Lhoba, Lhobao, Luoba - the Lhoba Ethnic Minority of China :
Lhoba Ethnic Minority in China :
This page was last updated on: February 7, 2017
The China Report
Ethnic Minorities in China and their Cultures:
The Lhoba Ethnic Minority is the 56Th and smallest Ethnic Minority Group in China. The Lhoba were recognized as an Ethnic Minority by the State Council on Ethnic Affairs of China's Central Government in August of 1965 AD.
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In 1982 AD only 1060 Lhoba were identified by the Chinese Government in Tibet. Five years later in 1987 AD some 3000 Lhoba were found to live in China's Tibet, in 1990 AD the Lhoba numbered only 2,312, wheras the Lhoba Ethnic Minority counted 3580 persons in the year 2000 AD Census. These small numbers make the Lhoba the smallest of all ethnic minority groups living within China today.
Lhoba means "southerners" in the Tibetan language and the Lhoba People of China are exclusively found in the South-East of Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The Lhoba are distinct from all other Tibetan Tribes through the fact that they traditionally wore no shoes. Many Lhoba women smoke pipe, another unusual trait.
The Homeland of the Lhoba is the Lhoyu Region, a fabulous land of 70,000 square kilometers at the southern foot of the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountain Range.
The majority of the 3000 Lhoba in Tibet live primarily throughout this Luoyu Region of southeast Tibet with a current population of 2,985.
The main Lhoba Community in Tibet is Nanyi Lhobao Ethnic Township in Mainling County, Nyingchi Prefecture, a place with a surprising amount of Trees in an otherwise mountainous region. The Lhobao Ethnic Township is located by the riverside of Tibet's notorious Yanlung Tsangpo River, a fast flowing white water River that passes Caizhao Village creating a idyllic scenery. Nearby at just 30-minute drive is Nyingchi Airport.
Other Lhoba still live in remote spots in the mountains of surrounding Mainling, Zaya and Medog counties, preserving a more traditional lifestyle. For isntance, the Bogaer are mainly found living in the rural district of Nayu, Milin County, along the northern slope of the Himalayas. These Bogaer moved away from Manigan district dozens of years ago, and still lead a very traditional lifestyle in their new remote region.
History of the Lhoba Ethnic Group in China :
The Luoyu region where the Lhoba make their homes first came under Tibetan control in the 7th century during the unification of Tribes in Tibet at that Time. At the Time eastern Tibet was occupied by Tang Dynasty Loyal Forces, however it was Tibetan King Gampo (Qizonglongzan in Tang Dynasty Records) who would subdue most of the Tribes living within Tibet, Qinghai and current day Sichuan Province.
The Tibetan King did so under auspices of the Tang Emperor, receiving a condolence letter from the Tang Emperor himself (650 AD) after his death.
However, so little is currently known about the Lhoba and their Culture that it is even unclear whether the Lhoba lived in Luoyu during the time of the 7Th Century Tibetan invasion and occupation and or whether their modern-day languages are indigenous to the region or not. The
Festivals of the Lhoba Ethnic Group :
Social Life and Customs :
Untill recently Hunting was essential to the Lhobas. Their traditional weaponry are swords, daggers, bows and poisoned arrows. Later fire-arms were taken into use.
Without meat from the hunt, there would be no protein and little food. Even today hunting traditions are held in honor among the Lhoba. Young boys start early to join adults on hunting trips. Upon reaching manhood must pass a test of tracking animals in deep forests either collectively or alone, then firing poisened arrows succesfully. The game caught on this hunt is then partly distributed among villagers. In the past hunted meat was used to barter for grain, food and other
In Yidu Tribal societies of the Lhoba Homes and Families are arranged patriarchal and Yidu Men are traditionally polygamous; in the past women received no inheritance from their husbands or fathers. In these Lhoba (Yidu) communities large families live together in houses divided into rooms for each married couple. Before they are married, all the boys sleep together in one room, the girls in another. Each Wife has her own individual room in the larger house.
Despite the sub-tropical climate all rooms are designed around a central fireplace.
