colourful tribal textile
Lahu embroidery

The Lahu People

The Lahu originally come from the Tibetan plateau and migrated gradually to Yunnan. They probably began moving into North Thailand in the 1870s or 1880s under pressure of Chinese domination. They are a strong independent and very diverse ethnic group who number about 60,000 in Thailand. Villages are primarily in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces, but are also as far south as Tak province.

Their settlements are usually remote from roads and towns, due to their strong commitment to the maintenance of their traditional way of life. They are the most skilled hunters of all tribal groups in Thailand.

If you are interested to read about their hunting skills, we recommend to read the excellent “Tracks of the Intruder” by Gordon Young. Young was the son of an American missionary and grew up with Lahu tribesmen in Shan State in Burma. It is a fantastic book.

There are five sub-groups: Red, Yellow, Black, White and “Sheleh”. The Black Lahu is the largest sub-group, making up close to 80 per cent of the population.

Their language is a Tibeto-Burman language and has various dialects. Black Lahu is the most common spoken dialect. Their language has no traditional script. Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries and Chinese government linguists introduced three romanizations during this century.

Green Trails Lahu Hill tribe
Lahu man with traditional instrument