Tai Nua, Chinese Shan in China

Provided by Joshua Project
Tai Nua, Chinese Shan
Photo Source:  Copyrighted © 2019
Operation China, Asia Harvest  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  Joshua Project / Global Mapping International
People Name: Tai Nua, Chinese Shan
Country: China
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 492,000
World Population: 715,000
Primary Language: Tai Nua
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Christian Adherents: 0.19 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Tai
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Identity

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."

History

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."

Customs

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.

Religion

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."

Christianity

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."

Text Source:   Operation China, Asia Harvest  Copyrighted © 2019  Used with permission