Lohba Ethnic Minority

Last updated by Nancy at 2013-10-21

Table of Contents

TOPGeneral Information

The Lhoba are a largely agrarian ethnic minority residing in the southeastern portion of Tibet.  "Lhoba" simply means "southerners” in Tibetan, and refers to the approximately 3000 inhabitants of Mainling, Medog, Lhunze and Nangxian counties.  The Lhoba population consists of many tribes, including the Bogaer, Ningbo, Adi and Tajin peoples.  Though sustenance is provided mainly through farming, hunting and gathering also provides a considerable portion of their livelihood.  Their religious traditions include primitive local beliefs alongside Tibetan Buddhism.

TOPTaboos

Lhoba religious ideology centers on the premise that everything in the world is animate. That is, everything has its own spirit, and the spirits are immortal. The spirits are called "Wuyong" and are considered to be present everywhere in the world. All living things in the world are subject to the domination of "Wuyong". If someone happens to offend the spirits, misfortune and disaster are imminent. "Wuyong" has tremendous influence on the Lhoba’s way of thinking, work, and life, and continues to generate deep respect and worship. There are numerous taboos cited in Lhoba religious ideology, and they place certain restrictions on people's daily lives.

Each tribal village has its own holy stones that people are not supposed to touch, move, or sit on. The villages also have holy trees, which people are forbidden to cut. When it comes time for the annual religious ceremony, all villagers walk in a circle around the holy trees and stones three times, slaughter hens, and serve food and wine as a sacrifice to the Gods. Most Lhobas worship stones of strange shapes and special unique trees because they consider them to be the homes of the god of stone and the god of the tree respectively.  Lhobas sacrifice wild chook to the Gods three times every year; once on New Year's Day, then during the spring animal inseminations, and finally during autumn harvest.

While slaughtering the pigs, the housemaster will place some green branches in front of the door, which means no strangers are allowed to step into the house.  Also, during this time the family is forbidden to lend anything to others. Inside, they are not permitted to walk near the oven with things like wool or leather. It is taboo for the slaughterer to say anything related to "death" or "existing no longer".  Close approach to ovens, hearths, and firewood is also forbidden.

Strangers are not allowed to enter a Lhoba's house within the first three days following childbirth or birth of livestock. When somebody is ill, entry is also forbidden. If the Lhoba's relatives or friends happen to call during these times, they must say "Never let ghosts and devils in!" three times before entering the house with the guide of the housemaster. If permission to enter is not granted by the housemaster, the guests are regarded as the aforementioned "ghosts and devils”, and are driven out swiftly.  Quarrels can erupt from guests refusing to acknowledge the housemaster’s demand, or from guests failing to understand and respect this taboo.

Hunting dogs play a significant part in Lhoba life and culture.  The Lhobas take dogs into their homes as family. It is not uncommon for dozens of dogs to be raised in each Lhoba family.  Furthermore, the dogs behave and act kindly toward their family and don't bite people or bark. Though they are kind to people, the dogs are trained to defend the home ferociously against wild animals. Guests are forbidden to beat or scold the dogs, and are driven out of the home if they are inclined to do so.

While mending the house and performing seeding duties, the housemasters pray in a loud voice, "Health for both the family and livestock; health for the future generations; good harvests all the time!"  Then they throw the mixed grain up into the sky carefully, respectfully, and seriously.  Sneers or unfriendly comments against the housemasters are forbidden during the prayer ritual.

Pigs are considered to be the leaders of livestock, and are frequently sacrificed to the gods.  Therefore, pigs are taken care of quite well.  Their food troughs are protected from weather exposure and people are forbidden to relieve themselves in close proximity to the stalls.

Lhoba people never lock the door. Stealing and lying are considered to be the most insufferable and inexcusable of criminal acts.  If someone is caught lying or stealing, they are punished firmly, often with excommunication from the village.  Recidivism results in execution.

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