Ethnic Characteristics, Beliefs and Diet Patterns
a. Hui Minority
Hui Minority is short for Huihui Minority; it is the most widely distributed nationality in China. Most of them live in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and some concentrated Hui communities also in the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Henan, Hebei, Shandong and Yunnan.
Most Hui people observe Islamic religion, or Hui religion in China, which has a deep influence in their daily life. Usually, Hui people build a mosque in their communities and the imam plays an important role in their life to give names to newborn babies, to conduct marriages and funerals and so on.
Hui people prefer wheaten food to rice food; they like sweets and make kinds of desserts; they eat beef and mutton, while pork, animal blood and dead animals are forbidden in their diet. The costume of Hui people is the style of the central Asia people. The distinctive feature is the headwear. Males prefer white or black caps with exquisite embroidery, while females wear hijabs, and different colors are chosen for different ages.
b. Zhuang Minority
Zhuang Minority is the most populous ethnic minority in China with a number of 15 million, mainly inhabit in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yunnan Province. In Guangdong, Hunan, Guizhou and Sichuan, there are also some concentrated Zhuang communities.
Zhuang Minority has its own language and Zhuang people worship the nature and ancestors. Zhuang people have produced the distinctive culture in the development of a long history of more than 2000 years. A good deal of mural paintings on the banks of Youjiang River is the precious heritage left by the Zhuang ancestors; and the molded bronze drum and Zhuang brocade are the renowned symbols of Zhuang people.
Zhuang Minority is a nationality of songs and dances. Zhuang area is hailed as an ocean of folk songs, and in different occasions, people sing different kinds of songs, for instance, there are welcome songs, meeting songs, inviting songs, loving songs, departing songs, etc. The Singing Festival on March 3 of the lunar calendar is a celebrated festival as well as an important date for Zhuang people to pray for a harvest year by songs. Apart from singing folk songs, a series of interesting recreational activities are also taken in the festival, like throwing embroidered balls, crashing the colored eggs, competing for a red balls, etc.
Zhuang people love the flavors of sour and spicy, and pickles are made in almost every family especially in rural areas. The five-colored glutinous rice made on the Tomb-sweeping Day (Qingming Festival) and Singing Festival and home-made rice wine are also the featured food of Zhuang people. The costume of Zhuang people is rich and colorful. They are spinning and weaving themselves and make their clothes in the color of blue, black and brown. Styles of clothes are totally different for males, married females and unmarried females.
c. Miao Minority
The ancestors of Miao Minority were originally lived in Hunan and Guizhou provinces, and later gradually moving to some other southern provinces. Now Miao people inhabit in a wide range in the provinces of Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, Hubei, Guangdong and Hainan.
Diaojiaolou (wooden buildings constructed on several pillars) is the featured classical wooden building of Miao people; it is a kind of building built on pillars generally in two or three storeys in mountains. People live in the second floor, and the ground floor is reserved for animals and firewood, and the third floor is a storage for food.
Miao people are famous for its Lusheng (a kind of reed-pipe wind instrument) music and skillful batik technology. The Lusheng festival of music and dances on 16th-20th in the first lunar month is a grand celebration among Miao people. The costume of Miao people is colorful of more than 200 styles that often give deep impressions to the visitors. Miao girls love silver jewelry and pleated skirts, of which the silver jewelry is their favorite. According to Miao tradition, the more and heavier of the silvers, the more beautiful, so it is common to see that girls wearing rich and many silvers on formal occasions.
d. Yi Minority
Yi Minority is one of the oldest nationalities in China with a history over 4500 years. Yi people mainly inhabit in provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou and Guangxi.
Corn, potatoes and buckwheat are the stable food in Yi areas; Yi people also eat meat especially the mutton. Yi people like wine very much which is homemade and has two flavors, namely sweet and spicy. Yi people usually serve guests with wine; and there is an interesting custom of serving dishes in Yi tradition, named Tiaocai. In brief, Tiaocai is a way of serving dishes with dances. On grand occasions, after the guests have taken seat, the Tiaocai masters carry the dishes on three plates with arms as well as on his head (usually 24 dishes in total at a time), and dancing ahead with the rhythm of drums and other folk instruments as well as the yo-heave-ho by the young, and then serve the dishes on the tables in a certain rank. It is marvelous that not even a single drop of the soup is spilled during the process. Tiaocai is an amazing and supreme etiquette in Yi custom, which is also a perfect combination of music, dances and acrobatics.
