Ersuic Profile

Autonyms: (Eastern): 尔苏; (Central): 多续;  (Western): ly zu, li zu

Other names: (Central): Duoxu, 多须;  (Western): Lisu, Lizu, Lüzu, 栗苏,吕苏,鲁苏,尼汝

The Ersuic ethnolinguistic group number around 20,000, spread over seven counties of central southern Sichuan. There are three people groups, each possessing a distinctive culture and unique, though related, Qiangic language. Linguistic research published by Sun Hongkai(4) in 1983 catalogued the main languages as: a) Ersu proper (eastern), with 13,000 speakers; b) Duoxu (central), with about 3,000 speakers; and c) Lizu (western), with about 4,000 speakers. However, subsequent assimilation of the Ersuic group into much of the Han Chinese and Yi way of speaking and living has led to an alarming demise in these Qiangic languages, especially the Duoxu. For example, there is said to still be 2000-3000 Duoxu people, but less than 10 of them can fully speak the Duoxu language and they are all over 70(5). Sadly, it looks like the Duoxu language of Ersuic will soon die out, and yet the Duoxu people still retain a clear ethnic identity.

In traditional Ersu culture, the “Shaba” is the spiritual leader of the community, and is responsible for performing ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, and for conducting rituals at the annual “Huanshan Chicken Festival” on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. relics of the ancient pictographic Shaba script are still preserved, and they have the unique feature of color being used to help convey meaning. The animistic practices of the Shaba were also mildly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism in the past, producing a particular syncretism, though the Ersu have never had strong religious or cultural ties with Tibetans further west, and their Qiangic language only adds to that separateness. Their unique ethnic identity prompted some in the 1980s to make a request to the Chinese state for the Ersu to be recognized as a separate non-Tibetan nationality. Though unsuccessful, to this day there are two main factions among the Ersu: one faction would still prefer to be classified as a separate group, while the other is content to remain identified as a Tibetan sub-group. Both local ethnic interaction and official identity have therefore contributed to the ethnic consciousness among the Ersu(6).