Khmu in China





Largest Religion

Main Language



There has been much talk of the Khmu in China being granted status as China's 56th official minority. Twenty Chinese experts "urged that the Khmu be classified as a separate nationality." The government has so far resisted and has included the Khmu in a list of Undetermined Minorities. The Khmu have been described in such unflattering terms as "poverty stricken, dirty, and primitive."


Despite being recognized as the original inhabitants of Laos, the Khmu have a long history of oppression and conflict with other peoples. They were driven from the most prosperous land on the plains by Lao invaders from southern China almost 1,000 years ago. Many Khmu became slaves of the Lao. Still today the Khmu are known as Kha - a derogatory name meaning "slaves." In the latter part of the 1800s the Khmu were attacked by the Hmong in northern Laos after the Khmu had unwisely demanded tribute from the newly arrived Hmong.


In Khmu culture, sons take their father's family names, and daughters take their mother's. Surnames represent an animal or plant which those who bear that name are not allowed to touch. The Khmu in China, who refuse to marry outside of their tribe, "have no special festivals but in their times of leisure, the villagers, men and women, like to sit in a ring with wine jars put in the middle from which the wine can be sucked up through long straws."


Most Khmu believe their lives are controlled by the spirit world. This complex hierarchy of spirits includes the spirit of heaven, the spirit of thunder, the spirit of the water snake, etc. Every year the Khmu in Laos hold festivals to worship the spirits of the village and their ancestors, as well as to pray for a plentiful harvest and good fortune.


There are only a handful of believers among the Khmu in China, but in Laos they are one of the strongest Christian groups. Various missions were prominent in the early 1900s, sowing seeds for the harvest of at least 50,000 Khmu believers in Laos today. Many Khmu in Laos are coming to Christ through gospel radio broadcasts in the Khmu language. Some believe the Khmu in Laos are on the verge of mass conversion.

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

People Name General Khmu (Keh-Mu)
People Name in Country Khmu
Population in China 1,900
World Population 892,000
Countries 6
Progress Scale 1.2
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Hok, Kammu, Kamu, Kemu, Kha, Kha Cau, Khamu, Khomu, Khơ-mú, Lao Terng, Pouteng, Samon, Theng, Xa Cau
Affinity Bloc Southeast Asian Peoples
People Cluster Mon-Khmer
People Name General Khmu (Keh-Mu)
Ethnic Code AUG03z
People ID 18878
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 The 1,400 Khmu in China are located in the extreme southwest corner of the country. More than 560,000 Khmu also live throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Laos where 500,000 are found. The Khmu in China came from northern Laos into Xishuangbanna earlier this century. Twenty-five hundred Khmu have also settled in Western countries as refugees. In Yunnan, "the area they inhabit is surrounded by mountains and situated in the Shanyong District adjacent to China's border with Laos and south of the Nanla River in Mengla County.".   Source:  Operation China, 2000
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Khmu (1,900)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Khmu 1,900
For Primary Language: Khmu

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1918)
New Testament No
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Jesus Film: view in Khmu Film / Video
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.71 %)
0.90 %
Ethnic Religions
95.10 %
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: Anonymous  
Map Source: Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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