The vast majority of Guangxi’s 48 million residents are ethnic Han or Zhuang, the latter being the reason for its designation as an autonomous region. Other minorities include the Miao, Dong and Yao people, all distinguished by their colourful clothing and unique languages. This diversity makes Guangxi one of the most culturally rich and fascinating of all of China’s provinces.
Ethnic Minorities in Guangxi Province
The Zhuang are China’s largest ethnic minority with a population of over 15 million. While their long history of assimilation makes them almost indistinguishable from their Han counterparts today, they maintain a rich variety of customs that celebrate their past, especially during their festivals. For example, on special occasions they will don their traditional style of dress, with embroidered jackets and pleated skirts accessorised by silver jewellery.
The Zhuang people are also polytheists, worshipping animals and spirits as well as superlative natural structures such as high mountains and old trees. Taoism has also influenced their religion, with Taoist priests previously playing a very large role in their society.
The Dong people make up a smaller population than the Zhuang but they have also made their mark on Guangxi. They are well known for their skills in architecture, which is on display with the Chengyang Wind and Rain Bridge in the Sanjiang Scenic Area. Their homes are traditionally made of wood and consist of three stories built on stilts, since they often settled on steep slopes by riverbeds.
Most Dong people are farmers by trade, with the main crops being rice, wheat, maize and sweet potatoes. They also value fir and camellia trees, making oil tea for guests as traditional show of hospitality.
With a population of over 7 million in China, the Miao are one of the largest minorities in China, though they are dispersed throughout Guizhou, Hunan, Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangdong, Hubei and Guangxi provinces. Like many other minorities the Miao are animists, worshipping dragons and ancestors. They are also competent farmers and hunters, though their most distinctive trait is their artistic ability in the form of embroidery, weaving and batik. Their batik technique is over 1,000 years old and involves drawing the pattern onto fabric with a knife dipped in hot wax before being boiled in dye.