Die Minoritäten Yünnan Yünnans

The Ethnic Minorities of Yunnan


Achang, BaiBouyei, Bulang, DaiDe'Ang, Drung, Hani, Hui, Jingpo, Jino, Lahu, Lisu, Miao, Naxi, Nu, Pumi, Tibetan, Wa, Yao, Yi,  Zhuang


Minority Region

Pop. Approx.




Yunnan, Myanmar


The majority of the Achang live in the western part of the Yunnan Province, mainly in Longchuan County and the Lianghe County north of the border with Myanmar. They are descendants of the Qiang people who migrated south from Qinghai Lake and their language belongs to the Tibeto Burman group of the Sino-Tibetan family. The Achang began to settle in their present homes and engage in farming in the 13th century. In Myanmar they are called Maingtha. Most Achang people believe in Hinayana Buddhist while some worship their ancestors, practice polytheism and animism. Also, believers of Daoism and Christianism also can be found in Achang villages. {Top}

Bai Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan

1.8 Mio.

About 2000 years ago, the ancestors of the Bai settled in the Dali area of the Yunnan province. The majority of the Bai people still inhabit Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, with a scattering found in Lijiang, Lanping, Yuanjiang and Kunming. There are also Bai communities in parts of Sichuan, Guizhou and Hunan. The Bais are mainly involved in agriculture and are well known for their fine woodcarving, marble and stone work. The majority of the Bai speak their own language, which is part of the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language familiy. Their religion is Buddhism, Animism, and to a certain extend Christianism (Catholic). {Top}

Bouyei (Puyi) Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Vietnam

3 Mio.

The Bouyei (Puyi) are of Thai origin and closely related to the Zhuang people in Guangxi. The Bouyei (Puyi) live mostly in Qiannan (Bouyei-Miao) Autonomous Prefecture and in the Xingyi, Anshun area of Guizhou Province. A smaller number of them live in southeastern Guizhou, the Wenshan area in Yunnan, and the Ningnan area in Sichuan. The spoken Bouyei language has 8 tones and is closely related to the Thai language. The Bouyeis had no written language until the government devised a writing system based on Latin letters in 1956. The Bouyei women are highly skilled at Batik cloth dyeing and embroidery. The Bouyi are also fine stonemasons: Houses are composed of stone blocks but no plaster is used, and roofs are finished in slate. Many villages often have arched stone bridges and elaborate house entrances {Top}.

Bulang Yunnan, Thailand, Myanmar 90'000

The majority of the Bulang live in Xishuangbanna in the southern Yunnan Province, mainly in the Bulang Mountains in Menghai County, and around Simao and the Lincang region. The Bulang are a mountain-dwelling people. They live mainly in places above 1500 Metres and are generally involved in agriculture, tea-, sugarcane- and cotton production and live stock breeding. The Bulang women traditionally wear black turbans and dress in beautiful, embroidered sarongs. The Bulang have an own spoken language with 2 major dialects. Some experts claim that the Bulang, together with the Wa and the De'ang are descendants from the ancient Pu people and migrated to the area about 2'000 years ago. Some others believe that they are descendants from the Lolo people in northern Vietnam.  They are mainly Buddhists or practice Animism. The traditional houses of the Bulang are made of wood and are built on stilts. The ground floor is for keeping the livestock, whereas the upper floor serves as living quarters. In Thailand the Bulang are known as Khon Doi (Mountain People). {Top}



Yunnan, Myanmar, Thailand. Laos, Vietnam

1.1 Mio.

The Dai ethnic group live in the southwestern part of the Yunnan Province, mainly in the Xishuangbanna region. The Dai are mainly involved in agriculture. The subtropical climate with plentiful rainfall makes the area ideal for, growing rice, sugar cane coffee, rubber, tea and a big variety of tropical fruits. The common dress for Dai women is a straw hat or a towel-wrap headdress, a tight, short blouse in bright colours and a printed sarong. The Dai have their own oral and written language and they even have their own calendar, dating back to the 7th century. Their spacious wooden houses are raised on stilts and the low roofs not only protect them from the torrential rains but keep them also cool during the hot season. The most important festival for the Dai is the "Water-splashing Festival” which is held every year around April. On that occasion, the Dai splash water on one another and hold dragon boat races in the hope of chasing (or "wash") away all the sins of the past year. The prevailing religion of the Dai is Theravada Buddhism. {Top}