Torch Festival is a traditional celebration of Yi people falls on June 24 on traditional Chinese calendar and last for three days. During the festival, all families without exception will place a torch in the front of their house, and big torches are placed in the village, and all villagers are singing and dancing around torches throughout the night. According to Yi tradition, the fire can repel beasts and evils and protect their crops.
e. Buyi Minority
The population of Buyi Minority is about 2.5 million and 95% of them live in Guizhou, and the rest are scattered in Yunnan, Sichuan and Guangxi. The Buyi areas are always in picturesque landscapes, the Huangguoshu Waterfall and Huaxi are the most well-known sceneries.
Buyi Minority and Zhuang Minority are originally the same nationality which later developed into two nationalities as they migrated to different areas. Those migrated to Guizhou was developed to Buyi Minority while those to Guangxi was developed to Zhuang Minority. This is why there are some similarities between these two groups in costume, customs and habits.
The same as the Zhuang people, Buyi people also fond of sour food and pickled vegetables. Dog meat and rice wine are the favorites of Buyi people, of which the rice wine is a must to treat their guests. On different festivals there are some special food are served, for instance, four colored sticky-rice on April 8 of the lunar calendar and chicken on June 6 of the lunar calendar. Buyi people also specialize in batik and embroidery and make clothes themselves. They are fond of singing and dancing and bronze drum is also their popular instrument. In addition, Buyi plays are the special programs which display the stories and legends of the group.
f. Dong Minority
Dong Minority is one of the ancient Chinese nationalities with a history over 2500 years. Dong people are mainly found in the provinces of Guizhou, Hunan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Dong people are traditionally live on rice with skilled cultivating on famous terraces; rice wine and oil tea are their dishes to treat guests. Oil tea is a stable food of Dong in special flavor with plenty of ingredients and side dishes.
Dong Minority is a group with fine craftsmanship in weaving, knitting, embroidery and silver making. They prefer to tie their head with cloths and their dressing are gorgeous in kinds of styles; all the clothes are made by themselves mainly in blue, white, green, purple and black. They are also fond of silver jewelry, and usually wear rich styles and large quantities of the silver on special occasions.
Dong people are skilled in building wood-structured architecture without even a single nail. A typical Dong house is similar to the Miao house, which is a three-storey Diaojiaolou built on wood pillars; people live in the second floor, and the third floor is used as a storage for food while the first floor is reserved for animals and firewood. The unique drum towers and wind and rain bridges are the symbols of Dong Minority renowned all over the world.
g. Bai Minority
Bai Minority is a southwest minority of China observing the Buddisium. Most of Bai people inhabit in Yunnan Province, and there are also some concentrated Bai communities in Guizhou and Sichuan.
Situated on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, the Bai areas are temperate in climate and Bai people are fond of flavors of sour, cold and spicy and make kinds of pickles. Tea is their popular drink and the Sandao Tea (Tea served for three times) is the best serve to treat guests.
White (pronounces Bai in Chinese) is the most favorite color in Bai custom and it is the main color of their costume. The clothes of Bai people are in styles with embroidery and bright in colors of green, light blue, pink, purple and rosy. Generally, Bai people especially the females are dressing as colorful and beautiful just like the flowers because of their love for flowers.
Bai Minority is an intelligent group skilled in engraving, painting, molding, wax printing, embroidery and architectures. March Fair, falls on March 15 – 20 of the Chinese lunar calendar, is the grandest festival among Bai people. It is a commercial fair with kinds of items and ethnic minority souvenirs. Torch Festival is celebrated by Bai people on June 25 of the lunar calendar with torches and dances to wish a great harvest as fire can protect the crops in Bai custom.
h. Dai Minority
Dai Minority of China belongs to a big Dai family that the branches also exist in neighboring countries of Vietnam, Thailand, Burma and Laos. Chinese Dai people mainly inhabit in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province, which is hailed as the Hometown of Peacocks.
The Dai area houses many wild animals such as elephant, rhinoceros, golden monkey and peacock. Dai Minority is a group good at dancing and most of their dances come from the behaviors of animals. The Peacock Dance is the representative one which gracefully imitate the behaviors of peacocks and famous home and abroad. Dai costume especially females’ clothes are bright and magnificent in color and graceful in styles which can show their slim but shapely figure. Dai males wear collarless short jackets and long baggy pants; females wear jewel-collared and short-waisted shirt and long skirt in tight-fitting style.
