Popei in China

Joshua Project has identified the Popei only in China






Largest Religion

Main Language



The Popei have been officially combined with dozens of other distinct ethnolinguistic peoples to form the Yi nationality in China. The Popei are widely known by their Chinese name, Shui Yi, meaning "water Yi." The Popei (Shui Yi) are often mistaken for the Shuitian (Watery Fields) group, but the two groups are distinct and speak separate languages. Popei is this group's autonym.


Today's various branches of the Yi people, including the Popei, are believed to have come from common stock. Legends and records written in the ancient Yi script show that the Yi society was once matriarchal. The Annals of the Yis in the Southwest records that in ancient times the Yi people "only knew mothers and not fathers ... and women ruled for six generations in a row." As the Yi splintered into numerous divisions and migrated throughout southern China, each group gradually developed its own language and culture.


Although small in number, the Popei celebrate many traditional Yi festivals. Some of these include the Garment Contest Festival which takes place in Zhijie Township of Yongren County every February; and the Get-Together of Princes Festival which is held in Longjie Township of Dayao County on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. The people throw water over each other, sing, dance, and create an edible "prince" which they bake and eat.


As the Popei were gradually absorbed by the Han Chinese, they adopted many of the Han's Daoist and ancestor worship rituals.


The region inhabited by the Popei is one of the least evangelized in all of Yunnan Province. Various hidden tribes and groups in the area are locked away by remote mountains and rushing streams. Roads into the area were only constructed in the 1950s. Before then access was only possible by foot or on horseback from the nearest town. The nearest churches are among the Nasu and Lipo in Wuding.

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

People Name General Popei (Poh-pay)
People Name in Country Popei
Population in China 6,400
World Population 6,400
Countries 1
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Unengaged Yes (per Finishing the Task)
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Shui Yi, Shuitian, Shuitianyizi, Shuiyi, Shuiyipuo, Shuiyizu, Water Yi
Affinity Bloc Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster Tibeto-Burman, other
People Name General Popei (Poh-pay)
Ethnic Code MSY50i
People ID 18655
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 Between 3,000 and 5,000 Popei people live in the northern part of Yunnan Province close to the border with Sichuan Province. About 1,000 Popei live in several villages in Huaping County which is part of Lijiang Prefecture. In addition, the Popei live in Dayao and Yongren counties of Chuxiong Prefecture. Other small pockets of Popei live scattered throughout the area. The Popei live in mountainous areas, alongside members of many other Yi subgroups such as the Eastern Nasu, Western Lipo, and Lopi..   Source:  Operation China, 2000
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Lolopo (6,400)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Lolopo 6,400
For Primary Language: Lolopo

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions No
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 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
95.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
5.00 %
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: Operation China, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
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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