Identity The Yerong are also known to locals as the Daban Yao, or simply as Daban. Although there is a community of Daban Yao in Yunnan's Xishuangbanna Prefecture, the two groups are unrelated. The Yunnan Daban Yao speak the Iu Mien language. The Yerong are included as part of the Yao nationality in China, even though they speak their own, very different language. In 1945 the Yao were described as being made up of 39 different tribes. Among these tribes, however, are a staggering number and variety of subgroups. "There are thought to be as many as 300 such different appellations among the Yao in China, making research and classification ethnically an impossible task. Because many Yao groups "have different selfdenominations ... they are probably not of the same ethnic stock."
History In the past the numerous Yao groups in China were governed by a "tablet" system. The inhabitants of several villages banded together and erected a stone tablet, engraved in Chinese characters, containing the rules and regulations to be observed by members of the group. "Apparently a sort of social pact, this set of rules defined rights and prerogatives within the group; the social order, customs and practices to be maintained; and the sanctions imposed for infringement or violation of these rules."
Customs The Yerong, who wear their own distinctive dress, are renowned as an honest and hardworking people. The small population of the Yerong is the result of much intermarriage with other races and tribes. As more Yerong youth leave their home communities to marry and live with other people groups, the very existence of the Yerong is becoming increasingly endangered.
Religion The Yerong are animists. They do not observe the custom of worshiping Pan Hu, as do most of the other Yao groups in Guangxi.
Christianity They are still waiting to hear the gospel for the first time in their history. Foreign missionaries will struggle to effectively reach the isolated Yerong by themselves. Believers from related minority groups or from Han Chinese churches are best suited for effective evangelism. Because of the strong ethnic unity of the clan system, one observer points out, "Cross-cultural missionaries would have a very marginal part in such a thrust, but would be needed for encouragement and counseling."
Chinese scholar Liang Min listed a 1990 population of only 300 to 400 Yerong in China. In addition, about half of the members of the Buyang tribe (1,000 to 1,500 people) can also speak the Yerong language. The Yerong are located in the Longhe and Pohe townships of Napo County in the southwest corner of Guangxi, just north of the juncture where Yunnan, Guangxi and Vietnam intersect. (Source: Operation China, 2000)