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Sani in China


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Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
139,000 Sani Ethnic Religions 3.00 % 0.15 % No No   

Sani in China

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Although they have been combined with numerous other people groups to form the large Yi nationality in China, the Sani possess their own unique language, customs, and ethnic identity.

The Sani are thought to have originated near Dali. Shortly after the Tang Dynasty (618-907) they left the region, traveled through Chuxiong, and settled among the rock formations of Shilin.

A single Sani girl's turban contains all the colors of the rainbow. This results from a Sani legend. A long time ago a beautiful Sani girl named Musidama was rescued from a tiger by a handsome hunter named Stiasai, and the two fell in love. The local chief lusted after her, however, and desired to marry her first. One day Stiasai was attacked by a wild boar and died. Musidama's heart was broken. At his funeral, she leaped into the flames before the chief's men could stop her. Only two small pieces of her clothing were torn off. "Soon two colorful clouds rose from the flames and then converged together. The sky cleared and a beautiful rainbow appeared. The Sani call it Saimusi-mudama to remember the lovers."

The Sani are polytheists. They believe the earth, sky, water, fire, mountains, stones, etc., have their own spirits. They also worship their ancestors.

Père Paul Vial of the Paris Foreign Missionary Society commenced work among the Sani in 1887. In the early 1900s he reported the Sani to be a haven of Catholicism with 7,360 converts and Sani priests ministering in 30 villages. Vial was a colorful figure, whose battles with Chinese officials led to attempted murder in 1894. Today there are Catholic believers in 22 of the 124 Sani villages in Shilin County. The 3,000 Sani Catholics in Shilin worship in seven main churches. In addition, a small number of Catholics are found among the Sani in Honghe Prefecture. Although there are only a relative handful of Protestants among the Sani, the Sani Catholics represent a great resource and hope for the salvation of many other Yi peoples in the area. Their persistence and faithfulness in the face of opposition have been a powerful witness.

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Global Prayer Digest: 2008-07-28
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Country: China
Continent: Asia
Region: Asia, Northeast
Persecution Rank:27 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:More than 105,000 Sani live in the central and eastern parts of Yunnan Province. The majority live in Shilin (formerly Lunan) County, especially around the famous Stone Forest. The Stone Forest, about 120 kilometers (75 mi.) southeast of Kunming, is a massive collection of limestone forms that stand up to 30 meters (98 ft.) high. Sani legend says the gods created the Stone Forest in order to help young lovers, who can find privacy among the towering pillars - which cover an area of 400 hectares (990 acres). In addition to 54,134 living in Shilin County, the Sani are located in nearby Mile, Yiliang, Qiubei, and Luxi counties.
(Source: Operation China, 2000)
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Ethnolinguistic Map:University of Texas or other map
Linguistic Map:Ethnologue language map
  Peoples [3]
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People Name in Country: Sani
People Name General: Sani
Alternate People Names:
NipoSan Yi
San Yi PuoShani
ROP3 Code: 114304
Joshua Project People ID: 18678
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 139,000
Population all Countries: 139,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Tibetan-Himalayan Peoples
People Cluster: Tibeto-Burman, other
People Name General: Sani
Ethnic Code: MSY50z
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
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Primary Language: Sani (139,000 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): ysn    Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
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Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religions:
Buddhism0.00 % 
Christianity3.00 %(Evangelical: 0.15 %)
Ethnic Religions92.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam0.00 % 
Non-Religious5.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent5.00 %
Protestant0.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic95.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
GSEC Status:Level 2   Less than 2% Evangelical. Initial (localized) church planting within past 2 years
Bible Translation Status
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Bible Portions: Help start a Bible Translation
New Testament: None Reported
Complete Bible: None Reported
Ministry Resources [7]
Audio RecordingsMegaVoice Audio Bible and Stories
Audio RecordingsAudio Bible teaching (GRN)
Ministry Activity
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Data Notes
Data Sources

Sani in China

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Tibeto-Burman, other     Asia, Northeast    
      Sani China    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Sani in China          
      Religion Language  
      Ethnic Religions     Sani  
    All Religions                              

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