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Ethnic Groups in China

Bai Ethnic-Group Dai Ethnic-Group ethnic Hui Ethnic-Group Lama People Naxi Musician Tibetan Uyghur kids Yunnan Minority-girls

Ethnic Groups in China

China has long been a unified multi-national state. The Chinese nation is composed of 56 different nationalities. The majority of the Chinese are Hans, who make up about 92 percent of China's total population. The name Han originated over two thousand years ago during the Han Dynasty.

However, the Hans have not been of a single origin and were formed in the course of thousands of years through merging and assimilation between the Huaxia and many other nationalities. The unification of all those nationalities into the Chinese nation was a gradual process that took thousands of years. Although the Hans played a major role in the unification, other nationalities, notably the Mongolians and the Manchus, played important roles too. The magnificent Chinese national culture has not been the creation of the Hans alone. Such splendid cultural relics like the murals and sculptures in the caves of Dunhuang (Gansu Province), Yungang (Shanxi Province), Longmen (Henan Province) and Kuche (Xinjinag Uygur Autonomous Region) were the cooperative work of artists and craftsmen of the Hans and other nationalities.

The minority nationalities - so called because of their relatively smaller populations - differ greatly in size. The Zhuangs are the most numerous, totaling over 15 million. They live mostly in Guangxi, which has been designated as the Zhuang autonomous region.

There are 12 other nationalities that number more than one million each. These include the Mongolians, Huis, Tibetans, Uygurs, Miaos, Koreans and Manchus.

Nine comprise of less than 10,000 people, with the Russians and Hoches both having less than one thousand people.

The minority people live mainly in Western China; a small number live in the North and Northeast and on the islands off the Southeastern coast, including Taiwan and Hainan Province. The vast areas inhabited by the minority people are rich in resources; these areas will soon be developed as the country's modernization progresses.

At the time of liberation in 1949, the minority nationalities were in various stages of socio-economic development. More than 30 nationalities, totaling some 30 million people, were about on par with the Hans. Others were comparatively underdeveloped to varying degrees. They have since been enjoying equal political rights as the Hans, and have established regional autonomies to manage their own internal affairs in accordance with their ethnic characteristics. Those organs of self-government now include five at the provincial level, 30 at the prefecture, and many more at county levels.

Ten special institutes of higher learning have trained over 100,000 administrators and professionals from among the minority nationalities. Although this marks a 10-fold increase within 30 some years, it is far short of meeting the economic and cultural developmental needs in many regions. For instance, 13 nationalities in Yunnan Province still have no professionals of their own, and in Southern Gansu, half of the ethnic cadres have had only primary education. Of the 578 counties inhabited by the minorities, half do not have any libraries.

With the envisaged shift of major economic construction efforts to the vast Northwest around the turn of this century, the accelerated development of culture, education, science and public health in many of the minority inhabited areas is increasingly becoming a matter of urgency.

Revised June 22, 2011