Yunnan People

Yunnan People

Yunnan is famous for the diversity of its ethnic minorities in China. With 25 ethnic minorities and about 33% of its population made up of ethnic minorities, it is the province with the largest variety of ethnic minorities in the country. Of these 25 minority groups, the Yi have the largest population and the smallest population is the Dulong.

These include the Yi, Bai, Hani, Dai, Dai, Miao, Lisu, Hui, Lahu, Wa, Naxi, Yao, Tibetan, Jingpo, Brown, Pumi, Nu, Achang, Jinuo, Mongolian, Delong, Manchu, Shui, and Buyi.

Fifteen of these are indigenous to Yunnan, while the rest, such as the Mongols and Hui, entered Yunnan with the army during the Yuan Dynasty; the Japanese occupation of northern China during World War II forced the Han Chinese to migrate to Yunnan. These ethnic groups live in the valleys, hills, plains or mountains. Yunnan migrants from all directions, together with the diversity of the region, have created a diversity of ethnic groups.

Yunnan ethnic map

Yunnan people

The Bai People

Occupying the region for at least 3000-4000 years the Bais are the second largest minority group in Yunnan and one of the oldest. The 2000 census identified just over 1,800,000 Bai individuals, 80% of whom live in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province. In Guizhou, the Bai are also present in Bijie and in Sichuan, they live around Xichang.

An old man of Bai group

Throughout their history, the Bai have dominated by controlling the richest agricultural lands, the administration of the region and even outright power through a number of prominent families. Scattered throughout the Shaxi valley are sixteen Bai villages with populations ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand in the main village of Sideng.

Shaxi retains the vestiges of a matriarchal society but in the 21st century this is reduced to children taking their mother’s surname. The Bai-le “white” refers to the color they consider noble and is the main color of their traditional costume. An unmarried girl always combs her hair in a pigtail, tied with a red string at the end and then wrapped around her head. In general, girls like to dress as beautiful camellia flowers for special occasions and are called not “miss” or “maiden”, but “jin hua” or “golden flower”.

Women of the Bai group who are dancing the Bawangbian

The Tibetan People

The total Tibetan population is about 8.5 million, of which 6.3 million live in the People’s Republic of China, where Tibetans are one of the 56 officially recognized ethnic groups. Outside China, there are about 2 million Tibetans in native Tibetan communities in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan, as well as a refugee population of about 150,000 to 200,000 living in Europe and North America.

Tibetans in Yunnan at the festival

Tibetans speak one of several varieties of Tibetan language, the spoken form of which is often mutually unintelligible.

Most Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, while a minority adhere to the indigenous Bön religion and there are also small Muslim and Christian communities.

Tibetan culture, including architecture and art, is influenced by Buddhism. The harsh climatic and geographical conditions have led to societal adaptation, which is reflected in pastoral and agricultural methods, traditional medicine, and Tibetan cuisine.

The Naxi People

The Naxi (also called Nakhi) live in southwest China, mainly in Yunnan on the margins of Tibet and Sichuan around the city of Lijiang. There are currently about 300,000 of the total population, and the Naxi language is part of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Click here to get more about the Naxi.

A woman of Bai group in Heqing

Dongba Hieroglyphs

The Naxi Group have developed two types of writing:

– A pictographic script, called Dongba, named after the specific religion of this ethnic group.
– A syllabic, phonographic script, called geba, is used essentially as an auxiliary to the Dongba script.

More than 20,000 manuscripts written with Dongba pictograms have been recorded. The oldest date is from the 18th century. They are archived at the Institute of Dongba Culture in Lijiang (Yunnan) as well as in scientific libraries in Western Europe and even more so in the United States. Prior to the enormous work of recording the culture of the various ethnic groups in China after 1949, an American botanist, Joseph Rock (1884-1962), and an explorer, Quentin Roosevelt (1919-1948), had helped to discover, publicize and archive Dongba culture. The former was responsible for the translation of numerous Dongba manuscripts and a monumental Naxi-English encyclopedic dictionary.

Lijiang Dongba Hieroglyphs
Lijiang Dongba Culture

To enjoy your stay

Some Festivals of Yunnan Minorities
Festival of Raosanling Bai Dali April 23 to 25 of the lunar calendar
Torch Festival Yi All the Yi villages June 24 of the lunar calendar
Torch Festival Sani Shilin June 24 of the lunar calendar
Torch Festival Bai Dali June 25 of the lunar calendar
Water Splashing Festival Dai Xishuangbanna April 13 to 16
Sanyuejie Festival Bai Dali March 15 to 21 of the lunar calendars
Sanduo Festival Naxi Lijiang February 8th of the lunar calendar
Shiyue Festival Hani Yuanyang The first dragon day in the tenth month of the lunar calendar
Caihuashan Festival Miao Honghe, Wenshan January 3 to 5 of the lunar calendar
Horse-racing Festival Tibetan Diqin May 5th of the lunar calendar
Munaozongge Festival Jingpo Dehong January 15 of the lunar calendar
Kuoshijie Festival Lisu Nujiang December 20

The Most Famous Ethnic People in Yunnan

Ethnic groups

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