Identity Although they share the same autonym with the Central Luoluopo and the Southeastern Luoluopo, the languages of these three groups differ widely. Each comes from a different branch of the Yi linguistic group. These names reflect each group's linguistic affiliation, rather than a geographic orientation: the Western Luoluopo speak a Western Yi language; the Central Luoluopo speak a Central Yi language, etc. Luoluopo is the self-name of these groups. In the past, Lolo came to be the derogatory term used freely by the Chinese to describe all Yi people. As a result, many Luoluopo today prefer to identify themselves as Yi to outsiders.
History The ancestors of the Western Luoluopo used to live farther to the north of their present location. In the past, war between different Yi tribes and clans was frequent, resulting in massive loss of life. Because of these conditions, many groups migrated out of the area. One historian described the hostilities: "War tactics were ... mundane: ambushes and surprise attacks were favored; because of lack of ammunition, battles were often hand to hand; the goal was not so much to kill the enemy as to capture him. A Black Yi would be held for ransom or allowed to commit suicide; White Yi or slaves were held for ransom or enslaved. Witchcraft and amulets were used extensively."
Customs These battles were often ended "by the mediation of a third clan, or by a 'waiting-at-home' bride related to both parties (if her pleas were unsuccessful, she would commit suicide). Peace negotiations were long and required expert debaters: compensation had to be decided upon for each life lost."
Religion Polytheistic animism is the main religious adherence of the Western Luoluopo. Ancestor worship is also prevalent. Two or three ancestral rites are performed every year in honor of the Luoluopo forefathers.
Christianity Although little is known about the extent of Christianity among the Western Luoluopo, there may be a small number of believers among them. As a result, the Luowu remain completely unreached today, although the first ever gospel recordings in the Luowu language were produced in 1999. Most Western Luoluopo have never heard of Christ.
According to researcher Jamin Pelkey, 188,500 Western Luoluopo live in six counties of northern and central Simao Prefecture in Yunnan Province. In descending order, the Western Luoluopo are found in Jingdong County (57,000), followed by Jinggu (47,000), Lancang (31,500), Zhenyuan (28,000), Simao (14,500), and Pu'er (10,000). (Source: Operation China, 2000)