Lahu or Muser
The Lahu are located primarly in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, but can also be found in considerable
numbers as far south as Tak province. Their settlements are usually remote from roads and towns,
due to their strong commitment to the maintenance of the Lahu way of life. The Lahu are complex and diverse ethnicity
in Thailand. The majority of Lahus in Thailand are Red Lahu, pantheistic animists who follow a Dtobo,
a messianic leader. There are also a significant number of Black, Yellow and Shehleh Lahus in Thailand,
many of whom have been Christian for nearly one hundred years. Black Lahu are the most populous throughout
Southeast Asia and theirs is considered to be the standard Lahu dialect.
Spoken language decends from the past until now. Lahu people have no written language.
They have only spoken language which communicate through the remembering system, speaking and listening.
The written language did not appear since then. So, only written language is left.
Lifestyle and House
Although primarily subsistence farmers, growing rice and corn for their own consumption, the Lahu are also proud
of their hunter-warrior heritage. They remain a strict, serious people governed by strong principles of right and wrong,
every individual in the village answering to the common will of the elders. While less importance is placed
on the extended family than in other hill tribe communities, the Lahu are still strongly committed to principles
of unity and working together for survival. Lahus may have the most gender-equitable society in the world.
Kong-Kang (Ma Kue Toy):
Kong Kang is made from two long bamboo segments which are inserted by short part
of bamboo in the middle. In the past, Kong Kang was the popular toy especially in rainy season because people
had no shoes to wear and it is inconvenient to walk. Due to slip and being muddy, Lahus used Kong Kang which
was more convenient, easier and faster than walking by the shoes.
Three wooden wheels car (Air Sae Kue Wae Ya We): It is in the highest rank of the popular toy among Lahu children.
There is the speed competition as well. To make the car run fast, Lahus chew or pound one kind of slippy plant
to make it fine. Next, apply it around the wheels to make it go faster. Not only being toy, but three wooden wheels
car also can use as a firewood loading.
Bamboo Gun or Tae Pa:
Tae Pa is one of the game which is popular among children and young men by shooting
to eachother. It is a cylinder shape bamboo having a small wooden bar which is 5 cm. shorter for insertion.
Then, dip the paper in the water until it is tender and roll it to fit with the hole of the bamboo. Next, attach it into
the cylinder bamboo. The first press will have no noise but the second press will make a noise, the paper will
splash out. Moreover, there is one kind of rounded seed which can be used instead of paper bullets
by putting in the hole and then shooting.
Wooden Flute (Lae Ka Chui): It is Lahu’s musical instrument. Lahu people play this flute while they are on the way
to the field to make them relax, relieve the stress and play it for fun.
Propeller (Oum Hor laew): It is made from bamboo. Almost girls and boys love to play. How to play this toy,
the children will hold Oum Hor Laew and run about through th wind. When the propeller hits against the wind,
it will spin that make the children get enjoyment.
Jumping Rope (Ar Ja Paw Da We):
This is the most popular play for many Lahu girls nowadays. In the remote village,
it can be played both team and one by one whatever they like. The teenagers play it occationally.
Pitch-and-Toss (Ma Yee Seu Tor Da We): It is played during Kin Wor period (Lahu New Year) and gets much more
attentions especially the women by dividing into groups. For the equipment, it consists of Sa Ba seed (brown rounded seed).
This game has no limited participants but nowadays only the girls always play this game.
Gun or Lae Poy:
The children love to play Lae Poy. It made from the small size of bamboo which is handy to their hands.
It is like the gun, putting the stones to the hole and shooting against each other. It is not quite hurt.
Only boys love to play this game.
Ar Ta Ka Da We:
It is popular among young men because they want to test who has more strenght over others.
The boy will learn how to play from their brothers. This game is played occationally.
The Lahu people usually farm to sustain themselves. The produce that remains from their farm will be used to exchange
with people in other villages. They also borrow certain things from others which will then be returned in the next year.
The people in the village do not bring their excess produce to sell in town. The main occupation for the Lahu people
is farming and searching for herbs and natural products in the forest.
Farming and agriculture is the main occupation of the Lahu people as their villages are usually built near fertile land.
People in the village will farm different things every year. For instance, one year they will plant corn and another year
they will plant other vegetables. Most plant to feed themselves. If a villager grows mainly rice,
they will also plant other vegetables.