The Bogaer usually live in blockhouses made of stone and wood, solid, durable, and protective. They often paint various auspicious patterns on their doors and walls in the house. Animal heads hanging on the walls are not only a symbol of wealth but also a display of their hunting skill.
Diet / Food :
Diets of Lhoba vary in different localities and Tribal adherence.
Yidu and other Lhobas traditionally eat rice and buckwheat; The Bogaer have always lived on corn and Jizhua rice, most often roasted. All Lhoba Tribes living close to Tibetan communities now also enjoy tsampa (zamba), potatoes, and spicy food and buttered tea.
Other staple foods are dumplings made of maize or millet flour, rice or buckwheat. Being heavy drinkers and smokers, at celebrations the Lhobas enjoy wine and singing to observe good harvests and good luck.
Up to recent days many Lhoba suffered of goiter, a disease of the thyroid gland caused by a lack of iodine. Due to the scarcity of salt throughout Tibet in Tibetan history this is a common ailment in Tibet. With better road connections and higher incomes this situation is being alleviated, which is one reason for the rise in the population of Lhoba in more recent years.
Women of the Yidu Tribe are vegetarian. Lhoba women are not.
Today most Lhoba Tribes still celebrate the Lunar New Year in their own traditional ways, which are different from the Tibetan or (Han) Chinese New Year.
That is, most clans of Lhoba annually celebrate the New Year three times, as each harvest is seen as a differnet year or period.
The first time falls on November the 1st. By then, the crops have been harvested and the farmers have 3 to 5 days off. Every family slays three chickens and makes 40 liters of paddy and 20 liters of alcohol made from corns and 10kg fried rice cakes.
During the festival, the villagers invite each other. Every family will gift the elders of the clan wine and alcohol, one bamboo barrel for each, and 10 large bowls of fried rice cakes. During the festival, nobody works. People enjoy the feast and revel every day.
The second time is on December the 1st. Whatever the harvest is good or not, people will ardently celebrate the festival. On November 29, they begin to slay pigs and cattle. On November 30, chickens will be slaughtered in the garner, one for each kind of cereals, and five chickens are usually required. People splash the chicken blood over the crops to pray grain god for a bumper harvest in the coming year.
The third celebration takes place in January. The food supply has been prepared one month in advance. The amount of the meat is one of the evidences of wealth. On the evening of the 3rd and 4thday, the clan chief or the elders tell their tradition and stories in the public office of the village or around the need fire under trees. In this way, the rich literature is orally followed and developed by generations.
All Lhoba Tribes celebrate the New Year after their busy farming seasons. Some Lhoba Tribes prefer to have wedding ceremonies coinciding with the New Years festival.
Most also adhere to the other Lhoba Festivals of the year. One of the Lohoba festivals is Reh, which appeals to deities for the peace and prosperity of the society.
A small section of the Lhobas Tribes scattered in the Motuo and Milin areas celebrate the New Year in compliance with the Tibetan calendar.
Lhoba Ethnic Culture in China :
The Lhoba People have their own spoken language, but no written version is in existence. In the past few Lhoba knew how to speak in Tibetan, but with improved transport in Tibet in modern Times more Lhoba have learned the Tibetan Language and script.
The Lhobas speak a distinctive language belonging to the Tibetan-Myanmese (Burman) language family, Chinese-Tibetan language system.
The Lhoba have many oral classics including one epic on the history of the Lhoba People.
Even the two thousand Lhoba in China (P.R.C.) are splintered by language. China’s Lhoba speak at least three mutually-unintelligible Tibeto-Burmese languages.
The original Lhoba practiced a primitive religion consisting of the worship of several gods of Nature.
Their main God was the Tiger, the most dangerous animal of the region. There are over 30 totems or Gods altogether, including the sun, moon, leopard, bear, pig, ox, ram, dog, the tree, the mountain and the eagle. Water, Holy Rocks and Fire are also worshipped.
