Nung in Laos

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Thi - Shutterstock  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  Bethany World Prayer Center
People Name: Nung
Country: Laos
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 1,500
World Population: 1,102,500
Primary Language: Nung
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 0.70 %
Evangelicals: 0.60 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Zhuang
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Nung is one of the many Tai groups of Southeast Asia. They live mainly in the northern provinces of Vietnam, but a small number are in southern China or Laos.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Nung are hardworking farmers. They primarily live in the hilly areas, where they raise rice, fruit and Indian corn. They are widely known for their traditional craft of intricate embroidery and bamboo-ratan goods. A small number are involved with carpentry or metal working.

The traditional clothing worn by the Nung varies from group to group. In general, the women usually wear long skirts over trousers. They also wear their hair in a large chignon (knot or bun) on their heads and wear small turbans.

The Nung people are divided into several clans. Their societies are both patrilocal and patrilineal. This means they live near the husband’s relatives and the ancestral lines are traced through the males.

A mediator arranges marriages. He/she negotiates between the man and the bride’s parents. They take the woman’s wishes into consideration before there is a final agreement. If she accepts the proposal, a Mo master examines the birth dates of the couple, comparing them with the signs of the zodiac. He then determines whether they are compatible for marriage. The Mo master then selects a date for the ceremony according to the stars.

After the wedding, the bride leaves her home and moves in with her husband and his family. Newlyweds rarely have their own separate home. Although Nung men sometime marry women of other ethnic groups, the women believe in strict endogamy (marriage within their own clans). Wealthy Nung men may have more than one wife, and they all live together in one house.

The Nung cluster their houses close together. Their communities include both of the local styles of houses: those built on the ground or those built off the ground on stilts. Each house contains an altar to the family’s ancestors. The altar is in the main room, opposite the doorway.

Nung dialects are not completely intelligible among themselves. Some of the Nung dialects are intelligible, while some of them can hardly communicate with each other using their own dialects.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Thai Nung practice their own ethnic religion, which revolves around ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for help and guidance) and shamanism, which involves spirit worship and a shaman to communicate with the spirits. Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism have also influenced a small part of their population.

The Nung believe that the spirits of their deceased ancestors are alive and need regular care. They believe these spirits become hungry and dissatisfied if they aren’t appeased. Many shamans live in each village. The villagers depend on them to cure the sick by magic, communicate with the gods, and control events.

The Nung believe that spirits, or phi, live in the elements of nature, particularly locations such as mountains, rocks, trees, water, and fields. Priests must have the power to control these spirits and to protect the villagers from them.

When a baby is born, a shaman is always present in order to prevent disaster at the hands of the spirits. When someone dies, the shaman performs a ritual to ensure the safe arrival of the deceased at "the place of the dead." The villagers frequently offer animal sacrifices to appease the spirits. This usually involves the slaughter of pigs, chickens, ducks, or whatever the priest suggests.

What Are Their Needs?

The Nung people have the JESUS Film and Christian broadcasts available to them. They have the New Testament, but not a complete Bible. Who will take these resources to them and teach them about the only savior?

Prayer Points

Pray for the Lord to give the Nung people in Vietnam and Laos an abundant harvest this year as a testimony of his power and love.

Pray for the Nung people to have hearts that are open to the abundant blessings of Jesus Christ.

Pray for their families to prosper financially and spiritually as they experience a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Pray for a movement to Christ among the Nung that will spread joy, peace, and salvation to other peoples throughout Southeast Asia.

Text Source:   Joshua Project