Some historians claim that Tai people are, in BC 3000, the inhabitants of Asia, central part of the land now known as China. Rev. William C. Dodd, a Christian missionary, stated that the Tai settled in the land now known as China before Chinese arrived, based on Chinese annals of 2200 BC. The history of contact between the Tai and Han (Chinese) peoples dated back to 109 BC, when Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty set up Yizhou Prefecture in southwestern Yi (the name used to signify the minority areas of what are now Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces). The Tai, in subsequent years, sent tribute to the Han court in Luoyang, among the emissaries were musicians and acrobats. The Han court gave gold seals to the Tai ambassadors and their chieftain the title “Great Captain.” According to Chinese documents of the ninth century, the Tai had a fairly well developed agriculture. They used oxen and elephants to till the land, grew large quantities of rice and had built an extensive irrigation system. They used kapok for weaving, panned salt and made weapons of metal. They plated their teeth with gold and silver.
According to Chinese annals, the “Ta Muong” (Great Muong) lived in the northwestern part of Szechwan province, in western central China, even before Chinese migrated from the west. Ta Muong would have been the ancestors of the “Ai Lao ” or “Tai ” race known as Pa, Pa Lao or PaYi in China who later founded the powerful “Nan Chao Kingdom ” in Yunnan province. In BC 1558 the Tai had spread over a vast territory almost across the whole width of modern China. Tai have never been called Chinese, nor claimed to have any ethnic links with the Chinese race. Throughout Chinese historical records the Chinese name for the Tai has constantly been changed.According to American Missionary Rev. William W. Cochrane, Tai means Free.