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Home > Welcome to China > Welcome to China
Ethnic Groups
2004/03/08
             China, a multi-national state, has 56 ethnic groups. Apart from
          the Han,there are 55 other ethnic groups, namely, the Zhuang, Hui,
          Uygur, Yi, Miao,Manchu, Tibetan, Mongolian, Tujia, Bouyei, Korean,
          Dong, Yao, Bai, Hani, Kazak, Dai, Li, Lisu, She, Lahu, Va, Sui,
          Dongxiang, Naxi, Tu, Kirgiz, Qiang, Daur, Jingpo, Mulam, Xibe,
          Salar, Blang, Gelo, Maonan, Tajik, Primi, Nu, Achang, Ewenki, Jino,
          Uzbek, Gin, De'ang, Yugur, Bonan, Monba, Drung, Oroqen,Tatar,
          Russian, Lhoba, Gaoshan and Hezhe.
              As the Han people make up 92% of the country's population, the
          other ethnic groups are usually referred to as minority groups.
          Their combined population accounts for 8% of the national total.
          Marked differences exist among the ethnic minorities with respect to
          the size of the population. The most populous is the Zhuang with a
          population of 13 million, who live in compact communities in
          Guangxi, South China. The one which has the smallest population is
          the Hezhe with a little more than 1,500 members, who live scattered
          in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province. Of the ethnic groups,
          those with a population exceeding a million number 15, those with
          over 100,000 people each number 13, and there are 7 others which
          have more than 50,000 members each and 20 others with a population
          smaller than that.
             In addition, in Yunnan Province, Tibet and other areas, there are
          some ethnic groups whose national identity remains to be determined.
             The Han people live in compact communities mainly in the valleys
          of the Yellow, Yangtze and Pearl rivers and on the Songliao Plain in
          Northeast China. The minorities, small as their population is, are
          widely distributed across the country, covering 50 to 60 percent of
          its territory. They concentrate chiefly in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang,
          Tibet, Guangxi, Ningxia, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Gansu, Qinghai,
          Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangdong, Hunan, Hebei, Hubei, Fujian and Taiwan.
          Generally, they live in mountains, highlands, pastoral areas and forest regions.
              Due to repeated population migrations, government-imposed land
          reclamation and immigrations as well as drastic changes in the past,
          the distribution of China's ethnic groups has followed a pattern in
          which they live in mixed groups, in compact communities and in
          noncontiguous areas. For illustration, quite a few ethnic minorities
          inhabit Yunnan province, Southwest China. The Koreans live in
          compact communities in Yanbian, Northeast China; the Tujias and
          Miaos, in western Hunan, Southern China; the Lis, on Hainan island.
          Furthermore, about 10 million minority people reside in mixed groups
          or in non-contiguous areas across the land.
             The Han language is the lingua franca of China today.
             The 55 ethnic minorities in general have their own language.
          Prior to the founding of new China, except for the Hui, Manchu and
          She who used the Han language in both spoken and written form as
          their own, 11 minorities-the Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur, Korean,
          Kazak, Xibe, Dai, Uzbek, Kirgiz, Tatar and Russian--had their own
          written scripts in common use. Seven others -- the Yi, Naxi, Miao,
          Jingpo, Lisu, Lahu and Va-- had their own written scripts, which,
          however, were not in common use. The rest had no script at all.
          Following the founding of new China, with the assistance of the
          Chinese government, 10 ethnic groups including the Zhuang, Bouyei,
          Miao, Dong, Hani and Li created or standardized their scripts and some
          others such as the Uygur, Kazak, Jingpo,Lahu and Dai reformed theirs.
             With regard to language classification 29 minority tongues belong
          to the Sino-Tibetan family, 17 to the Altaic family, 3 to the Austro-Asiatic family,
          2 to the Indo-European family, and the speech of the Gaoshan in Taiwan to the
          Malayo-Polyesian family.
             The ethnic groups have different religious beliefs. The Hui,
          Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, Tatar, Uzbek, Tajik, Dongxiang, Salar and
          Bonan, 10 groups in all, adhere to Islam. Four other groups-- the
          Tibetan, Mongolian, Dai and Yugun -- follow Buddhism. Besides, many
          of the Oroqens, Ewenkis and Daurs believe in Shamanism, a primitive religion.
          Christianity, and Daoism, a religion native to China, has a certain following among
          the Han people.
             Economic growth is quite uneven among the nationalities as a
          result of the differences in historical, geographical, communications
          and natural conditions as well as in the stages of social development.
          Generally, the level of economic growth of the Han areas is relatively high
          while that of the minority regions which are remote or far from the Han areas
          is low.
             Equal treatment for all the nation's ethnic groups represents the
          fundamental principle of the Chinese government to follow in handing
          the ethnic question. As stipulated in all the versions of the Constitution promulgated
          after the founding of new China, all ethnic groups are equal and discrimination
          against, or oppression of, any ethnic group and acts undermining the unity of the ethnic
          groups are prohibited.
