Tai Nua in Laos






Largest Religion

Main Language



Although the Tai Nua are part of the official Dai nationality in China, they speak their own distinct language. They should not be confused with the identically named but different Tai Nua of Laos.

Linguists have pointed out that Tai Nua is "a name given to at least two quite different southwestern branch groups." The Tai Nua profiled here are members of the Southwestern branch of the Tai language family, while the Tai Mao language spoken throughout Dehong Prefecture is similar to the Shan language of Myanmar. The confusion of names is caused partly by "the Chinese tendency to group languages together into nationalities, exemplified by the Dai nationality, which includes all the Southwestern Tai languages of China."


The Tai Nua are historically part of the great Tai race of Asia, which dispersed during the past millennia to now inhabit parts of China, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, and, of course, Thailand. "Based on evidence from Neolithic finds unearthed by archeologists during recent decades it is now believed that before migrating southwards, the forefathers of the present day Thais lived in most parts of Guangxi and Sichuan, plus parts of Guizhou and Yunnan."


After a Tai Nua wedding ceremony the bridegroom goes to live with his bride's family. Traditionally he must take with him gifts of tea, rice, meat, bananas, four eggs, and two salted fish for his new in-laws. Upon arrival, the village elder takes the packets of tea and rice out to the road and calls on the spirits of heaven and earth to witness the marriage. He then ties a white thread seven times around the wrist of the bride and once around the wrist of the groom to indicate their unbreakable commitment to each other.


Although they are nominally Theravada Buddhists, the Tai Nua have many aspects of animism and polytheism mixed into their beliefs. The very first Tai god was Shalou, the god of Hunting. "Before a hunt, sacrifices were offered to Shalou to avert danger and to ensure success in the hunt."


There are no known Christians among the Tai Nua and very little outreach is presently focused on bringing the gospel to them. Little improvement in their spiritual condition has taken place since the 1920s when one missionary lamented, "There is not a missionary working south of [Kunming] to Mohei, I am here alone and my little candle is the only light. Yet in these mountains are thousands of tribesmen who have never heard of the Gospel."

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

People Name General Tai Nua (Tie-Maow)
People Name in Country Tai Nua
Population in Laos 55,000
World Population 151,000
Countries 2
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Chinese Shan, Dai Mao, Dai Mo, Dehong, Kang, Kong, Mao, Mao Shan, Maw, Northern Shan, Shan Tayok, Tai Che, Tai Khe, Tai Le, Tai Loe, Tai Mao, Tai Yai
Affinity Bloc Southeast Asian Peoples
People Cluster Tai
People Name General Tai Nua (Tie-Maow)
Ethnic Code MSY49z
People ID 19051
Country Laos
Region Southeast Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 28  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)

No people group map currently available. Use the above button to submit a map.

Enthologue Language Map

Ethnolinguistic map from University of Texas or other map

Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Tai Nua (55,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Tai Nua 55,000
For Primary Language: Tai Nua

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1931-1948)
New Testament No
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Buddhism

Major Religion Percent
85.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
15.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
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
Profile Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

Copyright © 2015 Joshua Project.  A ministry of Frontier Ventures.