World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Li people

Li (or Hlai)
Total population
1.3 million (estimated)
Regions with significant populations
Hainan and islands in the South China Sea
Hlai languages, Jiamao, Hainanese, and Mandarin
Animism, Theravada Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
other Tai-Kadai peoples and populations from mainland southern China[1]

The Li (黎; pinyin: Lí) or Hlai are an ethnic group, the vast majority of whom live off the southern coast of mainland China on Hainan Island,[2] where they are the largest minority ethnic group. Divided into the five branches of the Qi, Ha, Run, Sai and Meifu,[3] the Li have their own distinctive culture and customs.


  • Background 1
  • Origin and history 2
  • Language 3
  • Culture 4
  • External links 5
  • References 6


They refer to themselves as the Hlai people, but they are sometimes colloquially known as "Sai" or "Say", and during the Sui Dynasty they were known by the name Liliao. The Li form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.

Origin and history

The Li are believed to be descendants of the ancient Yue tribes of China and Vietnam, who settled on the island thousands of years ago. DNA analysis carried out amongst the modern Li population indicate a close relationship with populations in mainland southern China and in particular Guangxi province.[1]

During the Japanese occupation of Hainan (1939–1945), the Li suffered heavily. They are held in high esteem by the Beijing government because they fought on the side of the CPC against Chinese Nationalist rule during the Chinese Civil War.[3] Hainan Li-Miao Autonomous Prefecture was created in 1952 (abolished in 1988).


They speak their own Hlai language, a member of the Tai–Kadai language family,[4] but most can understand or speak Hainanese and Mandarin.


The Li play a traditional wind instrument called kǒuxiāo (口箫),[5] and another called lìlāluó (利拉罗).

External links

  • Ethnologue entry for Hlai language


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Original from Indiana University
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Norquest, Peter K. 2007. A Phonological Reconstruction of Proto-Hlai. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona.
  5. ^ [1]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.