The religious practices are animist but include shamanism, spiritual healing methods, belief in wizardry and mythical ways of predicting future events. According to the Lhoba, the world is filled with spirits, the "Wuyong". Each object and item has its own spirit which holds power over the world of Man. An important part of Lhoba religious practices revolve around appeasing these powerful spirits of Nature, or sometimes manipulating them.
The Lhoba have a unique method of predicting the future by reading patterns in a freshly harvested liver. The liver is taken out and its color, shape and the condition of its blood vessels examined.
Obscured blood vessels are a bad omen.
At other times eggs are used to foretell the future. In this case the eggs which are cooked and chewed. The Chewed eggs are then spit out and spread over banana leaves.
Prediction is made according to the size of the chewed yolk.
The original Lhoba are also fairly unique with their burial practices, especially among Tibetan peoples. In a land mostly devout of Trees and Forestry, the Lhoba bury their dead in the branches of Trees. This is a practice otherwise only found among ethnic groups in North-East China where there are large forested area's.
In this way the Lhoba Tree Burial is a way unique to the Lhoba people and Tibet.
In practice, the deceased person is tied up, folded into a foetal position. After these preparations, the body will be put into a rattan basket and the head is wrapped in a white cloth, and its face covered by a wooden mask.
After much ritual and morning the whole package which will be hung up in a tree after which fruit and food items are spread in front of it in offering to the gods.
Lhoba Legend has it that its soul will go direct to Paradise and soon be reincarnated.
The person who is to move the body away for burial must hold a gourd in his hand during ceremonies, and he pours water out of it behind his back.
Today Buddhism has reached the Lhoba as well and sometimes Lamas chant sutras to redeem the sins of the dead. Respecting Lhoba traditions the Buddhist Lama's add their own offerings by and making seven human figurines out of maize dough and seven tigers out of wheat dough, to put in front of the rattan basket.
In the aftermath of the Burial Ceremony, the direct family members mourn the departed for three days running.
In a peculiar Lhoba practice each relative or friend must then produce a route map with 22 kinds of designs for the dead person to take him into the afterlife, and say:"We have done our best to save you, but we have failed. Don't be sad to walk alone. What is important is to choose the best way to the Paradise. Go ahead! Don't be sad!" In other words, final peace is made with the death of a loved one and they are guided into a new world by the maps and the well wishes of the Family.
Lhobas are in many ways a very superstitious people. There are many taboos relating to the Wuyong or Spirit aspect that dominates traditional beliefs.
For instance, every village of Lhoba minority has its holly stones, which people are not supposed to touch, nor move or especially not sit on.
Most villages also have their very own holy trees, which people are forbidden to cut down, damage or harm. Both the Holy Stones and the Holy Trees serve in important role in the annual religious ceremony, in which all villagers walk around the trees and stones for three circles. Afterwards Hens are killed and food and wine served for the whole community as the sacrifice to the Gods.
Lhobas sacrifice wild chook to the Gods for three times every year, mainly on the New Year’s Day, the time for spring semination and the time for autumn harvest.
While emasculating the pigs, the housemaster will insert some green branches in front of the door, which means no strangers are allowed to step into the house. And the family will not lend anything to others. What’s more, they are not permitted to go by the oven with things like wool or leather. It is a taboo for the emasculator to say anything related to “death” or “be no more”. Approaching to ovens, the hearths, and the firewood is also forbidden.
Strangers are not allowed to go to a Lhoba’s house within the first three days after a woman gives birth to a child or when somebody is ill, even when pigs , dogs or cattle are giving birth to the young. If the Lhoba’s relatives or friends happen to call on at that time, they should yield the committed words “ Never let ghosts and devils in!” for three times before going into the house with the guide of the housemaster. If not permitted by the housemaster, guests would be regarded as the ghosts and monsters, and certainly driven out in the short time. If the guests do not understand the taboo of Lhoba nationality and refuse to go out, there would raise a quarrel or even a hot fight.
Hunting dogs have played a significant part in Lhoba group’s life of hunting. The Lhobas take dogs as their own sons. Many dogs are raised in each Lhoba family, and they hunt in packs. The Lhoba's dogs are generally friendly, well trained and are known to never bark at people.
