Dao Sirui is a doctoral student at the Asia-Africa-Institute, University of Hamburg, Germany. His research focuses on the literature and history of the Tai peoples in Southeast Asia. He currently studies the encounter between western officials and missionaries and the natives in the Upper Mekong River region during the nineteenth century. Within the CRISEA project his focus is on the trans-border ethnic-religious practice of the Tai Lü people in China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.
Summary of project
The Tai Lü, a sub-group of the southwestern branch of the Tai-Kadai ethno-linguistic family, originally lived in Sipsong Panna. Due to forced and voluntary migrations over the last two centuries, the Tai Lü are now widely spread over the the Upper Mekong basin where the borders of China, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) intersect, with some Tai Lü groups even found in the borderlands of northern Vietnam. Thus the Tai Lü constitute a transnational ethnic group par excellence; recently it has drawn much academic attention, notable in the field of social and cultural anthropology. The trans-border religious practice of the Tai Lü and the worship of the transnational Theravada Holy Monk, Ton bun, breaks the newly-formed nation-state borders and helps to construct the trans-border ethnic-religious network. We study how competing policies of the various nation-states and international factors influence the trans-border religious migration This project aims to study the trans-border religious activities are a major driving force working for the survival of the ethnic-religious identity in the Tai Lü inhabited region. The study is based on a qualitative–interpretative research design. The project will embark on a multi-disciplinary approach combining archival research with multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork conducted in China, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.