People Name General Cai (Tsai)
Ethnic Code MSY49#
People ID 18426
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 1982 a total of 17,000 Cai people inhabited communities in western Guizhou province. They are concentrated in Dafang, Zhijin, Nayong, Weining, Bijie, and Qianxi counties. The Cai live in the vicinity of numerous ethnic groups, including several distinct Yi and Miao groups. The Cai may call themselves Man Ni. The Miao call the Cai Seni; the Yi call them Ah-ohma, and the Han know them as Cai Jia Miao..   Source:  Operation China, 2000

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Enthologue Language Map

Ethnolinguistic map from University of Texas or other map

Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Gelao, Green (33,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Gelao, Green 33,000

For Main Lanugage: Gelao, Green

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Translation Need Questionable
Resource Format
None reported  
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 2.50 %)
3.00 %
Ethnic Religions
93.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
4.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
100.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Profile Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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