Mostly, Lahu houses are high raised from the ground because it used for keeping the firewoods. The poles
of the house are wooden poles. Lahus have a strange way of roofing, instead of tying the sharp and tapering
gress call “ Yah Ka” together, Lahus pile up the Yah Ka to make the roof thick. It is the same way of European roofing.
This kind of roofing is durable and give warmth in winter. The house is divided into two parts, the first part is
the terrace which is paved by strips of split bamboo and lead from the ground to the house
by long wooden stair.
The second part is the 3-4 meter-width room and encloses with 1.5 meter strips of split bamboo. The house has
no ceiling. In the middle of the house, there is a stove for cooking. The area around the stove is used as a bedroom
and drawing room. The house of the headman is bigger than general villagers for two times. There are the bedroom
for guests and themselves including two stoves because the guests who came to headman’s house first always
visit and stay overnight there.
Cultural and Traditional
The Lahu people usually court in the New Year because it is a time when the men do not go to work. The men get together
and go visit women in other villages. Some men will tell the children in the village to relay their courtship messages to the women.
Marriage & Family
The man will ask the parent's of the women who he loves for her hand in marriage.
They will then arrange for the date to be married. The groom will prepare food items and money, usually around 2 chickens
and 30 Baht as an engagement offering. On the night of the wedding, they will prepare a room with a glass and 2 ropes
for a religious ceremony. The religious leader will bless the couple and give them water from the glass. The couple must
try not to spill any of the water as it may be a sign that they will loose a child that will be born. On the first day of the marriage,
they will draw water to the parents' houses. The woman will draw water to the man's house and the man will draw water
to the woman's house. This tradition is passed on from generation to generation.
Divorce, for the Lahu, is a natural occurrence. It happens when the woman's parents
decide that the man can not take care of their daughter. They will then force the couple to separate. Any valuables
will be given to the man as it is the woman's side who decides on the separation. If they already have children,
the valuables will be distributed among them as well. The man and woman will then agree on who will raise the child.
Lahu New Year
The Lahu New Year is called “Kho Jouw We” . There is no fixed time for New Year but it usually occurs after the harvest,
maybe in Febuary, March or April of each year. It is not important for every village to perform the New Year celebration
at the same time. When New Year arrives, the members of the village who work away from home will come back
to their hometown to celebrate New Year together.
It takes 12 days to celebrate Lahu New Year. It is divided into 2 periods; women’s New Year which is called
“Kho Luang or Pee Yai” and men’s New Year which is called “Kho Noi or Pee Lek”. They both last for 6 days
beginning with the women’s and ending with the men’s. So, the festival was divided into Women’s New Year
and Men’s New Year, after the harvest the women would start the festival allowing the men to continue when
they returned home.
The holy day for Lahu is held on the fifteenth waxing and waning day of the moon. The holy day is the third day
of new year. People give up eating meat, killing animals and drinking alcohol. They believe that holy day is their
recreative day. In the evening, they pour water on the hands of the elder to show their respect. Then, To Bo will bless
for everybody. In addition, late at night, there are religious activities in Hoe Yae (temple) and they dance with drums
and play a reed organ in the presence of the Wor tree for pleasure.
Seh Gaw Ceremony (Sand forming)
Seh Gaw ceremony is followed from the previous time and descends from generation to generation until now.
Lahus respect in spirits. Seh Gaw day is on April 14 of each year which is the same day of Thai Songkran day.
Lahu people hold Seh Gaw ceremony for dedication their acquired merits to the death of animals which are killed
by both intention and unintention in the farm. Lahus believe that Seh Gaw ritual will wipe out their sins and bring them
fertility and peaceful life.
Each house prepare beautiful flowers which are put in the bamboo-flask for the ceremony. Moreover,
they prepare rice, corn,chilli, sand and candle and keep it in a holy point.
In the ceremony, the shaman or the elder in the village who can recite will run for the ceremony. He humbly apologizes
for the dead animals which are killed during cultivated time. Furthermore, Lahu also beg for the fertility on their crops
and bring lot of fruits like the sand. They ask for peaceful and happy life. After the ceremony finishes, the villagers
keep the sacred seeds for worship.
Religious, Beliefs, and Rituals
Lahu people respect Aue Za as their god which is like christian god. Besides, they believe in spirits and ghosts.
Aue Za God
Aue Za god is the great god who creates this world and all virtues. Worship god is the important thing to do because god
will bless them fertility and a plenty of food. During New Year, by the end of January or until Febuary of each year,
every villages have to worship and give their crop to Aue Za god. It is also the modest manner to ask for blissfulness
in the following year. They offer god one bowl of crop and ask god to give back nine time next year.
