Welcome to Thailand online: Lahu, Hilltribes of Northern Thailand

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Lahu Children, Lahu Village, Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand. Lahu Children, Lahu Village, Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand.

Lahu people are to be found in the mountains of China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and northern Thailand. There are approximately 25000 Lahus now living in Thailand. There are four tribes within the Lahu: Black, Red, Yellow and She-Leh. Lahu villages are mostly at high altitude in the northern provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Sorn. They originated in south west China. Houses are built on high stilts with walls of bamboo or wooden planks, thatched with grass. A ladder leads to the open central living area, with a store room to one side and living quarters to the other. Their domestic animals like chicken, pigs and buffalos are kept in the basement corral. Their practice of slash and burn agriculture does not provide them with even the basic essentials of life, let alone the enrichment to be found in education for their children, adequate medical care, and the simple amenities of modern life.

Lahu Children (Black Lahu), Lahu Village, Mae Hong Sorn Province, Northern Thailand. Lahu Children (Black Lahu), Lahu Village, Mae Hong Sorn Province, Northern Thailand.

Lahu women are skilled in weaving cloth, both on back-strap and foot-treadle looms, producing delicate patchwork trims, and unusual embroidery work. The Black Lahu women wear the most distinctive costumes within this tribe. They wear a black cloak with diagonal cream stripes. The top of the sleeve is decorated in bold colours of red and yellow. Red Lahu women wear black trousers with white edging and vivid sleeves of broad red and blue stripes. All the other Lahu tribes have supplemented their traditional costumes by sarong and Thai shirt. Men and women together make some of the finest baskets to be found anywhere in Thailand. Lahu men produce excellent crossbows, musical instruments, and other items made of wood, bamboo and rattan.

The Lahus are animist and believe in one spirit with overall control all the others. About 30% of the Lahus have been converted to christianity and have abandoned their way of life. The Lahu are independent people and love entertainment and the easy life. They are abviously pride themselves on their skills in hunting and trapping.

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This page was created on March 21, 1997 and last updated on December 3, 2004.
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