Chinese Nationalities (Li Minority)
The Li ethnic group consists of five branches: the Qi, Ha, Run, Sai and Meifu.
Their ancestors can be traced back to the Luoyue people - a branch of the
ancient Baiyue tribe who once lived in south China. Early before the Qin and
Han periods, ancestors of Li ethnic group immigrated into Hainan Island from
Guangdong and Guangxi provinces.
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At first, they only lived in the monticule and
mesa areas near the gulfs and rivers, later, they gradually moved to all parts
of the Island.
During the Sui Dynasty, they were called as "Liliao" and after
the Song Dynasty; "Li ethnic group" was formally used to address them. Li
people call themselves "Sai" people. Having inhabited Hainan for over 3000
years, they were believed to be the earliest settlers of Hainan.
The Li people have their own language, which belong to the Li branch of the
Chinese-Tibetan phylum. Although a written script was created in 1957, Han
written language is commonly used. Thirty-nine minority groups live on
Hainan Island, although only the original
inhabitants of the island, the Li and the Miao, are accessible, living in the
dense tropical forests covering the Limulingshan mountains that stretch down
the center of the island. The Li probably settled on Hainan 3,000 years ago
after migrating from Fujian Province.
Until recently the Li had a custom of tattooing their bodies at the age of 12 or
13. Today all the Li except the elderly wear standard Han dress. However, when
a member of the Li dies, traditional Li costume is considered essential if the
dead are to be accepted by ancestors in the afterworld.
The Li long had a history of rebellion against Chinese authority. In 1943 they
rose against the Nationalist occupiers and were joined by local Communist
guerrillas and later by the Red Army in the first large-scale collaboration of
a minority during the civil war. The Li also are found in Fujian and Guangdong
Provinces. They believe in polytheism and nature worship. They are part of the
Sino-Tibetan Thai ethno linguistic group.