             The minority groups should be able to take part in the
          administration of state affairs on an equal footing with the
          majority Han. They should be guaranteed equal rights at all levels
          of state power. To this end, the state grants preferential treatment
          to them with regard to the quotas of their representation in the
          National People's Congress, the supreme organ of state power, and
          the local people's congresses. For instance, of the 2,970 deputies
          to the 7th National People's Congress which was inaugurated in March
          1988, 445 were from the ethnic minorities. This figure made up
          nearly 15% of all the deputies and almost doubled the proportion of
          the minorities' population in the national total. Moreover, each of the minority was
          represented.
             The institution of regional autonomy represents a basic policy of
          the Chinese government to solve the country's ethnic problems. The law of
          regional autonomy for minority groups endorsed by the 6th National People's Congress
          in 1984 is a basic law which guarantees the implementation of the fundamental principle and
          stipulations concerning regional autonomy as laid down by the
          constitution. To date, 45 of the 55 ethnic minorities have
          instituted regional autonomy, with 148 autonomous areas
          established. Those people who enjoy regional autonomy account for
          87% of the combined population of all the minorities.
             The Chinese government always considers it vital to train
          qualified minority officials to administer the affairs within their
          own  groups and to turn out as soon as possible qualified minority
          intellectuals to help reduce poverty in their own areas. So in 1950,
          it promulgated for trial implementation a program for training
          officials from among the minority people. To speed up the training
          of such officials, it set up a dozen or so institutes for minority groups
          including central, southwest, northwest, Qinghai, Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet,
          Guangxi and central-south institutes. In some provinces and autonomous regions
          special schools or training courses were opened to train minority
          officials. All this is in addition to the preferential treatment given by various
          colleges and universities across the country to minority candidates for enrolment.
             Following is the population of Chinese ethnic minorities and
          their distribution (according to 1990 (fourth) national population
          census):

            nationality                   population                           distribution
         ------------------             -----------------               ---------------------------------
            Zhuang                     15,489,630                Guangxi, Yunnan, Guangdong,  Guizhou
            Hui                            8,602,978                  Ningxia, Gansu, Henan,  Xinjiang, Qinghai,Yunnan, Hebei, Shandong, Anhui, Liaoning,
                                                                                Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Tianjin, Jilin, Shaanxi
            Uygur                        7,214,431                  Xinjiang, Hunan
            Yi                               6,572,173                 Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi
            Miao                          7,398,035                  Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan, Guangxi, Sichuan, Guangdong, Hubei
            Manchu                     9,821,180                  Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Hebei, Beijing, Inner Mongolia,
            Tibetan                      4,593,330                  Tibet, Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan
            Mongolian                  4,806,849                  Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Qinghai, Hebei, Henan, Gansu, Yunnan
            Tujia                           5,704,223                 Qinghai, Gansu, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Guizhou
            Bouyei                        2,545,059                 Guizhou
            Korean                       1,920,597                 Jilin, Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia
            Dong                          2,514,014                  Guizhou, Hunan, Guangxi
            Yao                            2,134,013                  Guangxi, Hunan, Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou
            Bai                             1,594,827                   Yunnan, Hunan
            Hani                           1,253,952                   Yunnan
            Kazak                        1,111,718                   Xinjiang, Gansu
            Li                                1,110,900                  Guangdong
            Dai                             1,025,128                  Yunnan
            Lisu                            574,856                     Yunnan, Sichuan
            She                            630,378                      Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Guangdong
            Lahu                           411,476                     Yunnan
             Va                              351,974                     Yunnan
             Sui                             345,993                     Guizhou, Guangxi
             Dongxiang                 373,872                     Gansu, Xinjiang
             Naxi                           278,009                      Yunnan, Sichuan
             Tu                              191,624                      Qinghai, Gansu
             Kirgiz                         141,549                      Xinjiang
             Qiang                         198,252                     Sichuan
             Daur                           121,357                     Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang,  Xinjiang  
             Jingpo                         119,209                    Yunnan
             Mulam                         159,328                    Guangxi
             Xibe                             172,847                    Xinjiang, Liaoning, Jilin
             Salar                            82,280                     Qinghai, Gansu
             Blang                           87,697                      Yunnan
             Gelao                           437,997                    Guizhou, Guangxi
             Maonan                       71,968                       Guangxi
             Tajik                             33,538                       Xinjiang
             Primi                            29,657                       Yunnan
             Nu                                27,123                       Yunnan
             Achang                        27,708                       Yunnan
             Ewenki                         26,315                       Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang
             Gin                               18,915                       Guangxi
             De'ang (original           15,462                       Yunnan
             Benglong)
             Uzbek                          14,502                       Xinjiang
             Jino                              18,021                       Yunnan
             Yugur                           12,297                       Gansu
             Bonan                          12,212                       Gansu
             Derung                         5,816                        Yunnan
             Tatar                            4,873                         Xinjiang
             Oroqen                         6,965                        Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang
             Russian                       13,504                      Xinjiang
             Gaoshan                      2,909                        Taiwan, Fujian
             Hezhen                        4,245                        Heilongjiang
             Monba                          7,475                        Tibet
             Lhoba                           2,312                        Tibet


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