Introduction / History Military campaigns were waged by the Chinese during the Hong Wu (1368-1398) and the Jia Qing (1522-1566) periods of the Ming Dynasty, causing the Ban Yao to migrate to their present location. The campaigns were often launched because the Yao refused to pay taxes. They claimed that they were once granted imperial privilege to avoid taxes from generation to generation, a fact clearly enshrined in their special document, The King Ping's Charter, or The Register for Crossing the Mountains.
The Ban Yao are officially considered part of the large Yao minority group. Although they recognize historical kinship with the Yao peoples, the Ban Yao now have their own customs, dress, and language. They are unable to use their own language to communicate with other Yao groups in Yunnan and must speak Chinese to communicate.
What are their lives like? Until recently, a young Ban Yao man wishing to take a wife had to pay a price for her. Betrothal was therefore little more than a negotiation of the bride-price. The price was divided into three different levels, 72, 60, and 48 ounces of silver, depending on the beauty and health of the young woman. The young woman's parents kept their daughter until the price had been paid in full, in case the young man might refuse to pay after having "received the goods." Some Ban Yao share communal family homes with many of their relatives. The oldest living male is considered the head of the household.
What are their beliefs? The Ban Yao are primarily worshipers of nature and the spirits that they believe control it. They believe demons dwell inside large mountains, and the fate of people's lives is linked to whether the spirits are pleased with them or not.
An oral tradition in Yao culture: "The flood overflowed up to the sky for 7 days and 7 nights, on earth there were no people left except for Fu-xi and his younger sister. Begging a tree (sophora japonica) to be their go-between, they became husband and wife. They gave birth to a lump of flesh, which they cut into 360 pieces and scattered around. Those pieces scattered in the green mountains changed into the Yao, those scattered on the Nine Territories became the Chinese people."
There are no known Christians among the Ban Yao, although about one-fifth are aware of the gospel through the witness of the small number of Hmong and Han believers who live in Funing County. Evangelization of the Ban Yao is difficult because of their isolation and independent mind-set. They are relatively closed to change; decisions are made at a community level, not individually. The Ban Yao have lived and died for centuries without knowledge of Christ.
What are their needs? The Ban Yao people need to submit to Jesus Christ so they can experience the abundant life he offers them in John 10:10.
Prayer Points Pray for the Lord to intervene, calling these people to his side.
Pray for loving workers.
Pray for their hearts to be drawn to the Lord of lords.
Pray for a church planting movement to thrive in their communities.
Approximately 30,000 Ban Yao live in southwest China. The Ban Yao are the smallest of the three Yao groups (totaling 154,700) located in Yunnan Province. The Ban Yao live in the extreme southeastern arm of Yunnan and in adjacent areas of southwest Guangxi. They are noted for living at the top of verdant mountains throughout the area. Being a people who stubbornly keep to themselves and resist all pressure to change, they do not often appear in the market towns on the plain. (Source: Operation China, 2000)