The Gelao people live in Guizhou, Yunnan Province and Guangxi Autonomous Region. They are an old ethnic minority with a recorded history of 2,100 years. According to the census of 2000, the population of Gelao is 579,357.
Language and Character:
Gelao have their own language which is a member of the Zhuang-Dong Group of the Sino-Tibetan phylum, but the four dialects are quite different from each other. Some can not communicate with each other, although they live in the same county. Only one fourth Gelao people actually speak the Gelao language, while the other use Chinese and that of the Miao, Yi and Buyi ethnic minorities. They write in Chinese as they don't have their own written form of characters.
Gelao people believe in the blessing of many gods as well as their ancestors.
The region where they live has complex landform and wet climate so they live mainly on agriculture. Corn is grown on the hilly land and the plain fields have rice paddies. They are also proud of the refinement of forging, blacksmith and stonecutting. You can appreciate their artistic works on steles, bridges and balusters.
Corn and rice are their staple food but glutinous rice cake is their favorite. They can cook in various ways and flavors using honey, sesame, brown and white sugar. Acidic and spicy foods are among the most common meals. What's more, they like to brew wine with corn, jowar, and rice which is known as 'Climbing Wine' (Papo Jiu), an indispensable part of etiquette during festivals.
Gelao ethnic minority celebrate traditional festivals which are almost the same as those of Han people, such as the Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid Autumn Festival, and so on. Glutinous rice food is a must that people prepare for the festivals.
Spring Festival is their greatest festival. People cook a large cake to worship their ancestors and keep it untouched for three days for this festival. There are also some taboos during the Festivals. People are not allowed to sweep floors, carry water, use unripe food, pour water before the door, or labor in the fields.
Another Festival that Gelao ethnic minority people celebrate is the New Year – Gelao Nian, which is on the third day of the third lunar month. All the men of a village will walk around the hills nearby and kill chickens and sheep under the tree as a sacrifice for the divine tree. They ask the god to enjoy the immolation and pray for a harvest in the following year.
Another distinctive Gelao festival is called Ox God Festival on the first day of the tenth lunar month. Gelao people prepare the feast for the Ox God and ask him to bless their farm cattle to be healthy. All the cattle then have a chance to rest and feed on the best food.
More Ethnic Groups in Guizhou, Yunnan and Guangxi Area:
Miao Yi Bai Hani Bouyei Yao Zhuang Dong