Lahu people
Total population
About 1,000,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
China, Myanmar, Thailand
Significant Lahu diaspora populations in:
 United States10,000[1]
 Vietnam12,113 (2019)
Lahu, Kucong
Animism, Buddhism,[5] Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Akha people, Karen people, Hani people

President- Jaha Seechang

The Lahu people (Chinese: 拉祜族 Lāhùzú; Lahu: Ladhulsi / Kawzhawd; Vietnamese: La Hủ) are an ethnic group native to China, Myanmar, and the rest of Mainland Southeast Asia.

The current International Lahu President & Ministry, Jaha Seechang has been re-elected by the Lahu community to run a second term, another 4 years on January 12, 2024. He was re-elected during the First Ever International Lahu New Years 2024 event that was held at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Lahu community came to celebrate the event from all over the world for the first time in history. The Lahu people flew in from United States, China, Australia, Canada, Myanmar, Laos, Singapore, and other countries. Jaha and his team, International Lahu Development Foundation were able to make this event successful on a global scale with participation of over 5000 people as much so the Prime Minister and Governor was in attendance to support the Lahu communities historic event. Jaha Seechang obtained his Doctors DRE through Grace Bible College. His family, wife and four children currently resides in the United States but majority of his relatives lives in Southeast Asia. Jahas primary focus areas include Religion, Culture, Education, Health, Agriculture, and Business.

International Lahu President, Jaha Seechang giving a speech during First International Lahu New year held on January 11-13, 2024.


See also: Graphic pejoratives in written Chinese

The Chinese name "Lahu" literally means "to drag favour from heaven" (拉, lā, "to drag"; 祜, hù, "blessing, favour"). It replaced the older and more-offensive[clarification needed] "Luohei" (猓黑) as the official Chinese name for the Lahu people.


The Lahu are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, where about 720,000 live in Yunnan province, mostly in Lancang Lahu Autonomous County. In Thailand, the Lahu are one of the six main groups categorized as hill tribes.[3] The Tai often refer to them by the exonym Musoe (also spelled Muser; Thai: มูเซอ), meaning 'hunter'. They are one of 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam, and mostly live in three communes of Mường Tè, Lai Châu Province.[1]

Left to right, Governor, Prime Minister, Lahu President, Lahu Leader from Lachang, China.
International Lahu Development Foundation team facilitating the first ever International Lahu New Years at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Event took place on January 11-13, 2024.

A few Lahu, along with the Hmong, Lao, and Mien were recruited by the United States Central Intelligence Agency to help fight against the communist Pathet Lao, known as the secret war, during the Laotian Civil War.[citation needed] In fear of retribution when the Pathet Lao took over the Laotian government in 1975, those who had helped the United States fled to neighboring Thailand seeking political asylum.

A couple thousand Lahu have resettled in the United States as refugees, in the states of California, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas, and Utah.[6]


The Lahu divide themselves into a number of subgroups, such as the Lahu Na (Black Lahu), Lahu Nyi (Red Lahu), Lahu Hpu (White Lahu), Lahu Shi (Yellow Lahu) and the Lahu Shehleh. Where a subgroup name refers to a color, it refers to the traditional color of their dress. These groups do not function as tribes or clans - there are no kin groups above that of the family. Lahu trace descent bilaterally, and typically practice matrilocal residence.

Bradley (1979) lists the following Lahu ethnic subgroups.

Black Lahu
Yellow Lahu
Unclassified[note 1]
Non-Lahu (some have "become" Lahu)


Main article: Lahu language

The Lahu language is part of the Loloish branch of the Lolo–Burmese subgroup of the Tibeto-Burman family (itself a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family). Like most of its relatives, it is a strongly isolating language with subject–object–verb word order, and a set of numeral classifiers. There are seven tones, and consonants cannot close syllables. The language spoken by the Lahu Shi is notably divergent from that spoken by the other groups. In Thailand, Lahu Na often serves as a lingua franca among the various hill tribes. Written Lahu uses the Latin alphabet. Among Christian villages, the language has been enriched by loanwords from English, Latin and Greek via Bible translation, plus neologisms in the areas of hygiene, music and education.[1]


An elderly Lahu woman at a refugee camp in Thailand

The traditional Lahu religion is polytheistic. Buddhism was introduced in the late 17th century and became widespread. Many Lahu people in China are Buddhists.[5] Christianity became established in Burma in the 19th century and has been spreading since.

The Lahu of Northeastern Thailand had encounters with Theravada Buddhist forest monks (tudong monks) around the years 1930–1940. The leader of such a group of monks, Mun Bhuridatta, spent some time in Lahu territory. These Lahu asked him for a "gatha that would protect them from ghosts and demons."[7]


Lahu people used to have just a given name, until the Chinese Government gave them surnames. About 90% of the Lahu people are either named Lee or Zhang, two of the most common Chinese surnames. Lahu given names are made of two syllables: one that shows the gender and one that gives information on the day of birth, based on the zodiac. For example, a person born on the Ox day will be named “Zanu” if he is a boy and “Nanu” if she is a girl.[8]


  1. ^ Not known to Bradley's informants



  1. ^ a b c d Matisoff, James A. (2006). English-Lahu Lexicon. Google Books: University of California Press. pp. xi–xii. ISBN 9780520916111.
  2. ^ a b "Lahu". Archived from the original on 1 July 2019. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b 'Chiang Mai's Hill Peoples' in: Forbes, Andrew, and Henley, David, Ancient Chiang Mai Volume 3. Chiang Mai, Cognoscenti Books, 2012.
  4. ^ "Results of Population and Housing Census 2015" (PDF). Lao Statistics Bureau. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b "The Lahu Ethnic Group". Archived from the original on 23 September 2018. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ Forest Recollections, K. Tyavanich, Honolulu 1997, p. 163.
  8. ^ "namepedia blog - All about names, without the gloves". 13 March 2015. Archived from the original on 21 May 2016. Retrieved 17 August 2018.


  • Bradley, David (1979). Lahu dialects. Oriental monograph series #23. Canberra, ACT: Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University. OCLC 6303582.
  • Lewis, Paul; Lewis, Elaine (1984). Peoples of the Golden Triangle. London, England: Thames and Hudson Ltd. ISBN 0-500-97472-1.
  • Matisoff, James (1982). The Grammar of Lahu. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-09467-0.
  • Phạm Huy. 1997. Một phần chân dung: dân tộc La Hủ (nhật ký điền dã). Lai Châu: Sở Văn Hóa Thông Tin Lai Châu.