Ethnic Majorities and Minorities


Image edited by The Cultural Palace of Nationalities, Beijing. 1984.

China has recognized a significant number of ethnic communities within its borders during its 5000-year-long existence, with many following traditions and speaking languages outside of modern Chinese culture. To date, there are at least 55 ethnic minorities that are registered and recognized as residing within China. Some ethnic subcultures number in the hundreds of millions, while others contain a few thousand and are isolated in customs, religious beliefs and traditions. All are considered to be Chinese, per the Chinese government. The most prominent ethnic communities found within China include the following:
⦁    Han – 汉族: The most numerous, and therefore the ethnic majority, in China, nearly one billion people living in China today are considered Han. They can be found all throughout China, primarily speak Chinese, and are either non-religious or follow Chinese traditional ways, including Confucianism and ancestral worship.
⦁    Mongolian – 蒙古族 : A mainly nomadic group living primarily in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. They predominantly speak Mongolian and follow various shamanistic practices.
⦁    Hui – 回族 : One of the largest ethnic minorities in China, the Hui are very similar to the Han, with the exception that the majority practice Islam. The Hui live throughout China but are concentrated in the Northwestern regions.
⦁    Tiebetan – 藏族 : Located primarily in Tibet, Tibetans are vastly different from Han Chinese culturally. They tend to practice Buddhism and believe various forms of mythology, as well as speak several forms of Tibetan rather than Chinese.
⦁    Uygur – 维吾尔族 : A Turkish minority living in China that practices Islam. They primarily live in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and follow Islamic custom and laws.
⦁    Miao – 苗族 : The Miao are actually a collection of non-Han ethnic minorities, some of whom disagree that they are related to other Miao. They live primarily in the southern Chinese mountains, speak Hmongic, follow folk legends and traditions, and are known for sometimes extravagant headdresses.
⦁    Yi – 彝族 : Located in rural, mountainous regions, the Yi number between 7-9 million. They speak several Loloish languages as well as Mandarin, and many know Yi script as well as Chinese characters.
⦁    Zhuang – 壮族 : One of the largest ethnic minorities in China, the Zhuang primarily live in Guanxi Autonomous Region. Most speak Zhuang and Cantonese and follow traditional religions and gods.
⦁    Buyi – 布依族 : A minority primarily living in the south and extending into Vietnam, the Buyi consider themselves part of the Zhuang ethnicity. They speak Tai and follow local traditional religions.
⦁    Manchu – 满族 : The Manchu are spread throughout the majority of China; in fact, China has a history of several Manchu Emperors. They speak Chinese, with only a small percentage speaking Manchurian, and are mostly non-religious.
It is widely known that several ethnic minorities are in current contention with the Chinese government; however, they are included in this list due to being included in Chinese censuses.

For more information, feel free to check out: Chinese Ethnic Groups