De'Ang Yunnan, Myanmar 15'500

Together with the Wa and Balang the De'Ang (Banglong) are descendants from the Pu people who once lived in the Nujiang area during the 2nd century. Before changing their name in 1985, the De'ang where known as "Banglong". The De'Ang have no written script but have an own spoken language. Bilingualism in Han has been on the increase in the De'Ang communities and some De'Ang also speak Dai or Jingpo in addition to their own.  They are mainly Theravada Buddhist or practice Animism. The De'Ang population is widely distributed over the southwest of the Yunnan Province. Their main habitation is the Santai Mountain area, about 25 km southwest of the Prefecture capital Mangshi (Luxi). The De'Ang can also be found in Junnong of Zhenkang County (Lincang Prefecture), in Dehong County with some scatterings in the surrounding counties. The De'Ang are mainly involved in agriculture. Traditionally they grow rice, corn, jute, wheat and a big variety of tropical fruits. As of 1949 they also started to grow cotton, tea, coffee and rubber. Their houses are made of bamboo and have two floors. The ground floor serves as stable for animals and poultry, whereas the upper floor serves as living quarters, kitchen and store room. In Myanmar the De'Ang are referred to as Palaung. {Top}

Drung Yunnan, Myanmar 7'500

The Drung (also called Dulong or Turung) live in some of the remotest corners of the Yunnan Province and, at the same time, is one of the smallest ethnic minorities in China. They live within the Drung and Nu Autonomous County in north-western Yunnan, in the border area with Myanmar, mainly along the Valley of the Dulong River. In Myanmar the Dulong River becomes the Mayka River, which is one of the two main tributaries of the Irrawaddy River. The climate in this area is rather harsh, with very cold winters and summers with lots of rain. The Drung (Dulong or Turung) have long been known for their preferred isolation. They don't have a written language; their spoken language belongs to the China-Tibetan language family. Traditionally the women wear tattoos in their faces with designs of their clans. Women living in different areas have different designs. This rather painful ritual was abolished in 1949 but the tattooed faces of the older women are still a familiar sight around the villages. Drungs live in "longhouses" which are traditionally made of bamboo or wood. One clan (family) occupies one longhouse. Animism and Shamanism are widely spread and some believe in Christianity due to some missionary activities in the area during the early 20 century. Due to China's modernisation the live of the Drung in China changed dramatically in the last few decades, whereas their brothers across the border in Myanmar still live a very primitive and simple lifestyle. The Drung in China are mainly involved in agriculture. {Top}

Hani Yunnan, Thailand, Laos 1.25 Mio.

Like the Yi and the Lahu ethnic groups, the Hani are descendants of the ancient Qiang people, a nomadic tribe that used to live on the Tibetan Qinghai Plateau. During the 7th century, the Hani migrated into the area near Mt. Ailao and Mt. Wuliang. There are over 20 subgroups which, under the present, official classification are all called "Hani". The Hani have their own language which belongs to the Chinese-Tibetan language family. They have no written script on their own. In 1957 a script system based on the Roman alphabet was created, but failed to achieve popular use. The Hani mainly live between the Ailao and the Wuliang Mountains with subgroups scattered all over the Honghe, Simao and Xishuangbanna Counties covering the vast area between the Yuan Jiang (Red River) and the Lancang Jiang (Mekong River). Their traditional cloths and jewellery which includes hand embroidered tunics, silverware breastplates and elaborate headdresses, adorned with pom-poms, dyed feathers and old silver coins are as diverse and colourful as the countryside they live in. The Hani celebrate the New Year in October, according to their own lunar calendar. Their religious believes lie in polytheism and Animism. In Thailand the Hani are known as Akha and in Laos as Kaw. {Top}


Xingxia, Gansu, Henan, Heibei, Qinghai, Shangdong, Hunnan, Xinjiang, Anhui, Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Shaanxi, Beijing, Tianjin, Yunnan, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar

12.6 Mio.

 (In  Yunnan ca 550'000)

The Hui are one of the biggest ethnic groups in China. They live scattered in almost every part of China, but the largest concentration of Hui can be found in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwest China. They have different origins. The ethno genesis of the Yunnan-Hui might be a result of the convergence of a large number of Mongols, Turkic and other Asian settlers in the region who formed the dominant stratum in the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. Many Hui also settled down in Yunnan following the armies of Kublai Khan in the 13th century. Yunnan was the only region put under a Muslim leader immediately after Kublai Khan's armies arrived when Sayyid Ajall was named governor in 1274. The Islamic religion has had a big influence on the life of the Hui people, today most Hui believe in Islamism (Sunni). The most prominent Yunnan-Hui is the legendary eunuch Admiral Zheng He, whose fleets sailed the world's oceans in the 13th century, and who probably landed in America 70 years before Columbus. The Hui are not supposed to eat pork. In recent years an increasing number of Hui travelled to Mecca for the annual Haj pilgrimage. In Myanmar the Hui are known as Panthay, in Thailand as Chin Ho. {Top}