They are kind to people however they are very effective hunters.
Due to the importance of the dogs on the hunt providing much of the families' diet, visiting Guests are forbidden to beat or to scold the dogs, which amounts to a serious affront.
When repairing the family home, the housemaster must pray to the Wuyong Spirits in Ceremony, blessing the effort or dooming it. He must chant in loud voice, “Health for both the family and livestock, health for the generations, good harvest all the time!” Mixed grain is then thrown in the air as an offering to the Gods.
Pigs are considered as the main and most important livestock. Hence they play an important role in the many ritual sacrifices the Lhoba make for their Wuyong Spirits. As food to be shared with the spirits, pigs are taken good care of, their food is well chosen and their troughs are protected.
Lhoba people never lock the door. Stealing and lying are considered the most insufferable and inexcusable thing. If people happen to catch a thief or a liar, they would certainly educate or even drive them out of the village. Those recidivists would be killed as punishment.
Only within the last century Tibetan Buddhism has begun to take hold over the Lhoba’s traditional Animist beliefs. The Lhoba in Arunachal Pradesh have retained more of their religious customs than the Chinese Lhoba who are increasingly combining the Buddhist rituals acquired while trading at Buddhist monasteries with traditional festivals like Reh, which appeals to deities for the peace and prosperity of the society.
Although the Lhoba People traditionally lived a very primitive life of hunting and gathering combined with small scale agriculture often trading animal furs for food, in modern Times the Lhoba people have advanced considerably. The process started with the redistibution of land, distribution of farming implements, and the subsequent building of medical facilities and schools by the Government of the Peoples Republic of China after 1954 AD. Then still remote, lately many new roads and bridges have been built in Tibet dramatically increasing the Lhoba's contact with the outside world. Younger Lhoba have learned Chinese Language in School, and the Government of Tibet Autonomous Region has provided alternative means of income.
Agricultural methods have been improved over time. With outside help the Lhoba have learned and adopted advanced, intensive farming methods. New lands on hills were developped and providing cultivation of new areas.
Huntingand Lhoba handicrafts were developped as businesses.
Lately, a tourism industry is developing in the main Lhoba settlement of Caizhou Village in Mainling county of Nyingchi prefecture.
Traditional Dress :
The Lhoba traditional dress is unique to the Lhoba.
A Full and complete Map of China (PRC) identifying all Language Areas big and small in all Provinces and Autonomous Regions of China.
Map includes Turkic Languages (Uygur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Salar & Uzbek), Mongolian Language and Sub-Divisions (Mongol, Tu, Daur and Dongxian), Tungusic Peoples (Oroqen, Evenki and Xibe) and Languages, Korean, Tajik (Tadzhik), Mon-Khmer (Kawa + Puman (or Pulang)), Hui, Uygur (Uighur), Tibeto-Bhurman Languages, Tai and Miao, Yao and She' Language Area's and Borders. Main Area's and sub-divisions of Han Languages (Northern Mandarin, Eastern Mandarin, South-Western Mandarin and Cantonese) further included. This color-coded ethno-linguistic Map (of 1967 AD) identifies at a glance most ethnic minority regions in China
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Lhobas that live the Pemako region, where Tibet, India, Bhutan and Burma all come together, have been described as fierce animist warriors. They live in villages on high terraces above he Tsangpo River in an area of dense, wet forest with pit vipers, leeches and high mountains. The Lhoba believe some valleys are occupied by yeti's (abominable snowman) and others are the mythical homes of poison cults (made up of women who
goods. Some hunted meat and furs were even payed in taxes.
The majority of Lhoba households are farmers, in which case the Lhoba work the land and women tend to the house and handicrafts. Both Men and Women are skilled at making bamboo objects and other crafts. In the past these objects were often bartered along with animal hides, musk, bear paws, dye and captured game in return for farm tools, salt - a commodity very scarse in mountainous Tibet, wool, clothing, grain and tea from traveling Tibetan traders.
In the more recent past, pilgrimages of Lhoba who had converted to Buddhism allowed good opportunities for bartering.
