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Li

Li

ETHNONYMS: none


The Li numbered 1,110,900 in 1990 and lived in Hainan Li and Miao Autonomous Prefecture on the island of Hainan, off China's southern coast, in Guangdong Province. (Hainan has since become a province in its own right.) The Li language belongs to the Zhuang-Dong Branch of the Sino-Tibetan Family. Li is closely related to Zhuang, Shui, Dong, Dai, and Bouyei; the peoples are culturally similar in many ways as well. Although there is now a system for writing Li, most Li people make their written communications in Chinese. Many Li can speak local dialects of Chinese as well.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Li people or their ancestors lived in their present location for a considerable time, perhaps as long as 3,000 years. Han people have been living on Hainan with the Li since before 200 b.c., and Han control over the Li has existed since the sixth century.

Li settlements consist of small groups whose members are consanguineally related and who work together on commonly held lands and share the harvest. They build their houses in the shape of boats out of woven bamboo and rattan, and they use mud to plaster the walls.

The Li region is located at the base of the Wuzhi Mountains. The climate is tropical and there is a good amount of rainfall, which allows up to three rice harvests per year in some places. The Li raise coconuts, betel nuts, sisal, lemongrass, cocoa, coffee, rubber, palm oil, cashews, pineapples, cassava, mangoes, and bananas. They also raise staple foods like wet rice, maize, and sweet potatoes.

The monogamous Li have arranged marriages; a bride-price may run as high as several head of cattle. Grooms unable to afford the bride-price perform bride-service for several years. A newly wed woman lives with her parents, visiting her husband only on occasion; only when she becomes pregnant does she move in with her husband.

The Li are animists and ancestor worshipers. The dead are buried in single-log coffins in a village cemetery.

Other distinctive features of the Li are their skill in weaving kapok, their understanding of herbal medicines, and their twelve-day week, in which each day has the name of an animal.

Bibliography

Ma Yin, ed. (1989). Chinas Minority Nationalities, 405-410. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.


National Minorities Questions Editorial Panel (1985). Questions and Answers about China's Minority Nationalities. Beijing: New World Press.

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Li

Li. A Chinese word which ‘on the most concrete level refers to all those “objective” prescriptions of behavior, whether involving rite, ceremony, manners, or general deportment, that bind human beings and the spirits together in networks of interacting roles within the family, within human society, and with the numinous realm beyond’ ( B. Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China, 1985).

Li was first developed as a moral and religious concept by Confucius and his followers, for whom li consists of a pattern of behaviour which, when performed correctly, of itself effects and expresses harmony among the various hierarchically ordered elements of family, society, and the cosmos.

Mo Tzu, in contrast, attacked the Confucian understanding of li. It has nothing to do with the training of people or the ‘regulation of their likes and dislikes’. It has a certain limited value as an expression of gratitude to the spirits (belief in which Mo Tzu views as performing an essential social-moral function), but if performed extravagantly it wastes precious resources and distracts people from the more pressing tasks of ordering society. Taoists saw li as a prime example of the sort of contrived practice (wei) characteristic of the fall from primordial simplicity.

Despite these attacks, the concept of li remained central to the Confucian tradition in China down to recent times.

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LI

LI • abbr. ∎  Long Island. LI • symb. the chemical element lithium.

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LI

LI • abbr. ∎  Long Island. LI • symb. the chemical element lithium.

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li

li / / • n. (pl. same) a Chinese unit of distance, equal to about 0.6 km (0.4 mile).

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Li

Li, symbol for the element lithium.

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Li

Li (gold): see HUA-YEN.

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