The Lhoba people in Tibet

The Lhoba people are one of China's minority groups, recognized in 1965 by the State Council. They have lived in the Lhoyu area in Tibet for generations. "Lhoba" means "southerners." Its population in Nyingchi area is over 2,200, accounting for 1.6 percent of the total population in the area. They mainly populate Mainling, Medog and Zaya along the borders of India and Nepal.

 

Residents of Lhoba ethnic group present their traditional costumes in Nyingchi, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. The Lhoba costume has been listed as China's intangible cultural heritage. Photo: Xinhua

 

The Lhoba people have their own language, which belongs to the Tibet-Myarma branch of the Chinese-Tibetan language. Without their own written language, they use Tibetan. Most Lhoba people live in the forest, mainly by growing simple crops and livestock, weaving, gathering and making bamboo works. Hunting is one of the major sidelines. The costume of the Lhoba people is distinct from that of the Tibetan people. Hunting year-round, the Lhoba men usually wear fur clothes and fur hats, with long hunting knives slung from their waists. The Lhoba women wear narrow-sleeved, round-necked blouses, tight, straight skirts and leggings. Men and women all wear heavy ornaments around their necks and waists. The Lhoba costume has been listed as China's intangible cultural heritage. The Lhoba people drink wine made from corn, qingke and millet, and treat guests who have traveled far with the wine. With their patriotic tradition of fighting invaders, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Lhoba people in Lhoyu fought spies from the British Empire heroically.

A woman of Lhoba ethnic group presents accessories of traditional costume in Nyingchi, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. The Lhoba costume has been listed as China's intangible cultural heritage. Photo: Xinhua

A woman of Lhoba ethnic group presents accessories of traditional costume in Nyingchi, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. The Lhoba costume has been listed as China's intangible cultural heritage. Photo: Xinhua

A woman of Lhoba ethnic group presents accessories of traditional costume in Nyingchi, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. The Lhoba costume has been listed as China's intangible cultural heritage. Photo: Xinhua

 

The religion of the Lhoba people is primitive. They have over 30 totems, including the sun, moon, tiger, leopard, bear, pig, ox, ram, dog and eagle. They worship nature, celestial bodies, mountains, rocks, lands, trees, water and fire, ghosts and their ancestors. Before they set off for a long journey or hunting, they will kill animals and offer them to the god of mountains. The most widely used method to find answers to their questions is killing a rooster and examining its liver. They believe that they can see good or ill luck from the veins on a rooster's liver. There are two kinds of wizards: the first, called "Myigyi," specializes in killing roosters and telling fortunes from the livers; the other kind is "Nyiubo," who kills animals to exorcize illnesses and bad luck. For this reason, every household raises many chicks.

 

With the government's help, the Lhoba people in Mainling moved from the mountains to a flat land after the 1959 democratic reform and enjoy a modern life now. New villages were built and the slash-and-burn farming method was replaced by walking ploughs, seeders and electric shellers. They elect their own representatives, who participate in the administration of the autonomous county and region. Now, the Lhoba people, who used to record things by inscribing wooden boards and knotting ropes, have produced government officials, university graduates, doctors and technicians. Their old custom of killing animals as sacrifices and chanting scriptures to exorcize evil spirits have changed.  


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