Naxi in China

Joshua Project has identified the Naxi only in China





Largest Religion

Main Language


The Naxi, Mosuo, Pumi, and Lisu

Source:  Asia Harvest      Download

The Naxi have been combined with several smaller groups to form one of China's official minorities. The Naxi trace their origins to an elephant-headed god named Tabu, who helped them hatch from magic eggs. The name Naxi means "respectable people."

One of the most distinctive aspects of Naxi culture is their ancient pictographic script. The Naxi developed the system of 1,500 pictographs more than 1,000 years ago, perhaps so they could record their religious laws before setting out to their new lands. Today some 20,000 Naxi manuscripts appear in museums and private collections in China and around the world. The pictographs were only read by the Dongbas - priests of the Dongba religion. In 1995 only three old men, aged 71, 76, and 86, could read the Naxi script. Naxi consists of three main dialects. A Naxi-English dictionary exists.


Since migrating from Tibet, the Naxi have lived in Lijiang approximately 1,000 years. References in Naxi literature to Lake Manasarovar and Mt. Kailas, both in farwestern Tibet, confirm the Naxi's origins. By the time the Mongol hordes swept through Lijiang in 1253, it was already populated by 1,000 families. On 3 February 1996, a huge earthquake shook Lijiang and surrounding districts. Three hundred people died, 40,000 were injured, and 300,000 were made homeless.


Naxi society is traditionally known for its matriarchal practices. For centuries, all property and assets were passed down through the woman's side of the family. Naxi men were only entitled to visit their azhu (walk-in friend) at night for sexual purposes, and to return at dawn to their mother's house. Matriarchal society started to subside in 1723 when Lijiang came under Chinese control. Naxi women protested their falling status by killing themselves. The annual "Sacrifice to Heaven" was last practiced in Lijiang in 1949. The favored way of dying was by taking poison. Today, matriarchal customs are seen more among the Mosuo farther to the north.


Although today many Naxi are nonreligious, in the 1940s there were more than 4,000 Naxi Dongba priests. Their religion was "characterized by a fascination with power and wonder-working, and belief in a multitude of gods and demons who are manipulated with magic."


The first missionaries to the Naxi arrived in 1912. By 1930 there were eight or nine baptized Naxi believers. In 1932 the Dutch Pentecostal Mission Society translated Scripture portions into Naxi, but these are now obsolete. In the early 1950s the Naxi church was destroyed by the Communists. Today there are a small number of Naxi believers in Lijiang, and there are Naxi Catholics mixed in with Lisu and Tibetan congregations farther north. More than 1,000 Naxi are members of the Mentu Hui cult, founded by Ji Sanbao, who claims to be a Second Christ.

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

Prayer Links
Global Prayer Digest: 2007-07-04
People Name General Naxi (Na-shee)
People Name in Country Naxi
Population in China 331,000
World Population 331,000
Countries 1
Progress Scale 1.2
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Lomi, Moso, Mu, Nachi, Na-His, Nahsi, Na-Hsi, Nakhi, Nasi
Affinity Bloc Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster Tibeto-Burman, other
People Name General Naxi (Na-shee)
Ethnic Code MSY50i
People ID 18630
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 More than 270,000 Naxi are located in northern Yunnan Province, especially in Lijiang County, at the foot of the sacred and majestic Jade Dragon Mountain. The perennially snowcapped mountain towers 5,596 meters (18,350 ft.) above the Lijiang plain. Small numbers of Naxi live in Sichuan Province1 and possibly in Myanmar..   Source:  Operation China, 2000
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Naxi (331,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Naxi 331,000
For Primary Language: Naxi

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1932)
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 0.07 %)
0.80 %
Ethnic Religions
94.20 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
5.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
20.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
40.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
40.0 %
Photo Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Map Source: Joshua Project / Global Mapping International  
Video Source: Asia Harvest
Profile Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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