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中國 China populations

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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汉人 (漢人) Han

The vast Han ethnic group is etymologically rooted in the Han Dynasty, whose 400-year reign was longer than any other Chinese empire and led to enormous economic prosperity and cultural innovation in China.

The Han Chinese account for almost 92 percent of China's population, and make up roughly 20 percent of the international population, making it the world's largest ethnic group. Often known in the English-speaking world as simply "Chinese" ... the Han can be found in almost any part of China, although their continued migration west has caused sometimes violent confrontations with minority ethnic groups. Most Han speak Mandarin, and primarily practice Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. link

حواري 回族 Hui

The Hui are concentrated in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwest China; they are also spread out across Xinjiang. Like the Uighurs, the Hui practice Islam and are descendents of the Turks. However, they have not retained a Turkish dialect and instead mainly speak Mandarin Chinese.

As a result of sharing a language, the Hui and the Han have also come to share many customs, including a very similar dress.

བོད་པ།་ Tibetans

China has controlled what is now known as the Tibet Autonomous Region in western China since the Communists invaded in 1951. Since then, Tibetans have staged several protests for independence, acting out against Chinese repression of Tibetan worship for Buddhism and its paramount leader, the Dalai Lama. Tibetans have also accused Beijing of committing cultural genocide by forcing Tibetans to denounce the Dalai Lama and conform to Chinese customs, while China has repeatedly blamed the Dalai Lama for any disturbances that occur in the region.

The Dalai Lama was forced into exile in India in 1959 and has not been able to return to Tibet in the past 50 years. However, the Dalai Lama is still seen as the spiritual leader and a symbol of hope in Tibet. As with the Uighurs, Tibetans resent Han Chinese migration. Although they remain a minority in Tibet, the Han Chinese are generally better off economically than most Tibetans. The most recent conflict between the two groups occurred just before the 2008 Olympic Games, resulting in more violent suppression by Beijing.

ئۇيغۇر‎ Uighur

When Communists seized Xinxiang in 1949, they encouraged Han Chinese to settle the newly acquired province. Cities and large nationalized farms were infiltrated by the Han, and the Han went from relative minorities to in 2009 nearly matching the Uighur in population size. Uighurs have accused the Han of discrimination and of dominating government and economic positions. Repeated clashes have occurred between the Uighurs and the Chinese government over attempts for more autonomy and economic opportunity. Some of these clashes have involved violent action by the Uighur. Communist authorities have responded with force to quell and prevent conflicts.

Uighurs have been labeled terrorists by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, and in 2002 the United States government labeled the obscure Uighur separatist group East Turkestan Islamic Movement as terrorists 2. Chinese police arrested 82 Uighurs in 2008 for an alleged plot to attack the summer Olympic Games. Despite these labels and accusations against the Uighur, they have maintained their protests are peaceful and do not instigate violence. link

Sometimes called China's "other Tibet," the Uighur ethnic minority has a long history in Xinjiang Province, in the northwest region of the country. Like Tibetans, they are a non-Han indigenous group that has claimed autonomy from Beijing since coming under Communist rule in 1949. Distant relatives of the Turks, most Uighurs practice Islam and account for more than half of all Muslims in China. The group has their own language which belongs to the Turkic group of the Altaic branch, while their written language is based on Arabic characters. Uighurs generally live in more rural areas, dominating the agricultural river valleys of the West, growing mainly wheat, maize, paddy rice and cotton. Uighur means "unity" or "alliance." link

瑶族 (瑤族) Yao

Most Yao live in southern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, with the rest scattered among mountain communities. The Yao consist of several smaller ethnic subgroups, which is why until the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, the ethnic group had several names including Panyao, Shanziyao, Guoshanyao, Pindiyao and Baikuyao.

Following the revolution, however, the name "Yao" was officially adopted after the group's language that belongs to the Yao branch of Chinese-Tibet. However, the Yao do not have their own written language and therefore have come to use Chinese characters. This in turn has caused the Yao to become familiar with the Han and their customs.

壮族 Zhuang

The Zhuang are one of China's most populous ethnic groups, with a large majority living in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. The Zhuang people have their own language, but most of them can speak Chinese dialects.

Historically, the Zhuang have supported the Communist rule and have had close ties with the Han for centuries. Zhuang clothing is generally similar to that of the Han.


Lilly, Amanda. July 8th 2009. A Guide to China's Ethnic Groups. Washington Post. link