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Merit and the Millennium: Routine and Crisis in the Ritual Lives of the Lahu People

Anthony R. Walker (Author)

The Lahu mountain people, numbering some 700,000, are traditionally Swidden farmers, sharing with other peoples the rugged highlands that form the borderlands between China’s Yunnan Province and the Southeast Asian nations of Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Lahu ideas and practices related to the supernatural world include a traditional animism that affirms innumerable spirit entities with varying capacities to protect and to harm mortal beings, and that invests culturally significant phenomena with animating soul force. The majority of Lahu recognize an almighty creator-divinity, who is for many the principal focus of worship. The author argues that Mahayana Buddhist monks in Yunnan likely generated this situation during the 18 and 19 centuries, by merging the Lahu’s earlier concept of a non-intervening creator-divinity with their own notions of transcendental Buddhahood. Subsequently, monotheistic Christianity was able to utilize and strengthen an already well-established Lahu the

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About the author

Anthony R. Walker

Anthony Walker, a social anthropologist, was educated at Tobridge School, Kent (1954-9), Osmania University, Hyderabad (B.A. 1961) and Oxford University (Dip. In Anthropology 1964, M. Litt. 1965, D. Phil. (1972). He has worked as research officer at the Tribal Research Institute, Chiang Mai, Thailand (1966-70) and taught socio-cultural anthropology, with special reference to India and Southeast Asia, at the Science University of Malaysia, Penang (1972-79), the National University of Singapore (1979-86) and the Ohio State University (1986-96). He was Fellow in charge of ethnographic research at the University of the South Pacific’s Institute of Pacific Studies in Suva, Ffiji (1996-99) before moving to his present post in the anthropology and sociology unit at the University of Brunei Darussalam. Walker has conducted fieldwork among the Toda (since 1961) and among the Lahu (in North Thailand since 1966 and in Yunnan, China, since 1990). Among the books he has authored or edited are Farmers in the Hills: Upland North Thailand (1975), The Toda of South India: A New Look (1986), The Highland (1992), New Place Old Ways: Indian Society & Culture in Modern Sigapore (1994), Mvuh Hpa Mi Hpa: An Epic Myth of the Lahu People in Yunnan (1995), My Village, My World: Everyday Life in Nadoriam Fiji (2001) (with Solomoni Biturogoiwasa) and Merit and the Millennium: Routine and Crisis in the Ritual Lives of the Lahu Peoples (2003). Anthony Walker is married to Pauline Hetland, his ever reliable and vigilant editor. Their son, Michael Arun, has a degree in Fie Arts; his illustrations grace several of his father’s books, including the cover of this volume.

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Bibliographic information

Title Merit and the Millennium: Routine and Crisis in the Ritual Lives of the Lahu People
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2003
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 8170750660
length xxxi+907p., Plates; Maps; Figures; 25cm.