Lhoba societies are patriarchal and polygamous; women receive no inheritance from their husbands or fathers. In the Yidu communities large families live together in houses divided into rooms for each married couple. Before they are married, all the boys sleep together in one room, the girls in another. Despite the sub-tropical climate all rooms are designed around a central fireplace.
Some Tribes have a preference to hold wedding ceremonies during their New years festival. In the feudal past of Tibet Women's status in their own families, in the family they wedded into as well as in overall society, was particularly low. Women hardly had any legal rights and could hold no property or receive no inheritance or rights.
The social life and customs have seen quite an upheaval in recent years.
In 1985, the local government relocated the Lhobao people living in the mountains and forests of Nanyigou County to the valley floor and Caizhao Village. There along the riverside of the Yanlung Tsangpo River the Government built a completely new Village with free wooden houses for the otherwise semi-nomadic Lhoba.
Three years later, in 1988 AD the establishment of Nanyigou Lhoba Ethnic Township was approved in 1988 by the State Council and ever since the Lhoba have been living a sedentary lifestyle, mainly concentrated in Caizhou Village.
The Medog county Of Tibet used to be the only county in China (P.R.C.) devout of access to roads, however between 1988 AD and 1994 AD the Chinese state spent 37m yuan building a road leading to Medog Valley. Many workers gave their lives while building the road.
Recently, in the year 2006 AD, a project financed by the Government of Fujian Province, Caizhou Lhoba Village received new upgrades and improvements, five million yuan being spent on building cement-brick houses for each Lhobao household, cement roads in the village, additional drainage ditches, expanded tap water facilities, bio-gas pits and various communal facilities.
The wooden homes now offer modern amenities such as TV sets and refrigerators and Tibetan-styled furniture's. In addition, tap water and bio-gas are available in the kitchen.
The Village of Caizhou even offers an Internet Cafe' with computers and Internet access.
In 2008 some 20 hectares of quality farmland were bought from nearby Mainling Farm and allocated it to Lhoba villagers in Caizhou for their personal use, solving problem of providing grain to the Lhoba people.
Other lifestyle changes that arrived in the life of the Lhoba came through the Tourism Industry. Lately tourism has become a growing and important source of income in the new Village. With assistance money from various Governments and aid sources, villagers have constructed a village with Lhoba features, a folk customs museum has opened and the Lhoba regularly gather in the village square to perform their Dances and Songs for (small) Tourist Groups.
The funding for the costumes were received from Fujian Province, after the Lhoba traditional costumes were designated as the national intangible culture heritage in 2008 AD
In recent years Nanyigou Township has held an annual Lhoba Ethnic Custom Festival, attracting a large number of tourists. A lot of traditional customs have been revived and many villages have set up song and dance teams, not only in an effort to attract tourist revenue, but also in a last ditch effort to preserve their unique cultural heritage before all is lost.
Although relocated, and in a sense robbed of their natural lifestyle, the new village offers many more opportunities to enjoy, learn and celebrate cultural traditions.
In a latest development, the Agriculture Bureau and the Poverty Reduction Office of Tibet has decided to help the village build a sightseeing orchard. It is hoped that the orchard would help locals produce fruits, as well as earn more through both agriculture and tourism.
Before the 1950's 100% of all Lhoba were illiterate. Lhoba children in the village have free compulsory education, accommodation as well as food at schools. All children receive tuition in the Tibetan Language, the dominant language of the Tibet Autonomous Region and neighboring Qinghai Province of China. Villagers can also have subsidies for their medical treatment. Hospitals have been built there and doctors are available in every
The population of Lhoba ethnic groups has been growing fast in recent years. In 1988 AD, Nanyi Township had only 56 households with 200 Lhoba people. Now, there are 101 households with 470 residents living inside the village. Nearby live the majority of the remainder of Lhoba Peoples. The per-capita net income of Lhoba people exceeded 5,000 yuan in 2008 AD, far higher then the pittance most earned before 1988 AD and the creation of Nanyi Lhobao Ethnic Township in Mainling County.
