Zhuang Ethnic Minority

Plan Yunnan ethnic culture travel of Zhuang Ethnic Minority, visit the featured ethnic towns and villages of Zhuang Ethnic Group, discover the History, Food and Dining, Clothing, Customs and Traditions, Architecture, Festivals, Crafts, Religion,Language, Population and Distribution of Zhuang Ethnic Minority in Yunnan.

The Zhuang people (Chinese: 壮族) are an ethnic group who mostly live in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. Some also live in the Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou and Hunan provinces. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China. With the Buyi, Tay–Nùng, and other northern Tai speakers, they are sometimes known as the Rau or Rao. Their population, estimated at 18 million people, makes them the largest minority in China.

As one of the ethnic minority groups in China, the Zhuang ethnic group mainly live in provinces of Guangxi, Yunnan, Guangdong, Hunan, Guizhou and Sichuan, of which Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has the largest population of Zhuang people. In the year 1990 there were 15.48 million Zhuang people in China. According to the fifth nationwide population census conducted in the year 2000, the population of the Zhuang nationality was 16178811. Nowadays the Zhuang nationality has the largest population among all the 55 ethnic minority groups in China and most of them live in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region . There are also one million Zhuang people living in Yunnan Province , most of whom live in areas of Wenshan City, Honghe City and Qujing City. In Lianxshan Zhuang and Yao Autonomous County of Guangdong Province, Congjiang County of Guizhou City, and Jianghua County of Hunan Province there are also distributions of the Zhuang nationality.

Before they were uniformly called Zhuang people in 1965, there had been various names of this nationality called by both themselves and other ethnic groups. The appellations of the Zhuang people in Guangxi at that time included Buzhuang, Butu, Buliao, Buyayi and so on, in total there were more than 20 different times. While in Yunnan Province they were called Nongren, Sharen, Tuliao and so on.

Chinese character names
The Chinese character used for the Zhuang people has changed several times. Their autonym, “Cuengh” in Standard Zhuang, was originally written with the graphic pejorative Zhuàng 獞 (or tóng, meaning “a variety of wild dog”). Chinese characters typically combine a semantic element or radical and a phonetic element. John DeFrancis calls Zhuàng 獞, with the “dog radical” 犭 and a tóng 童 phonetic, an ethnic slur and describes how the People’s Republic of China removed it.[3] In 1949, after the Chinese civil war, the logograph 獞 was officially replaced with Zhuàng 僮 (or tóng “child; boy servant”), with the “human radical” 亻and the same phonetic. Later, during the standardization of simplified Chinese characters, Zhuàng 僮 was changed to a completely different character Zhuàng 壮 (meaning “strong; robust”).

The Zhuang languages are a group of mutually unintelligible languages of the Tai family, heavily influenced by nearby varieties of Chinese. The Standard Zhuang language is based on a northern dialect, but few people learn it. Therefore, Zhuang people from different dialect areas use Chinese to communicate with each other. According to a 1980s survey, 42% of Zhuang people were monolingual in Zhuang, while 55% were bilingual in Zhuang and Chinese.

Whilst according to some semi-official sources “In Guangxi, compulsory education is bilingual in Zhuang and Chinese, with a focus on early Zhuang literacy,”[4] only small percentage of schools teach written Zhuang. Zhuang has been written using logograms based on Chinese characters (“Sawndip”) for over 1,000 years. Standard Zhuang, the official alphabetical script, was introduced in 1957, and in 1982 the Cyrillic letters were changed to Latin letters. However, the traditional character-based script is more commonly used in less formal domains.

The Zhuang have their own scriptures written in poetic form such as the Baeu Rodo.