Sani 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: Sani
Country: China
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 138,000
World Population: 138,000
Primary Language: Sani
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 3.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.15 %
Scripture: Unspecified
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Tibeto-Burman, other
Affinity Bloc: Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Although they have been combined with numerous other people groups to form the large Yi nationality in China, the Sani possess their own unique language, customs, and ethnic identity.

The Sani are thought to have originated near Dali. Shortly after the Tang Dynasty (618-907) they left the region, traveled through Chuxiong, and settled among the rock formations of Shilin.

What Are Their Lives Like?

A single Sani girl's turban contains all the colors of the rainbow. This results from a Sani legend. A long time ago a beautiful Sani girl named Musidama was rescued from a tiger by a handsome hunter named Stiasai, and the two fell in love. The local chief lusted after her, however, and desired to marry her first. One day Stiasai was attacked by a wild boar and died. Musidama's heart was broken. At his funeral, she leaped into the flames before the chief's men could stop her. Only two small pieces of her clothing were torn off. "Soon two colorful clouds rose from the flames and then converged together. The sky cleared and a beautiful rainbow appeared. The Sani call it Saimusi-mudama to remember the lovers."

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Sani are polytheists. They believe the earth, sky, water, fire, mountains, stones, etc., have their own spirits. They also worship their ancestors.

Père Paul Vial of the Paris Foreign Missionary Society commenced work among the Sani in 1887. In the early 1900s he reported the Sani to be a haven of Catholicism with 7,360 converts and Sani priests ministering in 30 villages. Vial was a colorful figure, whose battles with Chinese officials led to attempted murder in 1894. Today there are Catholic believers in 22 of the 124 Sani villages in Shilin County. The 3,000 Sani Catholics in Shilin worship in seven main churches. In addition, a small number of Catholics are found among the Sani in Honghe Prefecture. Although there are only a relative handful of Protestants among the Sani, the Sani Catholics represent a great resource and hope for the salvation of many other Yi peoples in the area. Their persistence and faithfulness in the face of opposition have been a powerful witness.

What Are Their Needs?

The Sani 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 to happen 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