People and Ethnic Groups
China is a large country with many ethnic groups. By now there are 56 nationalities identified, comprising of Han ethnic group as the major nationality and 55 ethnic minorities. Over 90% of the population is ethnically Han Chinese, and most live in the Eastern coastal area. The remaining 10% are made of 55 national minority groups. These numerous ethnic groups share China's vast lands but at the same time many live in their individual communities. They mainly live in western or mountainous areas and retain strong indigenous cultures, often dressing traditionally, preparing unique food, and living in distinctive housing - lifestyle features shaped by varying climate, terrain, and cultural background. In addition, many minorities live in "Minority Autonomous Areas."
There is remarkable diversity even within the Han people. Cultural practices share similar bases but different manifestations. For example, most traditional Chinese engage in some form of ancestor veneration, but the frequency, methods, and styles are very diverse. Travelers in China will also discover vast differences in cuisine, language, and religious practices, to name a few.
Regional languages and dialects:
The written language is standard across the country with slight differences between traditional and simplified characters, the former primarily used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Chinatowns across the world. Because of the numerous local dialects mentioned above, it is not uncommon for two Chinese people from different places to write down standard characters during communication to prevent misunderstandings!
One of the biggest differences between groups in China is spoken language. Standard Chinese, also known as Mandarin or Putonghua, is the official national language and is taught to every child in school. However, most regions and cities have their own local dialects. Even towns just two hours away can have mutually unintelligible dialects. Local dialects are in no danger of dying out. They are widely spoken in the home and between people from the same places. Minority groups also have indigenous languages that they preserve through use.
Some of the 55 Ethnic Minorities:
Each of the minority ethnic groups has a distinctive and different character.
Bai: the masters of artistic creativity and favor white clothes and decorations; creative in architecture, painting, music, sculpture and lacquer work
Dai: distribute in southern part of Yunnan Province; a versatile nation who has made certain achievement in music; believe in Southern Buddhism
Hani: mainly inhabit within the reaches of Yuan and Lantsang Rivers; have interesting marriage custom; believe in the great influence of many Gods and their ancestors
Hui: believe in Islamism; the religious thoughts play important role in their daily life; their life style is very different from other minority groups
Man: originated from the Jurchen tribes; have a long history and brilliant culture; the creator of Jin and Qing Dynasties; has made great influence to Chinese history
Miao: has a relatively larger popular compared with other minorities in China; skillful in handicrafts such as paper-cutting, embroidery, weaving, and jewelry casting
Mongol: primarily live in Inner Mongolia; the minority on the horseback; the staple food is meat and milk; the greatest festival is Nadam Fair
Uygur: mainly live in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regions; believe in Islam; their unique staple foods are nang, zhuafan and noodles
Yao: distribute widely in the mountainous areas in south of China; corn, rice and potatoes are their staple food and they like drinking tea and homemade wines
Yi: widely live in Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan and Guangxi Provinces; have a long history and splendid culture; treasure various beliefs
Tibetan: most live in the Tibetan Autonomous Region; believe in Tibetan Buddhism (also called Lamaism); Tsamba, butter tea, mutton and beef are their staple foods
Zhuang: the largest minority group in China mainly living in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; has a long history and splendid culture.