Infobox Ethnic group

Alternative names:
P'umi, Pimi, Prummi
popplace=China –
Sichuan: 20,000

Yunnan: 30,000
langs=Pumi, Tibetan
rels=Zanbala, Tibetan Buddhism

::"Pumi is also a breed of Hungarian sheepdog, see Pumi (dog)"

The Pumi (also Primi) people (zh-cp|c=普米族|p=Pǔmǐzú, own name: /phIPA|ʐẽmi/) are an ethnic group. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.

Ethnically related to the Qiang, their population of 30,000 is found mainly in Yunnan and Sichuan, notably in the counties of Lanping, Lijiang, Weixi and Yongsheng, and Yi Autonomous County of Ninglang, many of them are located at elevations above 9,000 feet. Those in Sichuan are found in the Muli Tibetan Autonomous County and Yanyuan.


The Pumi language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family. In the past, it was noted that the Pumi in the Muli and Ninglang areas used Tibetan characters mainly for religious purposes, although gradually the Tibetan characters fell into disuse and oblivion. Modern Pumi use the Chinese and Roman scripts instead.


The Pumi have the longest traceable migration path of any minority group in China. Originally existing as nomads inhabiting the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, they later moved to the warmer areas along valleys within the Hengduan Mountain Range in the 4th century B.C.

Subsequently, they moved to Northern Sichuan in the 7th century, and subsequently to northwest Yunnan in the 14th century. Many of them settled down to become farmers, and local landlords dominated the Pumi economy in Lanping and Lijiang counties. Except for a small number of common areas, the landlords large areas of lands and collected rental fees from the peasants. This accounted for at least 50 per cent of the harvest. Pumi landlords and Nakhi chiefs also traded domestic slaves.

With the coming of the Cultural Revolution, these traditional landlords eventually lost their power and position as modern facilities, such as hospitals and factories, are introduced to the local people.


Since they had severed much contact with the Tibetans since ancient times, along with some Buddhist influence, the Pumi had largely practiced Animism and ancestor worship, a religion locally known as Zanbala.

However, through the efforts of Tibetan Buddhist missionaries from Tibet, a significant proportion have adopted the Gelugpa and Kagyu lineage of Lamaism, much of whom are those in Sichuan.

The Zanbala religion, also locally known as Dingba, literally means white earth. It is noted that the Pumi around Ninglang still install Zanbala altars in their home, which were worshipped by the older generations. The Zanbala religion consists of the veneration of three gods and ancestral spirits, in which only the old men preside the rituals and prayers.

Almost all Pumi villages have their own local mountain gods, which are worshipped during festive seasons. On those days, the entire family will give food offerings and pray for the good health and prosperity of the family. On the 15th day of each month, the minor mountain god is worshipped, and a grand ceremony is held on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month to venerate the Great Mountain God.

In many of the Pumi homes, a cooking fire ring plays an important part of Pumi beliefs. The ring should never be touched by guests. A Guazei, which consists of small stone towers, is located behind the fire rings. During mealtime, the oldest male will take a spoonful of the food, which will subsequently be placed on every tower. One spoonful will be thrown into the fire, which acts as a symbolic gesture to feed the spirits of their ancestors.


Because of their origins, the Pumi are culturally influenced by the Tibetans. The Lunar New Year is also celebrated on the first fifteen days of the new year based on the lunar calendar. Losar is also celebrated by some as well.

Especially in Ninglang and Yongsheng, Pumi women often wear jackets with buttons down one side. Long and pleated skirts, multi-colored wide belts are worn. Owing to its cold weather, a goatskin is draped over their backs. However, in the case of the Lanping and Weixi areas, the womenfolk tend to wear colored long-sleeved jackets under their vests, along with long trousers which are fastened with embroidered belts. Like the Tibetans, Pumi women plait their hair with yak tail hairs and silk threads. Subsequently, their heads are wrapped in large cloths. Prized jewellery, such as silver earrings and bracelets are worn among the rich as well.

Pumi men tend to wear either sleeveless goatskin or linen jackets with and long trousers, which is accompanied by the Tibetan hat. Especially in the case of the hunters and warriors, a long Tibetan sword and deerskin bags may be carried. Upon reaching thirteen, the Pumi boys will go through the ablution rites of manhood and only after ablution may they put on adult clothing and take part in society's activities.


Owing to its cold weather and its close proximity to Tibet, the lifestyle of the Pumi closely resembles to that of the Tibetans.

Generally, the Pumi are a patrilineal and monogamous society, although polygamy is accepted. In Yongsing, the Pumi continue to follow a matriarchal system linked to the Azhu marriage system, which literally means friendship.

Leading an agricultural lifestyle, crops such as corn and maize serves as their staple food. A variety of vegetables and fruits such as the Chinese cabbage, carrots, eggplant and melons acts as supplements. Salted pork wrapped in pork skin in the shape of a pipa suggests the nickname of the "Pipa meat". Barley folur (Tsampa) and Butter tea (Chang) are also consumed as well.

External links

* [http://www.aasianst.org/absts/1995abst/inter/inter168.htm Buddhism among the Pumi and Mosuo]
* [http://www.infomekong.com/p_group_Tibetan_2.htm#Pumi%20of%20Sichuan%20(Poo-mee) Includes a profile of the Pumi of Sichuan]
* [http://drjosephrock.blogspot.com/2004_12_05_drjosephrock_archive.html Photographs of the Pumi]

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