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(Bokaer, Bengni, Luoba, Lhopa,
Loba, Yidu, Bengru, Idu)
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 China (Tibet) 2,322 (1999) [1]
 India (Arunachal Pradesh) 3,375 (1981)

Hindi,English,Idu, Bokar, Tibetan



Related ethnic groups

Monpa, Adi, Tibetans

Lhoba (Chinese: 珞巴) is a term of obscure (though probably Tibetan) origin which has come to apply to a diverse amalgamation of Tibeto-Burman tribespeople living in and around "Pemako" (a region in Southeastern Tibet)[3], including Mainling, Medog, Zayü counties of Nyingchi Prefecture and Lhünzê County of Shannan Prefecture. [4] The term is largely promulgated by the Chinese government, which officially recognises Lhoba as one of the 56 ethnic groups in China. Most people designated as "Lhoba" within modern-day Tibet Autonomous Region in China actually refer to themselves via a diverse set of autonyms (names recognized by a community itself), and do not traditionally self-identify as a single entity.[5][6] The two main tribal groups which fall under the designation "Lhoba" in Tibet are the Yidu (Idu [Mishmi]) and the Bo'gaer (Bokar [Adi]), who are found in far greater numbers inside Arunachal Pradesh, a state of modern-day India (claimed by China). Other groups identified by Chinese authorities as "Lhoba" include the Na (Bangni) [7].



"Lhoba" tribespeople living in Chinese Tibet speak at least three mutually-unintelligible languages: Idu (Mishmi), a Tibeto-Burman language of uncertain classification, Bokar (Adi), a Tibeto-Burman language of the Eastern Tani branch, and Na (Bengni), a Tibeto-Burman language of the Western Tani branch [8]. These languages are far more widely spoken in Arunachal Pradesh.

Customs and dress

Many customs, habits and dress of different clan members may vary. The Lhoba men in Luoyu wear knee-length black jackets without sleeves and buttons made out of sheep's wool. They wear helmet-like hats either made from bearskin or woven from bamboo stripes or rattan laced with bearskin. They also wear ornaments that include earrings, necklaces made of beads, and bamboo plugs inserted into the ear lobe. The Lhoba women wear narrow-sleeved blouses and skirts of sheep's wool. The weight of the ornaments the womenfolk wear is a symbol of their wealth, which includes shells, silver coins, iron chains bells, silver and brass earrings. Both sexes usually go barefooted. Their dress are quite similar to the Tibetan costume. The Idu men wear a sword and waterproof cane helmet, and a chignon on their hair and shields made of buffalo hide. Yidu weaponry includes straight Tibetan sword, dagger, bow and poisoned arrows.

Among the Yidu Lhoba (Idu Mishmi), one of the sub-tribes is the Bebejia Mishmi. Bebejia Mishmi women are expert weavers and make excellent coats and blouses.[9]

The Idu houses are divided into a number of rooms for use of every married person. Unmarried girls and boys sleep in separate rooms. A fireplace occupies the centre of the room, round which the inmates sleep. The Idu are polygamous and each wife has their own rooms in the house. The family is organised in patriarchal principles. The inheritance of a widow is exceptional compared to a mother's.

The wooden pillow of the master of the house is considered taboo to the inmates of the house as it is considered improper to sit upon it. Guests are not allowed to enter the room of the master of the house. The animal skulls preserved in the house are considered to be sacred.

The slash and burn method of cultivation, known as Jhum, is the main stay of the Idus, and clearing of land is carried for every three to five years. The important crops they raised are paddy, arum, tapioca, millet and maize. Rice is the staple food supplemented by millet maize and tapioca. They also take leafy vegetables, beans, gourd, sweet potato etc. Animal flesh is considered taboo to Idu woman. The Yidu also consume "Yu", a locally brewed rice beer, and rice beer prepared by a woman during her period is taboo to a priest.

The Idu calendar was based upon the menstrual period of the women and dating is done by untying one each from a number of knots put on a piece of string. Traditional village panchayat (abbala) settles all internal disputes among the tribe.

Culture and religion

Few Lhoba know the Tibetan language. In the past, when there was no writing, the Lhobas kept track of history through telling their descendants and tying knot codes about their past. Their literature also poses a significant influence on their Tibetan counterparts.They are known as Bokar in Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India and found in Pidi and Monigong circle of Arunachal Pradesh. They trace their origin from a common forefather, Abotani. They follow the genealogy counting from Abotani as Nijum-Jumsi-Siki-Kiyor-Yorkar-Kardung-Duram-Ramdung/Ramgu/Ramgo.All Bokars groups have originated from Ramdung, Ramgo and Ramgu.

