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Meet the 56 Ethnic Groups of China Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in architecture, Byki Lists, Culture

Most people know that China is the world’s most populous country, with over 1.3 billion people. Not so many know that the huge population of China is actually composed of 56 ethnic groups (民族 – mín zú). In truth, not everyone who lives in China identifies themselves primarily as “Chinese.” It is a very culturally diverse nation, as all of these groups have their own customs, architecture, clothing, festivals, and so on. Although the country is predominantly Han (汉 – hàn) at over 90%, there are 55 other groups classified as ethnic minorities (少数民族 – shǎo shù mín zú) that reside in China. In a recent post, we introduced the Splendid China park in Shenzhen where you can learn a lot about the many ethnic groups in the country. To give you a better understanding of the many groups and how they fit into Chinese society, here’s a list of all 56 groups (names in English, Chinese, and pinyin) in order from the largest to smallest:

"Ethnic Zhuang Costumes Guangnan Yunnan China" by JialiangGao www.peace-on-earth.org - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons

“Ethnic Zhuang Costumes Guangnan Yunnan China” by JialiangGao www.peace-on-earth.org – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons

English

Chinese Pinyin
Han 汉族 hàn zú
Zhuang 壮族 zhuàng zú
Hui 回族 huí zú
Manchu 满族 mǎn zú
Uyghur 维吾尔族 wéi wú’ěr zú
Miao 苗族 miáo zú
Yi 彝族 yí zú
Tujia 土家族 tǔ jiā zú
Tibetan 藏族 zàng zú
Mongol 蒙古族 méng gǔ zú
Dong 侗族 dòng zú
Bouyei 布依族 bù yī zú
Yao 瑶族 yáo zú
Bai 白族 bái zú
Korean 朝鲜族 cháo xiǎn zú
Hani 哈尼族 hā ní zú
Li 黎族 lí zú
Kazakh 哈萨克族 hā sà kè zú
Dai 傣族 dǎi zú
She 畲族 shē zú
Lisu 傈僳族 lì sù zú
Dongxiang 东乡族 dōng xiāng zú
Gelao 仡佬族 gē lǎo zú
Lahu 拉祜族 lā hù zú
Va 佤族 wǎ zú
Sui 水族 shuǐ zú
Nakhi 纳西族 nà xī zú
Qiang 羌族 qiāng zú
Tu 土族 tǔ zú
Mulao 仫佬族 mù lǎo zú
Xibe 锡伯族 xí bó zú
Kyrgyz 柯尔克孜族 kē’ěr kè zī zú
Jingpo 景颇族 jǐng pō zú
Daur 达斡尔族 dá wò’ěr zú
Salar 撒拉族 sā lā zú
Blang 布朗族 bù lǎng zú
Maonan 毛南族 máo nán zú
Tajik 塔吉克族 tǎ jí kè zú
Pumi 普米族 pǔ mǐ zú
Achang 阿昌族 Ā chāng zú
Nu 怒族 nù zú
Ewenki 鄂温克族 È wēn kè zú
Gin 京族 jīng zú
Jino 基诺族 jī nuò zú
De’ang 德昂族 dé’áng zú
Bonan 保安族 bǎo’ān zú
Russian 俄罗斯族 È luó sī zú
Yugur 裕固族 yù gù zú
Uzbek 门巴族 mén bā zú
Monba 乌孜别克族 wū zī bié kè zú
Oroqen 鄂伦春族 È lún chūn zú
Derung 独龙族 dú lóng zú
Hezhen 赫哲族 hè zhé zú
Gaoshan 高山族 gāo shān zú
Lhoba 珞巴族 luò bā zú
Tatars 塔塔尔族 tǎ tǎ’ěr zú

While it helps to learn the names of all of China’s ethnic groups, it’s better to be able to actually see them:

This short video shows a picture of each ethnic group, along with the name in both Chinese and English.

Together, these 56 groups make up the population of China. Of course, in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, there are also thousands of expats from all over the globe; however, they don’t count towards the population of China. While many of the ethnic minorities of China are somewhat isolated from the rest of the country, lots of them migrate to the big cities to find better opportunities.

Learn more about the 56 ethnic groups in this video from “Hello China.”

Although most people in China can speak Mandarin (or Cantonese down south), many of these ethnic groups have their own spoken and written languages that are unintelligible to other groups. They follow different religions, use different recipes, and build different houses. Each group is culturally unique – one of the most fascinating aspects of China.

A 10 minute preview of a longer documentary about the ethnic groups of China.

Most of the ethnic minorities of China can be found in the northwest, southwest, and northeast parts of the country. In all of China, Yunnan is home to the most groups, with 25 of them calling this southwest province home. I’m moving down there next month, partially because I’m sick of the weather and pollution in Beijing and partially because I want to learn more about the many ethnic minority groups that live there. Hopefully there will be lots of interesting new content on the blog in the next year or so as I get the chance to explore this incredible corner of China.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


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