Mulao people

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Mulao people
Total population
207,000 (est.)
Regions with significant populations
Guangxi, China
Mostly Buddhist, Taoist
with strong Animist influence[1]
Related ethnic groups
Dong, Zhuang

The Mulao people (Chinese: 仫佬族; pinyin: Mùlǎo zú; own name: Mulam) are an ethnic group. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. In their name, Mulam, mu6 is a classifier for human beings and lam1 (in some dialects it is kyam1) is another form of the name used by the Dong (Kam), to whom the Mulao people are ethnically related. A large portion of the Mulao in Guangxi live in Luocheng Mulao Autonomous County of Hechi, Guangxi, China.


It is believed that the Mulao are the descendants of the ancient Ling and Liao tribes[citation needed] that inhabited the region during the time of the Jin Dynasty. During the Yuan dynasty, the Mulao lived in a feudal society and they paid a series of tributes twice a year to the emperor.

During the Qing Dynasty, their territories suffered an administrative division; their lands were divided into dongs, which were composed of units for 10 dwellings. Each dong had its own local leader, responsible for maintaining the order and of collecting the taxes. Each dong was generally formed by families that shared the same surname.

Qiongying Deng and Chuan-Chao Wang et al. have reported that most of the patrilineal and matrilineal gene pools of Mulao are characteristic lineages of Southern China. Some ancient Southeast Asian lineages (Y chromosome haplogroups C and D, mtDNA haplogroups M*, M33, M74 and R*) were also identified in Mulao. Mulao shows patterns of the Y chromosome and mtDNA diversities similar to other southern populations, especially Kam-Sui populations, which was actually in accordance with linguistic classification. However, the origin of Mulao seems to be much more complex. Recent gene flow from Sino-Tibetan populations is detected in the patrilineal side of Mulao, such as Y chromosome haplogroups O3a1c-002611, O3a2c1*-M134 and O3a2c1a-M117, probably through the expansion and dispersal of Han Chinese. From the matrilineal aspect, most mtDNA haplogroups of Mulao also clustered together with Hmong-Mien. Taken together, the origin of Mulao are mainly results of an admixture between surrounding populations with the indigenous Kam-Sui populations.[1]


The Mulao speak the Mulam language, a Tai–Kadai language that uses Hanzi (Chinese characters) when written.


Traditionally, the marriages among the Mulao were arranged by the parents and traditionally, new wives did not live together with their new husbands until the birth of their first son.

Their homes are made out of clay with brick roofs and are composed of three rooms. The animals are maintained far away of the family dwellings.

The traditional clothing of the men consists of a jacket of large buttons, wide pants and sandals. The single women arranged their hair into two tresses that become a tuft when they are married.


Although the religion no longer plays a main role in the daily life, traditionally the Mulao have been mostly animists. Each month they celebrated diverse festivals. The most important one of them was the festival Yifan, where diverse sacrifices of animals were carried out.

Another one of their festivals was the dragon boat festival that was celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. During this celebration, the shamans carried out ceremonies to assure good crop harvests and to expel harmful insects.


  1. ^ Deng QY*, Wang CC*, Wang XQ*, Wang LX, Wang ZY, Wu WJ, Li H, the Genographic Consortium. Genetic affinity between the Kam-Sui speaking Chadong and Mulam people. J Syst Evol. 2013, 51(3):263-270.
  • Ramsey, S. Robert. 1987. The Languages of China. Princeton University Press, Princeton New Jersey ISBN 0-691-06694-9