The Lisu, with a population of 634,912, mainly live in concentrated communities in Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province. There are also small groups scattered in Lijiang, Dali, Diqing, Chuxiong, and other counties in Yunnan and Yanyuan, Yanbian and Muli counties of Sichuan Province.
According to historical records, the ancestors of the Lisu once lived along the banks of Jinsha River and Yalu River. Between the 15th and 19th century, they gradually migrated into the drainage areas of the Nu and Lancang Rivers.
The Lisu people mainly engage in agriculture and the chief products are maize, paddy and buckwheat. Hunting also plays an important role in their life and the man who wins in a toxophily match will be greatly respected by the people.
They have three meals a day. Their diet includes pork, beef, mutton, chicken, fish, rabbit and muntjak. Taro is one of their favorite food, and nearly every family grows some. Porridge made of rice, maize and cabbages is the most common food in their daily life.
The Lisu peopel have their own language and script which belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family, but their scripts are not completed. Therefore, new Lisu script based on latin letter was created in 1957.
They believe that everything in the world has its god, and they worship nature. Necromancers host the sacrifice offering ceremonies. Only some of them believe in Christianity and Catholicism.
Lisu women often wear an embroidered jacket, flax skirt and various ornaments such as shells, coral, beads, silver coins, and agate, with white cloth around the head, big copper loops and silver loops on ears. Men normally wear a jacket with a flax gown outside. Some wear a black turban with a knife hanging on his left waist, and an arrow on his right.
They are adept at singing and dancing. They sing and dance at weddings, while hunting, building houses and when they celebrate harvests.
The Knife-Pole Festival on Feb 8 in the Chinese lunar calendar aims to memorialize a Han hero who taught the Lisu people how to make a knife and is the exclusive and traditional festival of the Lisu ethnic group. On that day, various activities including 'Climb Knife Pole' and 'Dive into Fire Sea' will be held. The Knife-Pole Festival absorbs the spirits of the Lisu people, and is a royal and luxuriant celebration.