A few young Lhoba people are studying in institutions of higher learning in the cities of Beijing, Nanjing and Lhasa. The Luoba now have their own college students, technicians, teachers and doctors.
In the past having no Role in the Governing of Tibet, its Regions or Towns, today the Lhoba Ethnic Groups are represented in the Highest Political Levels of Tibet Autonomous Region and even The Peoples' Republic of China.
Representing the Lhoba Groups in Beijing at the 2009 AD National Peoples Congress (NPC) was a woman named Xiaohong, who at age 33 represents the estimated 3,000 to 3500 Lhoba of China.
Apart from having been elected to this National Function in 2003 AD, she is also the deputy (Governor) for southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region and the current deputy Village Head of Mainling town, the main Lhoba settlement in Mainling County, Nyingchi Prefecture of southeastern Tibet. She has been the deputy town head since 2007 AD.
Under the political messenger-ship from Xiaohong many of the problems specific to the Lhoba and other inhabitants of the Region can be more specifically addressed. So far, the political issues addressed by Xiaohong for the Lhoba (and Monba) have mainly been economic issues.
As described, better roads and bridges in this remote mountain region provide for better connections, providing for more trade and contact with neighboring villages and peoples. New roads also enable more children to reach the village schools, more easily, improving each childs chances at proper education in a rapidly modernizing Nation. The bulk of the necessary improvements of the infra-structure in the Lhoyu Region have already been addressed.
The next item on the Lhoba wish-list was an increase in Tourism, which was not requested for the sake of economics only, but has also been identified as the only viable means to attempt to preserve the unique cultural traits and handicraft goods produced by the Lhoba Culture. The traditional items of the Lhoba and the skills needed to create them can be preserved best, if a market found for them.
Since the handicraft works are mainly produced by the Village Women, for instance: female members of Bebejia Mishmi are expert weavers and make excellent coats and blouses, this empowers them within Lhoba society enabling further changes and improving and diversifying the overall Lhoba economy and livelihoods. In a latest effort, in 2009 AD micro-financing efforts have been set-up in support of the Lhoba and Monba Women.
Although assimilation into mainstream Tibetan Culture seems imminent, the continued trade in Lhoba Ethnic Items maybe go a long way in preserving at least some of this ancient Cultures' Treasures. Both the representatives of the Monba and the Lhoba agree and are confident that the more (other) people that know about the life, customs and traditions of the small Lhoba and Monba ethnic groups, the better their Culture can be preserved and protected.
Map 1 of the Silk Road during the early Tang Dynasty Era. Clearly depicts the North & South Routes West of Dunhuang as well as the lost civilizations of Loulan and Hotan.
In ancient times, before 1950-54 AD, the Lhoba had their own peculiar method for administrating and recording things. To count they would either use cuts in wood, or made use of notches made in pieces of Rope. Among things this sytem was used to record womens menstrual cycles.
linguistic barriers between Lhoba and scholars and in between the tribes themselves make study of the tribes difficult.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the first Westerners to travel through Tibet, among them Sir Marcus Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin, visited the area populated by the Idu Mishmis branch of the Lhoba Tribes.
According to Chinese sources the Lhoba People were an oppressed, bullied and discriminated against ethnic group among the peoples of Tibet in the more recent past. They were harrassed by the Tibetan local government, manorial lords and monasteries alike, under what the Chinese Government identifies as feudal serfdom in Tibet, one of its main reasons for the practical annexation of all of Tibet in 1954 AD. In clearer terms, generally the Lhoba formed a lower caste in Tibetan society.
Being considered of inferior blood or genes and "wild and barbaric", the Lhoba were expelled and forced to live in forests and mountains of the wildest and remotest regions of Tibet.
Under the Tibetan Government the Lhoba were not allowed to leave their areas without permission and were forbidden to do business with other ethnic groups. The discrimition even went as far as to have Intermarriage with Tibetans banned. According to the Chinese Views of Tibetan Society before 1954 AD the discrimination was a main reason why the Lhoba were poor and underdevelopped. Excluded from Tibetan Society the Lhoba had to make their living by gathering food, hunting and fishing because of low grain yields in the region.
