LIFESTYLE AND CULTURE
The Tai Lue people live in tropical and subtropical climates. Those dwelling in river valleys are farmers who still use buffalo and traditional wooden equipment to grow wet rice for themselves and for profit. In higher regions they grow dry rice, tea, sugarcane, tobacco, coffee, mangoes and other crops. Tai Lue women are known to be excellent weavers and embroiderers, a tradition passed down from mother to daughter. Families are close among the Tai Lue. Grandmothers watch over the children while parents work in the fields, and newlyweds live with whichever of their families need their help the most. Typical Tai Lue villages are situated on high ground surrounded by their fields and consist of wooden homes built on pillars. Unique to the Tai Lue is their tradition of beautifully decorated, covered village wells. Each village typically has its own Buddhist temple and a location or “heart” wherein resides the village spirit.
BUDDHISM PRACTICED BY THE MAJORITY . . .
Buddhism is practiced by the majority of Tai Lue but the core of their beliefs is strongly animistic. Boys spend a period of their young lives serving in Buddhist temples, learning scriptures and rituals before returning to the community. The Songkran Festival is one such Buddhist Tai ritual. Held during their New Year (April 13-15), this festival originated to cleanse sins by splashing or bathing with water, but is increasingly known as a free-for-all, good-natured water fight. All through the year offerings are regularly made, both in the temples and to ancestors and spirits, which they believe reside everywhere. Of specific importance is the deity Phya Alawu, believed to be the protective spirit over all Tai Lue people. One researcher notes: “Sacrifices are offered to the spirits [and] the village is shut in on itself; all roads and tracks giving access to the community are blocked with barricades of trees and branches. The whole village is encircled with ropes made of straw or a line of white cotton thread, to represent symbolically an encircling wall preventing entry or exit. No outsiders of any description, not even monks or members of the elite ruling class, are permitted to attend these rites.”
WHERE DO THEY LIVE . . .
The approximately 1.2 million Tai Lue people, sometimes called the Dai Lue(in China) or Thai Lue (in Thailand), live scattered among six different nations. Originally from southern China, and still recognized as an official minority of that country, this people group spread into Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam during WWII. When communists took control of China they ended the Tai Lue kingdom, and thousands fled their traditional homeland, Sipsongpanna, in Yunnan Province, at that time. Additionally, intensive Japanese bombing of southern China pushed many into the surrounding nations. Since that time roughly 4,400 have made the United States their home, but most Tai Lue consider Sipsongpanna home.
HOW YOU CAN PRAY
- The Tai Lue are particularly proud of their cultural identity and are often afraid to lose that identity if they come to Jesus. Please pray that they will see that God is the one who gave them their culture and that they will want to honor Him in it
- We are warned in Isaiah that the consequence of worshiping blind gods is becoming spiritually blind yourself. This is evident among the Tai Lue. Pray that the blinders would fall from their eyes and that they would behold and accept the one true God.
- Pray that the Spirit moves in the hearts of Tai Lue believers, creating in them a passion for all Tai Lue to know the gospel of truth.
- Pray for Tai Lue believers experiencing opposition. Pray they would stand strong and not bow to pressure. Pray that they would be ready to give answers boldly and honestly, with great love.
- Pray that the Tai Lue people would not see following Jesus as a “religion” with lots of rules, but that they would understand that following Jesus means having a relationship with the Almighty.
- Pray for Beyond workers serving among the 1.2 million Tai Lue. Pray that Father God would provide all the resources they need as they serve: new teammates (Tai Lue and otherwise), strategies and ideas, finances and all manner of provision, peace and comfort, health in every aspect, and grace to persevere in their work.
The first church was formed among the Tai Lue in the 1920’s. However, new believers received such persecution that they withdrew from their homes to create Bannalee, a village which still remains Christian. Today the Tai Lue are resistant to the gospel message. Less than one-half percent of Tai Lue are Christian, and syncratic practices among professing believers has been known to occur. Pressure to maintain Buddhist and animistic beliefs, and the fear of not doing so, keeps the Tai Lue bound in darkness.