Tebbu, Diebu in China

Joshua Project has identified the Tebbu, Diebu only in China






Largest Religion

Main Language


The Amdo Tibetans

Source:  Asia Harvest      Download

More than 20,000 Tebbu people live in one of the most dramatically remote regions of China. They inhabit villages in the midst of the imposing Min Shan Mountains along the Bailong River and its tributaries in southern Gansu Province, cut off from the rest of the world by their surroundings. The Tebbu are dispersed throughout rugged Tewo County and possibly into the eastern part of Zhugqu County.


When Joseph Rock visited the Tebbu in the 1920s he said, 'The Min Shan, extending from east to west, is composed of fantastic limestone crags cut into huge turrets and pinnacles. Its northern slopes are cut into numerous deep valleys, densely forested with spruces, firs and rhododendrons, which debouch into the Tao River. The ridges and spurs separating these valleys...resemble huge sleeping dragons who guard the Tebbu Land.' Rock also noted, 'There are ten thousand of these warlike people belonging to the Tebbu tribe. These wild Tebbus that inhabit the most romantic spot of all China will perhaps remain an ethnological riddle; they call themselves Tewu, and are divided into two or perhaps three clans known as the Upper or Shan Tebbu, the Lower or Ha Tebbu, and the most refractory of all, the Tara Tebbu. Today the Tebbu Land is practically closed to foreigners and Chinese alike, and he risks his life indeed who enters that forbidding natural fortress which the Tebbus claim for their own.'


Little has changed in the years since Rock's visit. The Tebbu homeland is still dangerous for visitors, and the people still wild and unpredictable. The Tebbu in China have largely become invisible to the outside world, due to the fact that the government has lumped them together under the general Tibetan nationality, even though the Tebbu are very different—historically, culturally and linguistically. Although almost all Tebbu people profess Tibetan Buddhism as their religion, shamanist and animist rituals undergird all of their religious practices.


Christian and Missionary Alliance workers Edwin and Carol Carlson worked in this part of Gansu from 1922 to 1948. Their son, Bob Carlson, recalls the history of the outreach among the Tebbu people: 'It can be said that we were not received there with open arms, for my father was able to rent a house only because the landlord was having a dispute with the rest of the village, and figured the most spiteful thing he could do was to rent to foreigners. When we came on furlough in 1934, the men of a nearby village got together and burned the house to the ground.'

The famous missionary Robert Ekvall lived for a number of years in Lhamo, better known on today's maps as Langmusi. Carlson notes, 'He had many friends among the Tebbus. In 1940, as the direct result of the death of his wife Betty, a majority of the people in one Tebbu village became Christians. Bob left Lhamo in 1941 and, because of the war, was not able to return. Subsequently my dad had some contact with the believers up until 1948. What became of those believers is something I would dearly love to know!' It is now more than half a century since anything was heard about the Tebbu Christians. There is no evidence to suggest that their faith was passed on to the next generation.

Profile Source:   Peoples of the Buddhist World, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  

People Name General Tebbu, Diebu
People Name in Country Tebbu, Diebu
Population in China 25,000
World Population 25,000
Countries 1
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Tebbus, Tewo, Tewo Tibetans, Tewu
Affinity Bloc Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster Tibetan
People Name General Tebbu, Diebu
Ethnic Code MSY50z
People ID 19253
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 Huangnan, Hainan, Haibei, and Guoluo (Golog) Tibetan autonomous prefectures; Qinghai Province, Haixi Mongolian-Tibetan-Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture; Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, southwest Gansu Province, Tianzhu Autonomous County; west and north .   Source:  Ethnologue 2010
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Tibetan, Amdo (25,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Tibetan, Amdo 25,000
For Primary Language: Tibetan, Amdo

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes
New Testament No
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Central Tibetan Language Film Film / Video
Four Spiritual Laws General
God's Story Video Film / Video
Got Questions Ministry General
Jesus Film: view in Tibetan, Amdo Film / Video
My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime) Film / Video
Online Scripture / Portions Audio Recordings
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Religion Subdivision: Tibetan

Major Religion Percent
95.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
5.00 %
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: Peoples of the Buddhist World, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Map Source: Bryan Nicholson / cartoMission  
Video Source: Asia Harvest
Profile Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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