Lisu or Lisaw
Lisu earned their name as the tribe that is alive with color. In fact, the Lisu are considered to use the greatest variety
of colors of all the hill tribes. Their confident decision-making and independence is reflected in the way the Lisu use
powerful combinations of colors, one on top of the other, to decorate their costumes. Often referred to as "Lisor,"
they refer to themselves as "Lisu.
Originally, the Lisu were from the area near head of the Salawan waters and the Mekong river, located in northern
Tibet and the northwest portion of Yunnan province in the People's Republic of China. The Lisu divided
into two sub-groups: the striped Lisu and the black Lisu. Almost all Lisu residing in Thailand are of the striped Lisu
sub-group. As for the black Lisu, they are spread out across China, Burma, India, and Thailand. The Lisu in
Thailand are scattered across nine different provinces: Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Phayao, Tak,
Kampaengphet, Phetchaboon, Sukhothai, and Lampang.
The Lisu language belongs to the Chinese-Tibetan language family. In 1957, a new alphabetic script was created
for the Lisu people. Lisu had many dialects that originate from the country in which they live. Hua Lisu, Pai Lisu
and Lushi Lisu dialects are spoken in China. Although they are mutually interlligible, some have many more loan words
from other languages than others.The Lisu language is closely related to the Lahu and Akha languages and is also
related to Burmese, Kachin, and Yi languages. Lisu can be split up into three dialects:northern,central and southern,
with northern being the standard.
Lifestyle and House
The Social Structure
The Lisu are a people who love order and independence. The established social order is flexible,
allowing room for change and diversity. Different cultures and customs are not dismissed out of hand,
but new things must pass through a democratic decision-making process before being accepted.
Processes like these make Lisu good managers, in general, and have allowed the Lisu have been quite
successful at adapting to change.
The Lisu consider their main source of livelihood to be farming. It is like the heart and soul of a Lisu. The Lisu's main crops
are rice and corn, followed by other fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, chili peppers, sesame seeds,
ginger, potatoes, and various different kinds of beans.
Rice planting season (Ja ya mee): As the first rains of the rainy season fall to the ground in early May.
September is the season for planting opium (Ya pee):
At the beginning of August the corn will be harvested,
leaving the land free to plant opium, which will be done around September.
The season for harvesting opium (Ya pee):
After the rice harvest in November and early December comes
the season for harvesting opium poppies, collecting their hallucenogenic sap. It is at this time that the poppies
are in full bloom and the fields are bursting with a spreading array of red, purple and white opium flowers.
The harvesting will be done in the late morning, when the sun has been up for awhile. Under the hot rays
of the sun the sap will flow more freely and dry faster once collected.
The style and design of Lisu houses is very similar to that of the Akha. Both tribes have developed their housing
designs over many generations, with careful thought and consideration being made as to what is most practical.
The result is a sturdy house design that does quite a good job of protecting its inhabitants
from the elements-namely wind and rain.
The house is built entirely of bamboo, with the exception of the pillars, which must be made from hardwood for stability.
As for the walls, they are made from strips of bamboo woven tightly together. The roof is made from straw thatching.
Windows are noticeably absent and there is only one door; although this makes the inside of the house rather dark,
it does help keep it quite insulated from cold winds at night and during the winter. Outside, in the front yard,
is a rice pounder used to mill the family's rice. In back is a small pen for raising chickens. The floor of the pen is raised
off the ground and a hen house is constructed, complete with nesting places for the chickens inside.
Cultural and Traditional
Marriage and Family
Lisu people cannot marry their relatives.
Choosing the match: in the evening Lisu women will cook the rice, and the following morning the men will come to help,
and spend time teasing each other. Some couples exchange bracelets or other symbols to show they love each other,
and they will keep them in their pocket near their heart. When they have to go to work in the field, the women will tell the men
and all of them will wear full dress, and sing impromptu songs.
The wedding: Lisu men will give money to the brides’ parents; the man’s parents give all of the money that the women’s
parent asked for. For Lisu, the money given to the bride is more than other hilltribes because when they marry,
the woman stays in the man’s house and does everything in their family, work hard.
A religion precept day or “Jue”
A religion day or karma day of Lisu, will have every 15 day. The religion leader will announce to the people in the village
before has the ceremonial one day. In this day the people in the village can not use sharp like a knife, an ax, a spade.
This day the villager can not go to work in the farm also.On this day the villager do not kill pig, chicken or a living thing.
A religion precept day the villager stops to work one day, stay in the house and family. For a women, sew the clothes
and a men go to the forest to find the stuff or do a little thing in the house.
In each area, the way of living and the believe not all the same because from an ancestor to generation. The thing that
the villager to do in the believe or ceremony especially the religious precept day is very important. Every family must
to break off work to give a merit and offering food and make a ceremony for give worship by Lisu believe so the Lisu
break off their works and to be at home to take a merit.
Religious, Beliefs, and Rituals
In the past the Lisu people worshipped many gods and nature. This appeared to be a remnant of totemism.
Religious professionals made a living by offering sacrifices to ghosts and fortune-telling. During the religious activities,
animals were slaughtered and a large sum of money spent. In the middle of the 19th century,
Christianity and Catholicism were spread into the area by Western missionaries.
