Home | Overview | Introduction | Phonology | Consonants | Vowels | Tones | Alphabet Book | Keyboard
The Lu

During my investigations of the Lamet tribe, my headquarters were in a Lu village called Tafa. This Tai village lies conveniently in the middle of the Lamet district, on a caravan route linking Houeisai at the Mekong with Muong-Sing and other important villages in the north. The Lu who lived there at the time of my visit had immigrated from a village at the other side of the Siamese border. The man who had been the leader of the immigration was the then head of the village. He had first reconnoitred several places and then finally convinced those Lu who were interested that this was the best place for settling. Tafa, which means the bathing place of the monks, was formerly inhabited, but when the Lu arrived the place was overgrown with large trees, they said. There are supposed to ho remains of an old stupa.

Thus there ought to have been a small monastery, but this was probably not built of stone but of wood, which is common in these parts. In this area only the Tai tribes are Buddhists. There are, however, the inhabitants of Vieng Phouka, which is a large village further north and a meeting place for several caravan routes. The inhabitants of this village are Khmu-speaking and as far as I know they are the only Buddhists apart from the Tai. Legends tell of the influence of the Siamese on Vieng Phouka in ancient times. These Khmu who went over to Buddhism no longer wished to be called Khmu but have taken the new tribal name of Khouen.

The Lu who lived there at the time of my visit, in 1937 - 38, had arrived there in 1897. The people in the villages on the other side of the Mekong had not been living there very long as they had originally come from the Ou-Neua district in northernmost Laos. Some of the inhabitants, a few families, had come from still further north in China and one person maintained that he was born near the Wa territory on the Burmese border.

In February 1938, just as I was about to leave the village, it was divided into two camps, one of which wanted to move and was looking for a new area nearer the Mekong to settle. The reasons for this are too complicated to mention in this short essay. The discussion was very heated and unfortunately I never really gathered if any of them ever moved away and formed a new village. In any case they were pulling down some houses when I left. All this shows how frequently they moved and over how large a territory. This does not mean the removal of a village as a whole but either of a few families or a larger part of the village. The distance between Ou Neua and the Siamese villages at the other side of the Mekong might be something like 350 kilometers, and the distance from the Wa territory is considerably longer. Thus the distances concerned are not small. It would have been interesting to learn more about such movements also in other Tai tribes. With their neighbours the Lamet, such a division of the villages is very common but is kept within a limited territory. The Lu spread themselves over a much wider territory but we must not forget that the Lu, like several other Tai tribes, are dependent on land suitable for watering their rice fields. They preferably want to live near rivers. The village of Tafa lies on the banks of the Nam Ngao, a tributary of the Mekong. This river is difficult to navigate even with small canoes.

Thus in Tafa it was the village head who was also the founder of the village and who had persuaded a certain part of the population to follow him. He was forever pointing this out and boasting of his will-power as a leader and his ability to make others follow him.

This is not an uncommon theme in East and S. E. Asia, and it is often the founder of the village and his offspring who are the heads. While the founder is alive there is, of course, no cult around him.

Introduction | The Lu | The Sacrifice to Phi Muong | The Black Tai
Home | Overview | Introduction | Phonology | Consonants | Vowels | Tones | Alphabet Book | Keyboard
Tai Dam Origin Myth
(with Translation) | The Tale of Prince Therng (with Transcription)
Fortune Teller's Manual | Gallery | Etude de la Language | Bibliography

2003 SEAsite
Last Modified: 09/24/03