Zaiwa in China

Photo Source:  Copyrighted © 2023
Operation China, Asia Harvest  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  Joshua Project / Global Mapping International
People Name: Zaiwa
Country: China
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 120,000
World Population: 156,000
Primary Language: Zaiwa
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 0.25 %
Evangelicals: 0.22 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Miri-Kachin
Affinity Bloc: Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Zaiwa are the largest subgroup of the official Jingpo nationality in China. The Zaiwa, who are called Xiaoshan, meaning "small mountain" by the Chinese, have a fearsome reputation. The Zaiwa have forged a reputation for themselves as a local version of the mafia. Their gumsa system encourages a "belligerent, competitive, authoritarian society whose chiefs are chosen by public consent." The large Zaiwa village of Banwa forced 44 neighboring villages, amounting to 1,020 households, to pay them "protection" money.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Zaiwa are enslaved by almost every kind of vice imaginable. Zaiwa young men "do not sleep at home. They usually spend the night flirting with young women at the youth club. Sexual relations are so disorderly as to have rendered them unfit for physical labor. A girl who gets pregnant without a proposal will not easily find another boy to marry her and will be considered a widow because of the heavy bride-price." In Banwa Village alone, there were 55 such "widows" from a total of 134 households.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Zaiwa are enslaved by evil spirits. In the past they even bullied Lisu households into paying a tax of three squirrels per year, to be used as an offering to the spirits. One tragic example of the Zaiwa's bondage is retold here: "Elder Dai's daughter-in-law died of fever after having a difficult labor. Before her death, several head of cattle were sacrificed to the demons. During the cremation, the firewood did not burn steadily due to its dampness. The sorcerer thereby proclaimed that the deceased's personal effects be thrown into the fire to annul her parsimony. As the fire still did not burst into a blaze, the sorcerer then attributed the cause to the deceased's reluctance to leave her newborn baby behind, thus resulting in the baby being thrown into the fire."

The Zaiwa people are known to be hostile towards the gospel. Those who became Christians in some of the mixed villages were ostracized by their own tribe. They have been expelled, their land and livestock has been taken, compelling them to abandon their faith. The small number of Zaiwa believers are almost all in Myanmar. Gospel radio broadcasts in Zaiwa started in 1996, and the New Testament is available in Zaiwa.

What Are Their Needs?

The Zaiwa people need to put their trust and identity in the hands of the loving God of Creation who sent his son to make it possible for them to enter the Kingdom of God.

Prayer Points

Pray for the spiritual blindness and bondage to the evil one to be removed so they can understand and respond to Christ.

Pray for the Lord to provide for their physical and spiritual needs as a testimony of his power and love.

Pray the Zaiwa people will have a spiritual hunger that will open their hearts to the King of kings.

Pray for an unstoppable movement to Christ among them.

Text Source:   Joshua Project