The Shaman of the Lisu tribe is called “Hnee-Pha”. He is the leader who will lead and guide villagers
whenever there are any traditional worshipping ceremonies. The Hnee-Pha will usually be the person
who is able to communicate with the ancestor spirits in the village. When a person is being chosen to be
the Hnee-Pha, he will always feel tired and easily prone to sickness like fever. All these symptoms
will end when the chosen person accepts to be the Hnee-Pha. On the other hand, people who rejected
to be a Hnee-Pha will continue to get sick and weak.
The Lisu tribe believes that the Hnee-Pha will be possessed during the ritual and he will have the power
to communicate to the spirits of the dead. This explains why the Hnee-Pha will have a voice
change during the ritual. The Lisu people will usually have such ceremonies when they have health
problems or when being disturbed by other holy spirits. When the ritual ends, the Hnee-Pha will
return to be a normal human being and will usually not be able to remember any thing he has
done during the ceremony.
The holy thing in the house
The Lisu people usually have an ancestral altar in their homes where they will pay respect and pray
to their ancestors. The ancestral altar is usually located near to the entrance of their homes.
Some household do not have any altar because their houses are near to their parents’ home
and the ancestral altar is in their parents’ home. Some families, on the other hand, may have more than one altar.
The ancestral altar is usually a very holy element in the house.
During major sacred days, the Lisu will give offerings to their ancestor spirits. They will change the water/ tea
that are offered to the spirits in the teacups. The eldest son or most senior male in the family will perform
such offerings to their ancestors. They believed that their ancestors will protect them from harm.
Because they are holy and sacred. Every traditional ritual is of importance to the Lisu people especially during
Lisu New Year, funeral and even birth ceremonies.
Sacred in the village
Lisu villages usually have one shrine dedicated to the ancestor spirit known as Aphahmowhee. The shrine is
built at the top end of the village, approximately 50-100 meters away. If this is not possible, then it would be built
in the center of the village. The shrine house looks like a lean-to, faces the village, and has an altar in the center
on which cups of Chinese tea are placed. Around the shrine, or Aphahmowhee, is a tree named Aphahmow,
and no trees may be cut down in this area.
The person who takes care of the shrine is the religious leader, in Lisu called “Muemuepha”. On each Precept Day,
the Muemuepha has to clean the altar; light the joss sticks; change the water in the cup. Lisu believe the village shrine,
or Aphahmowhee, is a good spirit, which protects the villagers and the pets, and blesses the villagers with happiness
and health, by offering the foods to Aphahmowhee.
Style of dress for Lisu or Lisaw
Men wear short tunics and breaches reaching the knee. Some wear a black turban. A cutting knife dangles at
a man's left waist and a quiver hangs at his right waist. Composed of a pair of pants with a low-hanging crotch.
Often light blue, these pants can also be found in a variety of other colors. The shirt is made of felt, with long-sleeves
and an inside lining. Silver buttons are often sewn onto the shirt. The more buttons the better,
with the ideal being 1,000 buttons.
A red sash is wrapped around the waist and hanging off the shoulder is a handsomely decorated bag.
Similar to a woman's bag, long tassels hang down from the bag like horse's hair. Unlike the women,
however, the men wear their bag in front of them.
Women wear short dresses and long skirts. Their heads are decorated with red and white glass beads
and their chests with necklaces formed by strings of colored beads. The style of Lisu women's dress has
changed quite significantly through the generations. In the past, weaving was done by hand,
but now a machine is used. Designs use to be more intricate and beautiful, but the new designs are smaller.
Lisu clothing used to be made from hemp fibers. In northern Thailand, cotton has now taken over
as the primary material.
Lisu women in Thailand have become accustomed to using cotton or synthetic materials, which can be
easily found in nearby markets. The tunic fits loosely over the wearer, with a split running up both sides.
In front, the tunic falls down to the knees, and in back, down to mid-calf. The fabric crosses over itself in front
and is then fastened under the right arm. In Chinese style, the collar hooks off at an angle, running from
the middle of the tunic down to the right arm. The fabric covering the chest is often a different color
from the color beneath it. The tunic itself is likely to be some shade of blue or green.
The musical instruments in each tribe tell about the feelings, beauty and varied wisdom of the village instead
of putting it into words. The beautiful sound of each musical instrument, weaving through the evening remains
today and will continue to the next generation, as long as the new generation is taught and is interested.
The bottle gourd organ
Usually, this is the favorite instrument of Lisu men. This is a wind instrument which they will play at ceremonies
in the community culture court or when they travel to play in other villages; they also use the bottle gourd organ
to contact each other, to others know they are thinking of them – a very good reason why this is the favorite
and continues to be learnt from generation to generation.
The Chuebor is a powerful tree string lute Losor instruments of Lisu or Lisor. Chuebor have been Lisor popular
traditional musical. Chuebor carving by wood and hole box cover with snake or lizard skin. Sound is strangely.
Lisor tribal play it in a good time and party hard to fine it. If you are a musician or love in music.
It is not difficult to play and enjoy.