The search for “Dawi”
the last of the T ’rung
pygmies of Burma and
his return visit to his ancestral homeland in Tibet/Yunnan borderlands
Although much has been made of Dawi and his disappearing tribe
of Tyrone pygmies over the years very little science has been done in regards
to this issue and virtually none if any humanitarian work has taken place on
their behalf. The tribe now faces complete extinction if something is not done
within the next month or so. We have two teams in the field right now to find
and invite Dawi to visit his ancestral Tibetan homeland.
Our first objective is to immediately address his humanitarian and health needs
as a human being. Our second objective is to work with him and his Tibetan
tribal co-members to respectfully and with informed consent do basic scientific
studies such as genetic testing. Additionally, we hope to gather as much of
the history of Dawi’s family migrations during the last one hundred years
and see if any of the other Qui-pa or Zhu Ru/T’rung remember or can relate
oral history for the historical record. Last, yet most importantly, it is our
goal to see if Dawi would be invited to return to his ancestral homeland on
the personal invitation of individuals living there as well as what documents
might be needed for the government. As the passes are closed by snow for a
six month duration just about October 1, we are putting this project as a top
priority even though there are many challenges yet to be encountered.
Dawi has told visiting anthropologists that he does want to visit his ancestral
homeland in Tibet “to find a wife.” Whereas nothing was done to
help him reach his personal dream he may perhaps be too old to marry and have
children now. It should also be noted that people from Burma visit the Tibet
borderlands each and every day for trade commerce and medical care. We believe
that if he decides to stay he will need formal paperwork and visas, etc. but
we do have people who are qualified to address these issues.
We invite you to join us in helping this last true Asian pygmy return to his
ancestral homeland as he desires to do. As you can see from the photograph
below, Dawi is an extremely impoverished person and that while he has been
at the center of attention for decades, his humanitarian needs have been met
very poorly if at all and the scientific questions that his existences poses
have only been studied very superficially. It is our sincere hope to take this
last opportunity to rectify these previous shortcomings on Dawi’s life
path. We certainly hope and plan that he should reach a better and more comfortable
place in his old age so as to reach his true stature as a human being in a
If anyone has questions about this, please just compare the clothing, shoes,
personal hygiene and overall social and spiritual confidence demonstrated between
Dawi and three of his tribal members in Tibet in the photographs below.
If you would like to support this project please contact us immediately at:
Wilderness Research Expeditions Ltd.
Tucson AZ 85754
Email: • firstname.lastname@example.org • email@example.com
The purpose of publishing the photograph below is strictly for the following
- To deliver humanitarian aid directly to Dawi in the current crisis that
is occurring in his homeland.
- With Dawi’s informed consent conduct appropriate genetic and scientific
- To give Dawi the opportunity to visit his ancestral homeland to obtain
a bride as he has stated he wants and/or to arrange the appropriate permits
for him to return permanently to his ancestral homeland.
- To give individuals who would want to help, provide humanitarian relief
to the last living male Asian pygmy and to further the scientific opportunities
appropriate to the human evolution questions that Dawi presents the chance
to participate and or contribute.
Above photo: Copyright California Academy of Sciences, photographer Dong Lin.
Search for the “Lost Tribe of Tibetan
Since his exploration of the world’s deepest canyon in Tibet in the
1990’s, Richard Fisher has been researching the existence of an unknown
tribe of Mongolide pygmies in the tri-border region of China, Tibet, and Myanmar.
This year, Fisher has confirmed that a unique tribe of pygmies, the T’rung,
lives in the Dulongjiang Canyon of Tibet, hidden from the outside and unknown
by the western world until now. Today there are over 5,000 T’rung people
living in six designated villages within the canyon.
Formerly, the Taron (T’rung) tribe of Myanmar/Burma was scientifically
defined as the only tribe of Mongolide pygmies after its discovery in the 1960’s.
By the 1990’s, scientists claimed that the tribe was near extinction,
having succumbed to genetic diseases. At the same time, Fisher had encountered
families in the Dulongjuiang Canyon area that were extremely short in stature,
yet otherwise perfectly formed humans. When he learned about the Taron pygmies
in 2004, he decided further research was needed to learn if other similar tribes
existed in the area.
