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Overview of China

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National Customs > Overview of China > Home

National Customs

Since ancient times, China has been a unified nation of different peoples. After the establishment of new China, 56 different ethnic groups were identified and approved by the central government, of these the Han Chinese are the largest, accounting for 91.51% of the total population. Other ethnic groups are relatively small in numbers and account for 8.49% of the population. Therefore, they are known as ethnic minorities. These minorities primarily inhabit Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Guangxi, Tibet, Yunnan, Guizhou, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Liaoning, Jilin, Hunan, Hubei and Hainan.

The ethnic minorities in China enjoy many unique characteristics. The most classic examples of these being the Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hui people, Miao, Zhuang people and the Mongols.

Tibetan People

The Tibetan people primarily inhabit the Tibet Autonomous Region as well as provinces such as Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. They speak and write Tibetan, which was created before the 7th century AD based on certain elements of the Sanskrit script and is an alphabetic form of writing that reads horizontally from left to right. Tibetan script is divided into regular script and cursive, and is used across the entire Tibetan area.

Tibetan clothing is characterized by long sleeves, wide waists and large robes. Females wear long-sleeved robes in winter and sleeveless robes in summer, with blouses of various colors and patterns inside. They wear a colorful, patterned apron around their waists. The "khata" is very popular among Tibetans and is the most valuable gift one can give or receive.

Uyghurs

"Uyghur" is a name the Uyghurs give themselves and it means "united". They are a people with multiple sources, the primary two branches being the following: One branch comes from Huihe people of the Mongolian grasslands, and the other from the natives of the oasis region of southern Xinjiang. These two branches converged on a large scale in AD 840, and their integration was complete by the 16th century. Over the long process of historical development, the Uyghurs established an outstanding civilization through their hard work and intelligence with its own unique national customs.

Uyghurs primarily inhabit the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the south of Tianshan Mountain in the Kashgar-Hotan region and Aksu-Korla region. Other Uyghurs can be found scattered to the north of Tianshan Mountain in Urumchi, Ili and other areas, with a minority inhabiting Taoyuan and Changde in Hunan Province as well as Kaifeng and Zhengzhou in Henan Province. Uyghurs enjoy their own unique culture and art, such as the collection of stories The Tales of Nasreddin, the music and dance epic The Twelve Muqams, Uyghur folk dance and other aspects famous at home and abroad.

Hui People

The Hui people are one of the more populous ethnic minorities in China, and primarily inhabit the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, with a large number also inhabiting Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Yunnan, Henan, Shandong, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang.

The Hui people's clothing is distinct for its national characteristics. In the areas they primarily inhabit, the Hui people still wear their traditional central Asian dress. Most prominent Hui characteristics are that men wear small white caps and the women wear scarfs of various colors and designs. The most popular traditional drink is tea, which constitutes an important part of Hui dietary life. It is a daily drink and also the most valued beverage when treating guests.

Miao People

The Miao people are spread throughout all of China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and direct-controlled municipalities, with the primary concentration inhabiting Guizhou. On top of this, regions where the Miao have populations of over 100,000 include Yunnan, Hunan, Hubei, Guangdong, Chongqing, Sichuan and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The Miao have their own language that belongs to the Miao branch of the Miao-Yao branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages. They have a long history of music and dance, with the reed-pipe dance being the most popular. Miao cross-stitching, embroidery, brocade, batik, jewelry and other beautiful art and crafts enjoy a great reputation all over the world.

Zhuang People

The Zhuang people are one of the oldest indigenous peoples of China and have the largest population of ethnic minorities in the country. They primarily inhabit in Guangxi, Guangdong, Yunnan and Guizhou.

The Zhuang people make most of the fabric for their clothing themselves, with an abundance of styles. Zhuang women's clothing is blue-black, with lose trousers, patterned headscarves around their heads and exquisite aprons tied around their waists. The men usually wear a waist jacket with a sash tied around their waists.

The Zhuang people prefer to live beside mountains or rivers. The wooden dwellings that lie dotted throughout green mountains and clear waters are their traditional dwelling places. No matter where they live, the Zhuang people place an ancestral shrine along the central axis of their homes. The front area of their dwellings is used for holding celebrations and socializing. The two side wings of the house are where they sleep and the back area acts as their living quarters. Inside the houses, life centers on the fireplace, with all three daily meals being prepared here.

Mongols

"Mongol" is a name the Mongols gave themselves and it means "eternal flame". Chinese Mongols primarily inhabit the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, with a minority scattered throughout Xinjiang, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Henan, Hebei, Beijing and other northern areas of China. There are also a small minority located in Sichuan, Yunnan and other southwestern areas of the country.

Mongols have traditionally lived on the grasslands raising livestock and migrating with the water and pastures in a nomadic lifestyle. Even if this kind of lifestyle is being watered down by modern society, it is still seen as a symbol of the Mongols.

Mongol clothing is comprised by four main components: jewelry, long robes, belts and shoes. The Mongol robe is a long garment worn by men, women, the old and the young which is a unique ornamental product of their long nomadic history. Today, they only wear traditional clothing during celebrations and get-togethers. The Mongol robe has two long, wide sleeves. The bottom of the robe is not divided, while there is a high collar and the robe is buttoned on the right of the chest. There is decorative embroidery along the collars, cuffs and sides. Male robes are usually blue or brown, while female robes are usually red, green or purple.