In the past the Bogar Tribes of the Lhoba had a stratified society with institutions similar to the castes found in Indian Society. This system According to sources there were essentially two classes -- "maide" and "nieba" -- within Lhoba society before Tibet's "liberation" by the Peoples Republic of China in 1950 AD.
The first and top Class were the "maides", the well to do who considered themselves as nobles, while regarding the "niebas" as inferior people who should be at their disposal.
The "Niebas" were the poor and servant Class among Lhoba. The descendants of the "Niebas" were members for life and could not achieve the title or status of "maides" even if they became wealthy and owned slaves or servants (depending on definition and view).
They could only become "wubus" -- a group of people having a slightly higher position than the "niebas." Young men and women of these different groups could not marry due to strict class distinctions. The "niebas," who were slaves to (or at least completely economically dependant on) "maide" owners, had no means of production. According to Chinese sources they were beaten, jailed or even executed if they were caught running away or stealing.
The latest findings on Lhoba history come from the recent excavation of the Bhismakanagar, a stronghold of the Chutiya caste in the Yidu Tribal Regions of South-Eastern Tibet. The Fortres existed up to the sixteenth century and excavations have shed new light on the history of the Region and the (Yidu) Lhoba. According to archaeologists, new Bhismakanagar finds tell about the contribution made by the Yidu Lhoba to the historic flow of Indian culture (Other finds give information on the early arrival of Catholicism to this region, a faith that did not leave an impression on the Yidu Lhoba).
Although the Lhoba did not and do not have their own script, they do practice their own unieque method of record keeping. For this purpose the Lhoba People use strings of rope on which nots are tied. An ingenious system for keeping records and track of the seasons, women's menstrual cycles, the remaining stores of grain, trading and bartering transactions and more.
Men wear black knee-length sleeveless, buttonless wool jackets and women wear sheep’s wool skirts and blouses of the women.
Men and women alike wear earrings and beaded necklaces. For women, the amount of shells and bells draped around one’s neck signify wealth. Blue is the basic dress for young girls, lined with red silk cloth and with many lapis lazuli beads for decoration. A string of silver with small coins around the waist is also common.
However these styles of dress are now slowly disappearing.
Bartering with Tibetans for animal hides, bear paws, wool, and grain have increased the Lhoba’s contact with Tibetans and as a result their dress and religions have been changing. The sporadic visits by tourgroups and foreign travelers have made further contributions. The traditional black knee-length sleeveless, buttonless wool jackets of the men and sheep’s wool skirts and blouses of the women are slowly disappearing being exchanged for Tibetan Styles or modern styled dress.
China Report - Tibet - Relief Map of Central Tibetan Plateau
Detailed Relief Map of Tibet - The Central Tibetan Plateau.
Map includes Gyantse, Shygatse, Lhasa, Nam-Tso Lake, Yamcho Lake, Phuma Tso, Tsangpo River Flow in Pemako Region and the home of the western Lhoba Ethnic Minorities of China.
poison others in order to obtain good fortune). The Pemako Region is very rough and inaccesible, and even today can only be reached after weeks of jeep and foot travel.
Lhoba is actually an umbrella identity gathering under it miniscule numbers of Yidu and Bo’gaer (Bogar) people (plus some Ningbo, Adi and Tajin). Larger contingents of these tribes, the Idu (or Yidu) and Bokan, live far more to the south in Arunachal Pradesh, which is India’s easternmost state, bordering on Bangladesh. In this region intermarriage with Tibetans or similar tribes has made the situation of the Chinese Lhoba a precarious one.
As an interesting result of this fact, until very recently both Taiwan and the PRC were trying to claim Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet. The Lhobas live in limbo between cultures and countries.
The Lhoba traditional lifestyle is completely adapted to the harsh environment of mountains and valleys in their region. In the past communications were sparse, since the population is thin and there were few roads to connect the valleys and villages of region. Thus, the Lhoba had only sporadic contacts with other peoples, even those inside Tibet, preserving their unique and endangered culture and its features.