They engage in barter trade with the Tibetans, trading goods like animal hides, musk, bear paws, dye and captured game for farm tools, salt, wool, clothing, grain and tea from Tibetan traders. As a result of constant trading with the Tibetans, they have been increasingly influenced by the Tibetans in their dress. Many Lhobas have converted to Tibetan Buddhism in the recent years as they traded with the Buddhist monasteries, thus frequently mixing with their indigenous Animist beliefs, which had traditionally deep roots in the tiger. Others remain Animistic, more commonly among those in Arunachal Pradesh, and their pilgrim centre of the community lies at Atho-Popu in Dibang valley. The stories about immigration mentioned is along the banks of twelve rivers in Dibang Valley, the clustered area known as Cheithu-Huluni. Among the Yidu, they traditionally believed that "Inni" is their supreme god.

Festivals such as Reh are celebrated to appease the deities, who were traditionally believed to control the peace and prosperity of the people. The celebration with great fan-fare and the performance of priest dance marks the ending of the festival.

There are four variants of funerals among the Yidu Lhoba (idu Mishmi), and people of different social status would choose to conduct either of the four different variants. In all variants, the Igu priest would recite mourning songs for the dead. Mithuns are being sacrificed in the Yah variant of the funeral, which lasts for three to four days.

The young boys are trained to hunt at an early age. However, women had low status in society and had no inheritance rights from their husbands or fathers. The Lhoba also enjoy a subtropical/warm temperate climate.


Lhoba cuisine varies across regions. Staple foods are dumplings made of maize or millet flour, rice or buckwheat. In places near Tibetan communities people have tsampa, potatoes, buttered tea and spicy food. Being heavy drinkers and smokers, at celebrations the Lhobas enjoy wine and singing to observe good harvests and good luck. The buttered tea is their favorite drink. However, due to the lack of salt, they had suffered endemic goiter, caused by poor living conditions. Many were either born deaf or mute. Their population went down in decline until recent years due to this disease. Due to their low population, many of them either intermarried with the Tibetans or with the tribal groups of Arunachal Pradesh, notably the Monpa.


The area which the modern Lhoba live today was known as Luoyu (Luoyu is a name of an area in Tibet now) in medieval texts. Luoyu came under the control of Tibet from the 7th century onwards and came under frequent subjugation from the Tibetans.[10]

It is not currently known whether modern-day "Lhoba" peoples in fact inhabited Luoyu at the time of Tibetan conquest, nor whether languages spoken by modern-day "Lhoba" peoples are indigenous to this region or not. While most Tani tribespeople living in modern-day Arunachal Pradesh point to a traditional homeland in or around this region [11], there is currently no independent means of verification.


  1. ^ 民族区域自治拾零, China Ethnicity, from Department of Statistics. Retrieved December 21, 2008
  2. ^ Caidan An, Jun Liu, Jinhui Li, Tao Xie (2003). 西藏旅游指南英: Travel Guide. 五洲传播出版社. pp. 123. ISBN 7508503740.  
  3. ^ Wessels, pg 255
  4. ^ Baker, pg 465
  5. ^ Lamb, pg 320
  6. ^ Arunachal Pradesh, 2, pp. 18,  
  7. ^ Sun, ch 1
  8. ^ Sun
  9. ^ Arunachal tribes
  10. ^ Xiaoming Zhang (2004). China's Tibet. 五洲传播出版社. pp. 23. ISBN 7508506081.  
  11. ^ Nyori


  • Early Jesuit Travellers in Central Asia, 1603-1721: 1603-1721, By C. Wessels, Published by Asian Educational Services, 1992, ISBN 8120607414
  • The Heart of the World: A Journey to the Last Secret Place, By Ian Baker, Published by Penguin, 2004, ISBN 1594200270
  • The McMahon Line: A Study in the Relations Between India, China and Tibet, 1904-1914, By Alastair Lamb, Published by Routledge & K. Paul, 1966
  • A Historical-Comparative Account of the Tani (Mirish) Branch of Tibeto-Burman, By Jackson Tian-Shin Sun, University of California at Berkeley PhD Dissertation, 1993.
  • History and Culture of the Adis, By Tai Nyori, Published by Omsons, 1993.

External links


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