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Ethnic Groups in China: 55 Minorities and Travel Tips

China has been a multiethnic country since ancient times. According to the 2010 Chinese Census, the Han ethnic group comprises 91.51% of the Chinese population while the other 55 ethnic minority groups only make up the remaining 8.49%.

These multiple ethnic groups make China’s culture and customs diverse. Experiencing authentic minority customs and joining in with local activities has become more and more popular in recent years. Travel to China and discover the interesting and different local lifestyles.

The 55 Minorities of China

The 55 minority ethnic groups in China include: Achang, Bai, Blang, Bonan, Bouyei, Dai, Daur, Deang, Dong, Dongxiang, Derung, Ewenki, Gaoshan, Gelao, Gin, Hani, Hezhen, Hui, Jingpo, Jino, Kazakh, Kirgiz, Korean, Lahu, Li, Lisu, Lhoba, Manchu, Maonan, Miao, Monba, Mongolian, Mulao, Naxi, Nu, Oroqen, Pumi, Qiang, Russian, Salar, She, Sui, Tajik, Tatar, Tibetan, Tu, Tujia, Uyghur, Uzbek, Wa, Xibe, Yao, Yi, Yugur, and Zhuang.

Top 10 Minorities in China
Rank Ethnic groups Population Regions
1 Zhuang 16,926,381 Guangxi, Guangdong, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Hunan provinces
2 Hui 10,586,087 Almost every province in China
3 Manchu 10,387,958 Northeast China, Hebei Province, Beijing, and Inner Mongolia
4 Uyghur 10,069,346 Xinjiang Province
5 Miao 9,426,007 China, Laos, Vietnam, the United States, and other countries
6 Yi 8,714,393 Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, and Guizhou provinces
7 Tujia 8,353,912 Hunan, Hubei, Chongqing, and Guizhou provinces
8 Tibetan 6,282,187 China, Nepal, India, Bhutan, and Europe
9 Mongolian 5,981,840 China, Mongolia, and Russia
10 Dong 2,879,974 Guizhou, Hunan, Guangxi, Hubei, and Guangdong provinces
Top 6 Minority Regions in China
1. Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
  • Minority: 12 different ethnic groups, including the Zhuang, Yao, Miao, and Dong
  • Travel: The most famous tourist city in Guangxi is Guilin, which is famous for its amazing karst landscape.

If you go to Guilin, you mustn’t miss the opportunity to take a bamboo raft trip on the Li River, climb up the Longji Rice Terraces, and see the panoramic view from Xianggong Mountain.

2. Yunnan Province
  • Minority: 52 different ethnic groups, including the Yi, Bai, and Hani
  • Travel: A beautiful city with a wonderful natural landscape and good climate. Dali (Bai) and Xishuangbanna (Dai) are the most popular destinations in Yunnan Province.
3. The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
  • Minority: 49 different ethnic groups, including the Mongolian, Hui, and Manchu
  • Travel: Inner Mongolia accounts for 12% of China’s total land area and has rich natural resources. The weather is dry and summer is a wonderful time to enjoy seeing the prairie scenery.
4. Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
  • Minority: 47 different ethnic groups, including the Uyghur and Hui
  • Travel: Xinjiang was an important access point for the ancient Silk Road, which acted as a bridge for foreign trade. The dry climate and large temperature differences between the daytime and nighttime have formed various majestic natural sceneries in Xinjiang, such as a desert and landforms caused by wind erosion.
5. Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
  • Minority: 35 different ethnic groups, including the Hui and Zhuang
  • Travel: Ningxia is a small city in Northwest China. Most travelers explore Mongolia in the north or the Silk Road cities in the northwest.
6. Tibet Autonomous Region
  • Minority: Tibetan
  • Travel: Located in the southwest region of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Tibet’s average elevation is more than 4 kilometers. The most famous sights in Tibet are the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, and Mount Everest.
Travel Tips
Top 4 Magnificent Minority Festivals
  1. Mongolia Naadam Fair
  • Date: every July and August
  • Location: Inner Mongolia

It used to consist of just three activities: wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Gradually, it evolved into the grand celebratory activities that are held nowadays, along with other features, such as craftsmanship displays, national cuisine, and multicultural entertainment.

  1. The Dai Water-Splashing Festival
  • Date: mid-April
  • Location: Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province
  • The Water-Splashing Festival is the most solemn festival of the Dai people. It is also the largest and the highest-attended festival among the ethnic minorities in Yunnan.
  1. The Zhuang Singing Festival
  • Date: March 3rd in the Chinese lunar calendar
  • Location: Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

The Zhuang Singing Festival is a traditional festival throughout which the local people hold ‘song meetings’. Young men and women also express their love by singing on that day.

  1. The Sour Milk Festival
  • Date: July 1st in the Tibetan calendar
  • Location: Tibet

The Sour Milk Festival has a long history, which can be dated back to the middle of the 11th century. During the festival, there are various activities, such as showing respect to Buddha, Tibetan opera performances, and visiting a ‘linka’.

Top Tips for Travelers
  1. Generally speaking, the ethnic regions are far from the cities. You should ensure you allow enough time and can overcome the language barrier if you want to visit them.
  2. Check the festival dates. Joining in with the local activities is an interesting experience.
  3. Hire a guide because he/she can tell you interesting cultural and historical facts about the ethnic groups.
  4. Pick a destination, such as Yunnan Province. You can witness many minorities during your trip.
  5. Respect the local customs. Don’t do anything that will offend the local people.
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