The Lahu people are a people without a country and inhabit areas within Thailand, China, Burma, Laos and Vietnam. Their population has been estimated at around 800,000 people and these are generally divided up into five main sub-groups:
- Black Lahu (Laˇhuˍ naˆ)
- Red Lahu (Laˇhuˍ nyi)
- White Lahu (Laˇhuˍ hpu)
- Shehleh (Laˇhuˍ shehˇ lehˍ)
- Yellow Lahu (Laˇhuˍ shi)
The traditional clothing of each group is the easiest way to tell them apart and is often the reason for their particular name.
The Lahu language is in the Tibeto-Burman group of languages and is spoken by the Lahu people throughout the regions of China, Myanmar and Thailand. Each subgroup of Lahu people has its own particular dialect or way of speaking. Most, though, can understand Black Lahu (Laˇhuˍ naˆ) and this is regarded as the “lingua franca” of the Lahu people.