The T’rung are a peaceful people; they are increasingly educated, provided
with basic health care (by who?), and as tribes across the world have done,
are increasingly looking to and integrating into the outside world. The images
from the Dulongjiang Canyon and T’rung people offer us a glimpse into
an untouched and fascinating world most of us have never seen. Documenting
the images and customs of this tribe is essential to preserving the history
of these people. In recent years, the T’rung have begun to have more
substantial contact with the outside world. In addition, the T’rung people
are increasingly intermarrying with other ethnic groups. Time is of the essence
to record the history and culture of this unique tribe. Not only will this
encourage the sharing of human experience, but the micro-population of this
isolated canyon also allows us to learn more about the process of human evolution.
It is important to document this unique world and its people while we still
A. Project Background:
- The Taron Tribe of Myanmar/Burma were scientifically and officially defined
in the 1960s as the only tribe of Mongolide pygmies. Special Report Series
No. 1: The Tarons in Burma, the results of a scientific expedition by Burma
Medical Research Society. Published in 1966, Burma Medical Research Institute
(Rangoon), Contributions: Mya-Tu, Dr., Burma Medical Research Institute.
One would be described as a common pygmy gene where individuals are less
than 4’11” yet perfectly formed human beings. Other populations
are equally small but display varying degrees of what can be described
as dwarfism or hobbits.
- In the 1990s it was reported by numerous scientists, most notably Alan
Rabinowitz, that the tribe was nearing extinction as there was only one
male member left "Dawi" by
name, who was young and healthy enough to have a family. The tribe had
succumbed to genetic diseases originating from inbreeding which is common
in remote and isolate places like these rugged canyonlands of northern
Myanmar/Burma (as reported by Raboniwitz). It was also reported during
this time period that the Taron originated in Tibet where they had been
driven out of by slave traders and conflicts with their Tibetan neighbors
in the late 1800s.
- The Taron are a part of a more numerous and also diminutive group known
more widely as the Rawang (by P. Christiaan Klieger 4/09 and Alan Rabinowitz
2001) people. This is very similar to the situation in the Congo where defined
pygmies are surrounded by a slightly taller tribe into which they sometimes
- In the 1990s Richard D. Fisher noticed, as the first American to explore
the world’s deepest canyon in Tibet, some individual families who
were exceptionally small. Fisher assumed that this was a result of poor
diet, inadequate food and also the extreme canyon environment which worldwide
favors small agile people.
- In 2004 Fisher was invited to speak at a Texas Explorers Club meeting where
he met a fellow explorer Brenda Shaddox who specialized in Myanmar/Burma
who related the story of Dawi and the Taron Pigmies.
- After 5 years of research Fisher decided it was time to find out that
if indeed there were Pygmies in the borderlands of Tibet/China/Myanmar.
B. Fisher’s findings from 2 expeditions in April and May 2009 are:
1. That yes, today there is a specific and specialized tribe in the tri-border
region now known as "Dulong" people from whom the Taron are descended
(Dulong= Taron= T’rung depending on your language. Dulong is Chinese
and Taron is Burmese transliteration of T’rung). These people have
for hundreds of years been recognized as a separate culture and especially
small people. Prior to the 1950s they were known as the as the Qui-pa ethnic
group in China and Tibet (I have been told that Qui-pa is a derogatory
modern Chinese term. Monpa would be more accurate for Tibetans). Formerly
they had strife with their neighbors especially over the capture and enslavement
of their women by larger and physically more powerful neighbors. This is
one of the reasons given for the tradition of face tattooing among the
Qui pa women up until the 1960s.
2. The name of these people depends on the language group that are describing
them. I feel that perhaps they are best called T'rung. Today there are over
5,000 T'rung people living in the Dulongjiang Canyon which is 3,804 meters
or 12,480 feet deep, more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona,
3. Within this area there are 6 designated villages, 838 households and 5,600
adults and many healthy and lively children as well.
4. The canyon environment is diversified with many micro climates from subtropical
rain forest to mountain tundra and there are a number of small glaciers remaining
in the surrounding highest peaks. The forested region is still 97% intact with
old growth trees predominating from the frigid alpine fern forest down to the
tropical jungle through which runs a pristine and sparkling sky blue river.
