In 1990 the Lhoba numbered only 2,312. They live in the counties of Mainling, Medog, Lhunze, Nangxian, and Luoyu in southeastern and southern Tibet. The Lhoba language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman Branch of the Sino-Tibetan Language Family. There is no written language in use. "Lhoba" is the name given them by the Tibetans and means "southerners." They identify themselves by clan names or names of localities.

The Lhoba practice agriculture and are skilled at working with bamboo. They are also hunters who trade animal hides, musk, bear paws, and other animal products with the Tibetans for manufactured and imported goods such as farm tools, clothing, salt, wool, grain, and tea. Both groups and individuals go on hunting trips. Boys begin to hunt at an early age, joining their fathers in hunting expeditions. The mainstays of the Lhoba diet are dumplings of maize or millet flour and rice or buckwheat. Those Lhoba who live near Tibetans have adopted some Tibetan traditions, such as buttered tea and spicy foods. Only men inherit land. The Lhoba do not wear shoes, an ethnic marker distinguishing them from other groups in the area.

Formerly, the Lhoba had a stratified society with institutions similar to castes. The Lhoba took slaves, but at the same time the Tibetans regarded the Lhoba as inferior, banning intermarriage with them and restricting their areas of residence.


Ma Yin, ed. (1989). Chinas Minority Nationalities, 224-227. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

National Minorities Questions Editorial Panel (1985). Questions and Answers about China's Minority Nationalities, Beijing: New World Press.

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