History of Lisu Ethnic

According to historical records and folk legend, the forbears of the Lisu people lived along the banks of the Jinsha River and were once ruled by "Wudeng" and "Lianglin," two powerful tribes. After the 12th century, the Lisu people came under the rule of the Lijiang Prefectural Administration of the Yuan Dynasty, and in the succeeding Ming Dynasty, under the rule of the Lijiang district magistrate with the family surname of Mu.

During the 1820s, the Qing government sent officials to Lijiang, Yongsheng and Huaping, areas where the Lisus lived in compact communities, to replace Naxi and Bai hereditary chieftains. This practice speeded up the transformation of the feudal manorial economy to a landlord economy, and tightened up the rule of the Qing court over Lisu and other ethnic groups. In the years preceding and following the turn of the 20th century, large numbers of Han, Bai and Naxi peoples moved to the Nujiang River valleys, taking with them iron farm tools and more advanced production techniques, giving an impetus to local production.

For a long time the Lisus, under oppression and exploitation by landlords, chieftains and headmen, as well as the foreign imperialists, led a miserable life. In Eduoluo Village of Bijiang County alone, 237 peasants out of the village's 1,000 population were tortured to death in the 10 years prior to liberation by local officials, chieftains, headmen or landlords. The Lisus also suffered exorbitant taxes and levies. The household tax, for example, was 21 kilograms of maize per capita, accounting for 21 percent of the annual grain harvest. Moreover, there were unscrupulous merchants and usurers. The arrival of imperialist influence at the turn of the 20th century put the Lisus in a far worse plight.

During the period between the 18th and 19th century, the Lisus waged many struggles against oppression. From 1941 to 1943, together with the Hans, Dais and Jingpos, they heroically resisted the Japanese troops invading western Yunnan Province and succeeded in preventing the aggressors from crossing the Nujiang River, contributing to the defense of China's frontier.

A photo of Lisu children in 1964, taken by Su Junhui. (Photo from China Photographers Association)

Lisu farmers in the big canyon of Nujiang River were harvesting the rice. (Photo from news.sina.com.cn)



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