5. Historically the T’rung people have mostly kept themselves apart
from the outside world as well as their nearest neighbors. Today they a
peaceful and happy people who are increasingly educated, provided with
basic health care, and are now as all native people worldwide, looking
to and integrating with the outside world.
6. Many T'rung also are living the old ways which are fascinating with many
unique traditions. (I will elaborate more later) One of the most interesting
customs was discontinued in 1966 is face tattooing of women. As of 2003 there
were 60 women remaining who have face tattoos averaging 71.9 years old with
the oldest being 108 years old. I was able, with permission, to photograph
4-5 of these matrons which to my surprise were very beautiful as well as animated.
One tattooed lady I hiked along side of and photographed was carrying a burden
basket heavier than 50 lbs. over 6 miles and she reported she was in her 80s.
- Until the 1960s all T'rung pygmies had a nature based religion including
bull sacrifice, praying for no flooding when they see fire in the sky and
the god of good hunting. Today many T'rung are Pentecostal Christian yet
retaining many of their beliefs on the forces of the natural world.
- All that were interviewed report that they knew of no twins, that they
normally lived to 70-80 years old, and that they are agriculturalists thriving
on corn, vegetables, cattle, a few goats and pigs, and many chickens.
Why are T'rung "undiscovered" pygmies?
The western scientist who defined the Taron as pygmies in Burma did not look
to this ethnic group’s historical roots in Tibet to see if there were
others, because Tibet and parts of western China were "closed areas" until
the past decade. Fisher was the first American to enter and publish on many
of these vast canyonlands starting in 1987 most particularly the Yarlung Tsanpo
where the issue of a lost Tibetan Pygmy tribe first came into question.
C. While Chinese ethnologists have long recognized the Dulong or Qui-pa people
as exceptionally physically small and indeed a unique separate culture, they
have never, until May 14, 2009, considered the issue that they might actually
Why is this discovery important?
- Opening communications and dialog between the east and west is always
an important goal for human understanding and knowledge.
- The T'rung people are increasingly intermarrying with other ethnic groups.
Right now the time is critical to the human understanding of many aspects
of shared human cultures, common as well as diverse histories and in this
case the all issues relating to Pygmies and the quest for knowledge of human
- At the moment a scientific debate is raging about the findings of "hobbit" bones
on the island of Flores in Indonesia. These new findings about the T'rung
Pygmies may be of importance to this ongoing debate in many ways.
- Fisher’s proposal is that the canyonlands of Tibet/China/Myanmar are
perhaps a hot spot of human evolution toward small nimble people, or on the
other hand, a refuge for a human genetic line that will soon be lost in the
mainstream of human "progress". Both may certainly be true at
the same time. Also in many ways canyons are like islands producing unique
micro-populations of great diversity in plants, animals and perhaps humans
- Such "findings" are fascinating to humans worldwide and make
for interesting and readable news.
- The photography while being uniquely captivating and illustrative, is for
the first time available to the IT (digital) universe.
D. On a personal note:
- I find it very interesting what these people are actually
called or defined as. I found that while "Pygmy" is scientifically
accurate, that "hobbit" may
apply to the inbreed Taron group in Myanmar/Burma, that the best term that
applies to my observations is "gelflings" after the imaginative "Dark
Crystal" fantasy by Jim Henson.
Thank you for your interest so far! If you have further questions please see
our previous work through April 2009 at: http://www.canyonsworldwide.com/tibet/lost_pygmy_tribe/index.htm
Richard D. Fisher
Entering a mystical portal and down into a hidden land.
Highland glacial meadows.
Down to the sky blue river.
The lost pygmies of Tibet and their hidden mystical canyon.
I would like to give a special thanks to my colleagues:
Mrs. Christina Lu
Ms. Echo Wang
Mr. Chen Wen Yuan
Mr. Xia Sean
Ms. Lillie Whiteflower
Professor P. Christiaan Klieger – many ideas, background information
and paraphrases in our text.
Klieger, Christian. (2003). Along the Salt Road. California
56(4). Retrieved from http://research.calacademy.org/calwild/2003fall/stories/burma.html
Search for a Tribe of Lost Tibetan Pygmy's
Lost Pygmy Tribe Found and Scientifically Confirmed in Tibet