Identity The Qi Li are one of five distinct tribes of the official Li nationality. "The women of the Ki [Qi] ... like those of all the Hainan tribes and sub-tribes, wore dress peculiar to their region. Their silver ornaments differed in design, and the headdress was a turban or sometimes a tasseled handkerchief."
History The Qi Li have a long history of being bullied by Chinese landowners. Many chose to live back in the mountains beyond the reach of their oppressors, while those who remained in the valleys were gradually assimilated to Chinese culture and language.
Customs Until recently divorce was not prohibited among the Li. "A [Li] widow cannot return to her parents; this is supposed to discourage prostitution, and promote marriage."
Religion The Qi Li living in more remote villages have many superstitions. They believe demons live in nature, especially in large mountains and waterfalls. In 1937 the Qi would not allow a Western traveler to visit a nearby waterfall, claiming it was the home of the devil.
Christianity The Qi Li are an unreached people group. Few have ever been approached with the gospel. The foundation of the American Presbyterian Mission on Hainan Island was laid by Carl C. Jeremiassen, a native of Denmark. He went to Hainan in 1881 as an independent, self-supporting missionary. "During that year he made a complete circuit of the island, treating the sick and distributing Chinese literature wherever he visited." To the Qi Li, however, who had no prior knowledge of Christianity, this scattered seed fell on rocky soil. Decades later they told another foreigner about a man who had visited them long before and "who had stayed for only an hour. His name they did not know, but he distributed many papers showing a strange God with a beard!" Today there are possibly several hundred believers among the Qi Li; however, the few churches are weak and nominal.
The Qi Li are the second largest Li group on Hainan Island. Although numbering 178,000 speakers in 1987, there are many more ethnic Qi Li who now can speak only Chinese. This people group is located in the central sections of Hainan Island, especially concentrated in Baoting and Qiongzhong counties. (Source: Operation China, 2000)