Lahus believe that there are also good and bad ghost in general area. The first group are guardian sprits which
protect member of the family. On the contary, the another ghost are guardian spirits of the forest which give the severe
punishment to the persons who insult them. If that person realizes that they are wrong doers, the redemption a vow
to a spirit which is run by a shaman is held like Lahu’s belief.
Spirit and courage
Lahus regard the spirit or soul as same as accultism of Thai. If the soul flies away from the body, it is risky to be harm
by ghost and get sick. Lahus believe that the time when the soul flees away is the weakest period which causes
discouragement and illness. So, they will ask To Bo for help. Moreover, for the small ceremony, the chickens are
killed to feast all villagers and in the big ceremony, they kill the pig for food. Everyone in the village ties a sanctified
thread around the patient’s wrist to bless and give him encouragemt. There is the ceremony to call back the courage
of Lahu. They will kill the chicken and cook it for few people such as the aged and the shaman. After eating,
the chicken bone will show suddenly whether the courage come back yet.
The belief about Opium Origin
There was one woman name Na Ma who was unmarried. After she died, her body was buried behind the village.
Several days later, opium and tobacco trees growed miraculous in buried area. Opium tree sprouted in the same
position as her bosom and the tobacco plant growed in the female sexual organ point. Since then, opium smokers
are praised among people while tobacco smokers get offence from the society.
- Don’t bring skirts when go out for hunting because it may cause wrong shot.
- Don’t let the women touch any weapons or hunting equipements due to their ability is decreased.
Style of dress for Lahu or Muser
In the past, Lahu people weave their own clothes. But nowadays, there are few people who weave by their own.
Weaving is only used for tiny accessories such as bag or satchel-sash. Black or blue clothes which decorate
with colorful decorative cloth identifies the group of Lahus but the women share the same style of skirt. Dark Lahu
women wear two shirt; the first is worn inside, it is waist-length shirt. The second shirt is calf-length long-sleeve
shirt wearing outside. The shirt is garnished with colorful cloth and silverware. For Lahu men, they have the same
pattern way of dress no matter which group they are. The shirt and trousers are black. The tip of the trousers,
sleeves and some parts of shirt are overlapped by colorful stripes but have not much design like women’s.
Lahu men wear the stocking while the women do not.
Ornaments are the important things for Lahu. It also show Lahu’s identity and beauty. There are Earring,
Necklace, Belt, Silver Bracelet, and Small aluminium or silver balls.
Lahu in the past always wore their own traditional clothes in the ceremony. But at present, wearing the traditional
dress is rare to find because of the influence of modern society. People like to put on fashionable clothes
suac as jeans because it is easy to buy in general shops. Furthermore, another reason why wearing traditional
clothes is seldom seen is outside society does not accept.
For Lahu men, they have the same pattern way of dress no matter which group they are.
The shirt and trousers are black. The tip of the trousers, sleeves and some parts of shirt are overlapped
by colorful stripes but have not much design like women’s. Lahu men wear the stocking while the women do not.
Lahu women wear long-sleeve shirt and ankle-length skirt. The clothes are decorated with colorful strips
and small aluminium balls weaving with the shirt. In addition, the shirt has beautiful patterns in various styles
which stick in the front and back.
This local guitar can play in general period.
Drum or Jae Ko: This kind of drum only use in religious ceremony such as in New Year and Holy days
which occur two days a month (15th waxing and waning moon day)
Reed Organ (Nor):
Mostly, it is played in New Year and general occasions also.
Jing Nong (Ar Ta): Jing Nong can be played in anywhere and anytime like flute.
Lahu’s bamboo flutr are divided into 4 kinds which are single, two, three and four holes.
Rice Flute (Lae Loo): The process of making is like Lae Ko Zui but it is different in raw material. It uses rice
instead of wood. It is significant for the rice to have at least onr joint and flute valve. Rice flute is played in harvest time
only because it is rare to find rice in other seasons. Lahu people believe that if there are something wrong about their
paddy farming, they will blow the flute and it will be rain on that day suddenly.
Leaf Blowing (Ar Pha Mer We):
For single leaf, we have to fold in a half and blow at a fold. For double leaves,
lay the round wood on one leaf and for another one, blow in a fold spot. It can be played anytime.