Tai Lue in Myanmar (Burma)

Main Language
Largest Religion
Buddhism (Theravada)
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Tai Lue live along the high hillsides of the easternmost border of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. They primarily inhabit the Kengtung district and the region where the Shweli River crosses into China. Their language, Lu, belongs to the southwestern group of Tai languages. Since Central Thai is the common language used at the market, many Tai Lue merchants are bilingual.

China is the original homeland of the Tai Lue, however many have migrated south due to pressure by the Chinese. A large number fled to Burma, Thailand, and Laos during World War II. At that time, a Communist regime was established in China, bringing an end to the Tai Lue kingdom.

Myanmar has experienced an array of coups, wars, and rebellions. Today, the Burmese military maintains forcible control over the ethnic groups, such as the Tai Lue, who want to have equal importance in the government and in commerce.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Tai Lue men are bigger, taller, and stronger than the Shan or Northern Thai. They traditionally dress in blue coats; dark blue bell trousers with bands of red, yellow, or white; and large white turbans. The women wear light blue embroidered jackets that are adorned with small pieces of silver. They also wear red or scarlet skirts and turbans.

Most of the Tai Lue are farmers living in river valleys. There, they grow wet rice for consumption and sale. They still use primitive, wooden equipment drawn by buffalo. The women's specialties include weaving and embroidery. Some Tai Lue work as merchants, buying and selling goods. There are many Chinese markets on a five-day rotation where the Shan, Burmese, Chinese, Tai Lue, Wa, and other hill-tribesmen gather to buy, sell, and trade.

Tai Lue villages are located either on raised ground surrounded by rice fields, or on high ground on either side of a road or pathway. Their houses are the characteristic Thai dwellings on tall posts. They are built with floors of split bamboo, short walls, and thatched roofs.

Each village is headed by a chief, whose task includes choosing the right place to sow rice. Rather than a strict form of social control, there is evidence that witchcraft is used to keep the people oppressed. Public opinion, gossip, and the like are manipulated in their villages.

The Lu are closely attached to their customs, and their social structure is based on family units. Homes contain ancestral shrines that are used during marriage ceremonies and in the control of sexual behavior. Premarital sexual relations seem to be accepted. Once a couple is married, their living arrangements are decided according to which household most needs the services of the couple.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The majority of the Tai Lue practice ethnic religions. Theravada Buddhism is often mixed with folk animism. They believe that non-human objects have spirits, and that people have multiple souls. They also believe that there are territorial spirits, which are identified with different levels of society. In addition, they practice ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for guidance). They live in fear of their gods and constantly strive to appease them with religious chants, rituals, and sacrifices.

The Tai Lue put great emphasis on reincarnation, believing that if they live a good life they will be reborn into a higher social order. If they are wicked, however, they will be reborn as degraded animals.

What Are Their Needs?

The Tai Lue have been tremendously affected by the fighting and bloodshed of the past. They need healing and new spiritual hope.

Copies of the New Testament are from a 1933 translation which they can no longer read.

Prayer Points

Pray that Myanmar will soon open its doors to missionaries.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Tai Lue towards Christians.
Pray that God will call out prayer teams to break up the soil through worship and intercession.
Ask God to raise up long-term workers to live among the Tai Lue.
Pray that Tai Lue believers will be bold witnesses for Christ among their own people.
Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of Myanmar's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
Pray that Christian radio and television broadcasts will be made available in their language.
Ask the Lord to raise up strong local Christian fellowships among the Tai Lue.

Scripture Prayers for the Tai Lue in Myanmar (Burma).

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

People Name General Tai Lue
People Name in Country Tai Lue
Pronunciation tie LOO
Alternate Names Dai Le; Dai Lu; Duon; Kon; Leu; Lự; Lu Ge Zi; Lu Ren; Lue; Lugepo; Nhuon; Pa Hng; Pai-I; Pai-yi; Shui Dai; Sipsongpanna Dai; Washing-Bone Miao; Xishuangbanna; Xishuangbanna Dai; Xishuangbnna Dai
Population this Country 62,000
Population all Countries 1,109,000
Total Countries 6
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 1  (per PeopleGroups.org)
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 18566
ROP3 Code 114183
ROP25 Code 307851
ROP25 Name Tai Lu
Country Myanmar (Burma)
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 17  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country East Shan State, Muang Yong township.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Myanmar (Burma)
Region Asia, Southeast
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 17  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country East Shan State, Muang Yong township..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Primary Religion: Buddhism (Theravada)
Major Religion Percent
88.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.06 %)
0.20 %
Ethnic Religions
11.80 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Lu (62,000 speakers)
Language Code khb   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Lu (62,000 speakers)
Language Code khb   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Lu

Primary Language:  Lu

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1921-1932)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1933)
Bible-Complete No
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Film / Video God's Story video God's Story
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Lu Jesus Film Project
Film / Video World Christian Videos World Christian Videos
General Bible for Children Bible for Children
General Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
Photo Source Nguyễn Thanh Quang - Wikimedia  Creative Commons 
Map Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source Bethany World Prayer Center 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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