Southwest Yunnan, Myanmar


The ancestors of the Jingpo ethnic minority once inhabited the southern part of the Xikang-Tibetan Plateau. They migrated south to the north-western part of Yunnan and later on further south to the present day Dehong area in southwest Yunnan and Myanmar. In Myanmar, the Jingpo are known as Kachin. Today the Jingpo can be found in Luxi, Longchuan, Yingjiang, Ruili and Lianghe counties. Some Jingpo can also still be found in the Nujiang region. In the late 19th century many Kachin (Jingpo) people converted to Christianity as a result of British missionary activities in the area. However, many Jingpo still regard Polytheism as their religion. The Jingpo are divided in 5 "subgroups": The Jingpo, Lashi, Zaiwa, Langsu and the Bola. All of them speak their own dialects which belong to the Tibet-Burmese branch of the Sino Tibetan language family. An alphabet system of writing based on the Latin letters was created and introduced to the Jingpo (Kachin) people about 100 years ago, but today many Jingpo in China use the Chinese Pinyin alphabet that was introduced in 1957. The Jingpo are mainly involved in agriculture. The most important festival of the Jingpo is the Munao festival. The Munao festival is held every year on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The Munao festival is to celebrate good harvest and drive out evil spirits. It usually lasts for several days. {Top}





Most of the Jino (Jinuo) ethnic minority villages can be found in the jungles and mountains of Xishuangbanna in the most southern part of the Yunnan province. The origin of the Jino (Jinuo) is some kind of a mystery. Some experts say that they are the native dwellers of the Jino-Mountain area, while others claim that they are descendants from the Qiang people in Tibet and migrated to the present location around the 13th century. Sometimes the Jino (Jinuo) are also known under the name of Youle. Their language is part of the Tibetan-Burman Branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. It is closely related to Yi and Burmese. Today, most Jinuo (Jino) speak also Han Chinese. The Jinuo (Jino, Youle) have only been recognized as an own ethnic group in 1979, before they where officially regarded as a subgroup of the Dai Minority. Their houses can usually been found on mountain slopes and are traditionally made of bamboo or wood. The upper floor serves as living quarter and the ground floor is used for storage and livestock. The most important festival of the Jino (Jinuo or Youle) people is the "New Year Drum and Dance Festival" (Temaoke Festival), which is usually held in January. The Jino are Animist and believe in Ancestor worship. Every year Colorful-China arranges special private trips to the extraordinary Temaoke festival. Ask us about our next trip! {Top}


South-Yunnan, Myanmar, North Thailand, Laos

In Yunnan around 525'000

The Lahu ethnic minority of theYunnan province can mainly be found in the mountains near the border with Laos and Myanmar. Generally their villages are located in areas above 1500 metres. The Lahu trace their ancestry back to the ancient Qiang people who once populated the eastern Xikang-Tibetan plateau. They have a long history of armed conflict against their oppressors. They rebelled more than 20 times throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and still today they are generally very proud of their hunter-warrior heritage. Today the Lahu are involved in farming, blacksmithing and in weaving fabrics and baskets. There are 4 different tribes within the Lahu: the Black, the Red, the Yellow and the She Le.  They speak dialects belonging to the Tibeto-Burman language family. Although the Lahu do not have an indigenous written language, three different Romanized orthographic exist; two where introduces around the turn of the 19th century by Christian missionaries, one is based on the Chinese Pinyin alphabet that was introduces around 1957. Due to missionary activities in the area, many Lahu have converted to Christians. Mahayana Buddhism and Animism are also widely spread. {Top}


Yunnan, Sichuan, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos


The biggest concentration of the Lisu ethnic minority group can be found in the Lisu Autonomous Prefecture which is located in the Nujiang River Valley in north-western Yunnan. Some Lisu can also be found in the Lijiang, Baoshan, Deqin, Dali and Chuxiong prefectures and counties. The Lisu people inhabit mountainous areas that are largely converted with dense forest. Agriculture and animal husbandry are their main economic activities. Crops grown include maize, rice, wheat, buckwheat, sorghum and beans. Their language is part of the Sino-Tibetan Tibeto Burman linguistic group. The Lisu have two scripts. One was introduced by American Missionaries in the 1920s and was based on the Latin alphabet. The second script was introduced in 1957 by the Chinese Government and is based on the Chinese Pinyin. Due to missionary activities in the area, many Lahu have converted to Christians. Most Lahu believe however in Polytheism. The ancestors of the Lisu people once lived along the banks of the Jinsha River and were once ruled by Wudeng and Lianglin, two powerful tribes. After the 12th century, the Lisu people came under the rule of the Lijiang Prefecture Administration of the Yuan Dynasty, and in the succeeding Ming Dynasty, under the rule of the Lijiang district magistrate with the family surname of Mu. A large number of Lisu people have migrated further southward out of China during the last 19th century. Today, Lisu people can also be found in Myanmar, Laos and northern Thailand. {Top}

