About The Book
This book is the product of thirty-six years of research, in the field and through the literature (including a large corpus in Chinese). In scope and depth it offers a unique compilation of information on the 700,000 strong Lahu, a swidden-farming mountain people whose villages are scattered from China’s Yunnan Province through Burma, Laos and Vietnam to North Thailand.
Part One -“A Lahu village in North Thailandand its socio-historical matrices” -grounds all that follows, detailing everyday life and ritual practicesin the village where the author lived for four years. Numerous photographs, drawings and diagrams vividly illustrate this account.
Part Two expands the scope, including much data from Yunnan, to explore the Lahu’s “diverse strands of supernatural ideas and ritual practices”. Traditionally animists who propitiate numerous spirits, Lahu also recognize a crator-divinity, believed by many to impact their everyday lives. Their routine search for merit has been periodically disturbed by warrior prophets promising a future free of domination by valley-dwelling overlords. The author argues that many of the ideras and practices associated with Lahu millennial movements can be traced to the influence of Mahayana Buddhist monks in Yunnan during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Part Three -“The Christian experience: cultural continuities and discontinuities” – traces the growth of this once-alien religion among Lahu, who sometimes viewed important Christian missionaries as successors to the messianic priests of the past.