The Water-Sprinkling Festival is the grandest festival among Dai people, which is also the New Year festival of Dai people falling on the middle of the April. During the festival, people go out with kinds of water containers and splash the water to each other for pleasure. According to Dai tradition, people are splashed with water are blessed with luck, happiness and health. Dragon-boat competitions and set-off Dai fireworks are also the programs during the festival.
i. Mongolian Minority
Mongolian has a population over 5.8 million; it is the sixth largest ethnic minority in China. Mongolian mainly inhabit in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and the rest are found in the provinces of Jilin, Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Henan, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan.
Mongolian is a nomadic group known as a nationality on the horseback, and they are good at horsemanship, archery and wresting. Animal husbandry is their leading industry; they live in the yurt (a domed round tent of Mongolian on grassland), and Leleche (a small cart with large wheels drawn by an ox) is their transportation. Mongolian love dancing and the Mongolian dance is one of the distinctive ethnic dances in China, which accompanied by their distinctive instrument Matouqin (horse-headed fiddles). Mongolians are fond of meat, dairy products and tea with special flavors. It is an enthusiastic and hospitable group of Mongolians, and a red tea or milky tea is the first serve given to their honored gusts. Kinds of dairy products are also presented later such as cream, dried milk cake, vrum and fermented milk curd. Mutton Eaten with Hands is a featured dish of Mongolians.
j. Uygur Minority
The population of Uygur Minority is bout 9.9 million and most of them live in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and others are in the provinces of Hunan and Henan. Uygur people live on agriculture and observe Islamism.
Uygur areas abound in melons and fruits which own the largest grape production area in China named Turpan basin. Melons and fruits, fruit jam, sweet jam, mutton, rice and cooked wheaten food are their main food; fresh fruits, raisin, mutton shashlik and shouzhuarou (eating mutton with hands) are their specialties.
Uygur costume is graceful in special style and cotton clothes are their favorite. Men wear gowns with a long scarf around the waist and women wear colorful one-piece dresses with a vest outside. Delicate cap is the greatest symbol of their beauty, which is embroidered with exquisite design and beautiful colors. Long hair and braids are the signs of Uygur females; the unmarried make about a dozen of braids and the married make two. Uygur music is also unique with its distinctive songs and dances accompanied by their instrument Dobro (a plucked string instrument).
k. Kazak Minority
Kazak ethnic group in China mainly live in Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, Mulei Kazak Autonomous County and Balikun kazak Autonomous County of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and some of them also live in the provinces of Gansu and Qinghai.
Kazak people eat wheaten food, mutton, beef, horse meat, milk and dairy productions. Tea is their favorite drink and milk tea added with milk and salt is very popular. Kazak people lead a comedic life and live in felt house which composed of fence, supporting poles and felt. Felt house is suitable for all seasons except winter, and in winters they move into earthen house which was built with flat roof. Kazak people observe Islam and most their festivals are related to the religion, including the Corban Festival and Rozah Festival. The Noroz Festival is the traditional festival of Kazaks which is their New Year Festival falls on around March 22. The Noroz rice is the food for Noroz festival which is delicious and nutritious with kinds of materials of rice, millet, wheat, flour, cheese, meat and salt.
l. Tibetan Minority
Tibetan ethnic group is distributed mainly in Tibet Autonomous Region, and some of the Tibetans also live in the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunan. Generally, Tibetan people prefer inhabiting in the plateau section and living on the animal husbandry.
Tsampa, yak butter tea and Tibetan barley wine are the staple food of Tibetan people, and dairy products, air-dried beef and mutton are also their favorites. Tsampa is the roasted barley flour in peculiar flavors, and Tibetans eat them almost in every meal mixed with milk tea, butter, milk dregs and sugar. Tsampa is a kind of food convenient to be carried that people often carry it with them when going out.
Tibetan religion is the Lamaism, also called Tibetan Buddhism, and it is always a wonder to see the pious pilgrims to the spiritual place along the way to the Tibet. Tibetan hada, a scarf with 20 centimeters in width and about 1.5 - 2 meters in length, is a most precious gift to guests to show their respect, loyalty and goodwill. Most hada are in white, there are also some light blue ones, yellow ones and the most precious five-colored ones. Presenting hada is a very common courtesy and highest etiquette in Tibet.