Miao Guizhou, Yunnan, Hunan, Guangxi, Sichuan, Hainan, Hubei

8 Mio.

The Miao ethnic minority group originally inhabited the richer valleys of central China in today’s Hubei Province. The leader at the time was the legendary Chiyou and his people where known as the Jiuli tribes. However, centuries of oppressive governments pushed them further south and higher into the mountains to seek refuge from their enemies. Nowadays, the Miao are spread across the mountainous areas of the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan, Guangxi and Sichuan, with some scatterings on Hainan Island and the Hubei Province. The Miao ethnic Minority can also be found in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Traditionally the Miao are very skilled craftsmen. These include embroidery, weaving, paper-cutting, batik and the casting of Jewellery. In ancient times the Miao people in Yunnan Province referred to themselves as "Meng" of "Hmong". The name Miao was later given to them by the Chinese. Because of many years of warfare and assimilation the Hmong, or Miao, in China have been divided into 5 branches: The Red Hmong (Hong), the Black Hmong (Hei), the White Hmong (Bai), the Flowery Hmong (Hua) and the Qing Hmong (Green). They also have been separated linguistically into 3 main dialects. The Miao are mainly involved in agriculture. Their main crops are rice, maize, sorghum, potatoes, tobacco, tea, sugar cane, beans and peanuts. Most Miao believe in Animism. {Top}

Naxi Yunnan, Sichuan Tibet


Thee Members of the Naxi ethnic minority are descendants from ethnically Tibetan Qiang tribes and migrated south along the Mekong and the Yangtze River valleys to their present locations about 1400 years ago. The Naxi are first mentioned in Chinese records during the Tang Dynasty in the late 8th century. The once influential and powerful Naxi Kingdom was only annexed to the Chinese empire in 1724. Until recently the Naxi families where based on a matriarchal structure and still today, Naxi women play an important role in the Naxi society. In some areas, like the Mosuo in the Lugu Lake area, a marriage based on the "Azhu" system still takes place. "Azhu" is an ancient practice whereby a flexible form of cohabitation replaces a formal marriage. Naxi women are easily identified from their costumes which consist of a blue bodice, quilted cape and white aprons. The Naxi created an own written language over 1000 years ago using a system of pictographs which are called the "Dongba Script". Since recently this Dongba script is again told at schools in Naxi areas. There are two main dialects in their spoken language which are both related to Tibetan. The prevailing religions are Lamaism and Daoism. Many Naxi people also believe in the Dongba Religion, which is an offshoot of Tibet's pre-Buddhist Bon Religion that eventually developed into a polytheistic blend of Tibetan Buddhism, Islam and Daoism. The Dongba were Shamans who were the caretakers of the written language (Dongba script) and mediators between the Naxi people and the spirit world. Agriculture is still the main occupation of the Naxi people. Water has always played an important role in the life of the Naxi people. They believe that water is a god and that the Naxi deity Shu resides in it. Shu is a powerful god, dominating heaven and earth as well as the wealth and fate of humans. {Top}

Nu (Anu, Anong, Rouruo, Nusu) Yunnan, Myanmar


The Nu ethnic minority can be found mainly along the Nujiang Valley in western Yunnan Province, within the Bijiang, Fugong, Gongshan and Lanping counties, which comprise the Lisu/Nujiang Autonomous Prefecture. The Nu ethnic group is divided in four major branches: The Anu, the Anong, the Rouruo and the Nusu. The Rouruo (or Zaozuo) from Lanping County near the Mekong, are sedentary farmers and live contiguously with people of the Bai and Lisu nationality.  The Nusu of the southern part of the Salween (Nujiang)valley not only share the same land with the Lisu, but also important parts of their culture, music, costume and some religious practices.  Higher north, the Anung are found in Fugong County, whereas the Nusu are living in Gongshan County, and both are customarily and linguistically closely related to the Drung (Dulong nationality).  In general, the Anu, the Anong, the Rouruo and the Nusu all speak different dialects that all belong to the Tibeto-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Many of the Nung have embraced Tibetan Buddhism and often live in mixed villages with Tibetans; few other are Catholics due to the presence over a century of French missionaries who were active until the arrival of the communists.  Anung, Nung and Nusu traditionally practice slash-and-burn cultivation, and they are pushing higher and higher up the once densely forested coverage of the deep Salween (Nujiang) gorge. {Top}

Pumi Yunnan      
Tibetan Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan      
Wa Yunnan      
Yao Guangxi, Hunan, Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou      
Yi Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi      
Zhuang Guangxi, Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou      


Yunnan Ethnic Minorities

Achang, BaiBouyei, Bulang, Dai De'Ang, Drung, Hani, Hui, Jingpo, Jino, Lahu, Lisu, Miao, Naxi, Nu,

Pumi, Tibetan, Wa, Yao, Yi,  Zhuang