Samei in China

Photo Source:  Copyrighted © 2023
Operation China, Asia Harvest  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Samei
Country: China
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 22,000
World Population: 22,000
Primary Language: Samei
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 1.20 %
Evangelicals: 1.10 %
Scripture: Translation Needed
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Tibeto-Burman, other
Affinity Bloc: Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Samei, who are part of the official Yi nationality in China, actually call themselves Sani. This, however, "does not mean they are the same people group as the famous Sani of the Stone Forest. The two should not be confused. ... The Han Chinese have referred to this people as Samei for so long that the name has become fixed - even among anthropologists and linguists - to the point that their designation as anything else would probably be more confusing than helpful."

For centuries the Samei have celebrated the annual Torch Festival. The Samei say that "long ago there was a brave Samei warrior king whose head, if cut off in battle, would grow back beneath the starlit sky at night. His wife leaked out the secret of his immortality, however, and he was finally killed in a battle. ... The Samei went out to look for his soul with lit torches and carry on the tradition every 24th day of the sixth lunar month."

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Samei possess their own colorful dress. "A hat worn by young women of the Samei tribe on the outskirts of Kunming resembles the comb of a cock. ... There are not many people in this tribe, but these hats are still worn by young women and are unique."

What Are Their Beliefs?

Most Samei are animists. They believe their lives are controlled by the spirit world around them. Ancestor worship is also practiced, especially by older Samei. Many of the younger generation consider themselves nonreligious.

The Samei have a long Christian history. Australian missionary Arthur Nicholls first pioneered work in the area in 1906. Nicholls received this glowing tribute from fellow missionary Samuel Clarke: "He may be reckoned among the heroes who are establishing the kingdom of heaven upon earth. ... Loved and trusted by multitudes, despised and hated by many ... like a man who has been touching the very bedrock of humanity, Arthur Nicholls goes on his way little thinking what a hero he is, and counting himself repaid over and over again because the people love him." The Eastern Lipo of Wuding and Luquan counties have taken the gospel to the Samei in recent decades. "Because of their witness, there are believers among the neighboring tribes ... including the Samei."

What Are Their Needs?

The Samei people need to accept the warm embrace of the only Savior so they can enjoy spiritually meaningful lives.

Prayer Points

Pray for the authority of Christ to bind hindering spiritual forces to lead them from darkness to light.

Pray for signs and wonders among them and for great breakthroughs with a rapid multiplication of disciples and house churches.

Pray for bold workers who are driven by the love of the Holy Spirit to go to them.

Pray for an unstoppable movement to Christ among them.

Text Source:   Joshua Project