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The Nu ethnic minority

(People's Daily)

09:37, August 11, 2011

Population: 27,200

Major area of distribution: Yunnan

Language: Nu

Religion: Polytheis


Photo: Chen Haiwen

The Nu ethnic minority, numbering some 27,200, live mainly in Yunnan Province's Bijiang, Fugong, Gongshan and Lanping counties, which comprise the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture. Others are found in Weixi County in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

The Nu people speak a language belonging to the Tibetan-Myanmese group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. It has no written form, and, like many of their ethnic minority neighbors, the Nus used to keep records by carving notches on sticks; educated Nus nowadays use the Han language (Chinese) for administrative purposes.

The Nu homeland is a country of high mountains and deep ravines crossed by the Lancang, Dulong and Nujiang rivers. The famous Grand Nujiang Canyon is surrounded by mountains, which reach 3,000 meters above sea level. Dense virgin forests of pines and firs cover the mountain slopes and are the habitat of tigers, leopards, bears, deer, giant hawks and pheasants.

The area is rich in mineral deposits and valuable medicinal herbs. In addition, with a warm climate and plentiful rain, it promises great hydroelectric potential.

Origins and History

In the eighth century, the area inhabited by the Nus came under the jurisdiction of the Nanzhao and Dali principalities, which were tributary to the Tang (618-907) court. During the Yuan and Ming dynasties it came under the rule of a Naxi headman in Lijiang. From the 17th century, rulers comprised various Tibetan and Bai headmen and Tibetan lamaseries. These rulers usurped the Nus' land and carried many of them off as slaves.

From the mid-1850s, the British colonialists who had conquered Myanmur pushed up the Nujiang River valley. They were followed by American, French and German adventurers. This caused friction with the Nu and other minority peoples in the area, such as the Lisu, Tibetan and Drung ethnic minorities. In 1907, these peoples banded together to stage a mass uprising against the encroachments of French missionaries.
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