Most Lhoba are still to be considered poor.
By the year 1900 AD, when westerners first opened contact with Tibet, the Lhoba in their remote region were still in the state of a primitive society. That is, apart from slash and burn farming on grasslands, the Lhoba sustained themselves by hunting barefoot, wearing bearskin and bamboo hats and gathering roots and berries, while sometimes bartering for oustide materials.
The Lhoba live in such a remote region that before, there were hardly any trading contacts with other Tibetan Peoples. Even the Lhoba had their small number divided under into separate clans or tribes, mainly depending on valley and geographical location.
Only recently the building of bridges and roads have increased contact with other Tibetan Regions and the outside world. The Lhoba are not only the smallest ethnic minority, they are also among the most remotely located minorities in China.
The Lhoba and their Minority Dress on a Stamp from China Post, China's National Postal Service.
Among the traditional festivals of LHobas, the most special one is the Xudulong Festival. Coinciding with the festival there is entertainment with folk features, and hunting games of which the ring arrow shooting is the most famous.
The Xudulong Festival is also known as Donggeng Gurumu, which means to "congratulate the safety of the current year and look forward to a bumper harvest in the coming year". The festival is held in February of the Luoba's calendar.
Prior to the festival, people are busy pestling rice, brewing wine, slaying pigs and sheep. In some areas, people cut into pieces the cowhide and sheepskin, and send as gifts to the relatives and friends of kindred. In prosperous times this is the Time to hang a cow skull on the wall of home, which is a symbol of good fortune and an icon of the diligence and wealth pursued by generations.
During the Xudulong festival, men and women, whatever old and young, gather together, worship and pray for a bumper harvest in the coming year. Early the next morning of the second day of the Festival, every family slays a Hen, then fries the meat and distributes it to family members with blessings for good health.
After all ceremonies are completed, villagers get together to regale. The elated Men and Women perform folk dance. People gather seated around a large fire and feast. Young men and girls express their affection via singing until the fire dies down.
The arrows that can make sound were used as a signal tool in case of hunting or battling in the past. Every year, The Lhobas organize the contest of shooting arrows that can make sound. During the game, a target is set at one side of the playing ground. The crowds cheer at every hit.
The date of the festival is decided by the necromancer or shaman. On the first day of the festival, except one family member left at each home, all villagers will go to the nearby mountain with food and offerings and set up a fence, which they decorate with wild flowers. They pray to the Mountain God for his blessings for safety and good health, and offer the wine and meat as sacrifice. Afterward, they dine together and go back after the sunset. During the following four days, friends and relatives visit and bless each other. The LHobas used to believe in multiple deities or wuyong, considering that everything in the world is spiritualized. The custom of the Longde festival derived from the close relationship between the Lhoba and the mountains which provide animals to hunt and more.
The word Yangdelin is the transliteration of the LHoba language, which means the harvest festival. Prior to the harvest, men go hunting in mountains. They prepare food for the feast; women collect paddies of plump grains in the rice field, which are used for fresh rice making and offered to the elders of the village for fresh tasting. While fresh tasting, the Luobas also offer some to dogs, because, in the past, the standard of agricultural productivity was laggard in the Luoba area, collection and hunting played an important role as the assistant undertaking. Besides, they resided separately; dogs became capable co-workers as well as friends.
When harvest begins, men basically have three meals in the fields. After harvest, friends and relatives gather for the feast and the celebration of a bumper harvest. The entertainment often last all night. When it is Time to sing songs and perform the many Oral Legends on the origin of the agriculture and the Lhoba People. It is said that men were the first to know the cultivation and women to discover the seeds and brew wine. The Yangdelin Festival is held not only to celebrate a bumper harvest, but also to worship their ancestors.
Only a few Lhoba so far have embraced the celebration of the (Tibetan) New Year (around March 7th), as Tibetans do.
Apart from the main festivals of the Year, the Lhoba have a habit of organizing Tribal and Family gatherings, with many coming together to sing and dance, celebrate Lhoba Culture, eat and of course chit-chat about recent affairs and local gossip.