Yi Nationality

 Population and Distribution:
A Girl of Yi Minority
A Girl of Yi Minority

Living mainly in the hillside and basin areas in Yunnan, Sichuan, and Guizhou Provinces together with the northwestern part of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Prefecture, Yi ethnic group is reputed as a nation with a long history and splendid culture within South Western China. According to the fifth national census shown in 2000, they have a population of 7,762,286. It also has several branches.

Divided into six dialects, their language derives from the Zang-Mian Austronesian family of Sino-Tibetan Phylum. With regard to its characters, the Yi ethnic minority is proud to have created the earliest syllable letters in China in the 13th century. Historically, great contributions have been made owing to the recording of chronometer, literature, medicine etc. in their language.

Various beliefs are treasured, such as the belief of the spirit, the worship of their ancestors, and the adoration of nature, along with the cherishing of Catholicism, Christianity, and Buddhism. Amongst all these beliefs, the power of the spirit is regarded as the most magical one. Some heirlooms left to the Yi people by their ancestors are endowed with magic that can bring good will to their owners. Therefore, these highly valued possessions are carefully kept and passed down through generations.

 Food and Food Culture:
Their diets vary according to different regional conditions. However, because most of them live in mountainous areas, buckwheat, corn, potatoes are suitable for planting and are regarded as their staple food. Some of the ethnic groups do eat rice as their staple food. Pork, mutton, and beef are the main meats consumed. As for their beverages, tea and wines are regarded as the most superior ones to serve to their honoured guests.

Wrestling, Bullfight and Cock Fighting in Torch Festival
Wrestling, Cockfighting 
and Bullfight in Torch Festival
When drinking, they prefer to sit around a circle and drink one by one, without eating dishes. And during the festivals, numerous kinds of wines can be seen and tasted while some others play flutes or sing and dance. The goblets they use while drinking are also unique. Some of them are made of wood, some from sheep or ox horns, some are even made of eagle's claws.

Drinking tea is the daily must. In some regions, 'Sandao Tea' is a popular way of drinking; this is divided into 'Yingbin Tea' (the tea for welcoming guests), 'XukuTea' (the tea for confiding hopeless things), and 'Sanmen Tea' (teas for dispelling boring moods).

They are quite skilled at painting, sculpture, embroidery, and drawing with lacquer. The women are quite adept at embroidery. We can admire and appreciate their skills on their beautiful waistbands, handkerchiefs, and hanging strips. The women's reputations are greatly influenced by their level of embroidery competence.

Mainly six types of clothes are scattered in six different regions of Yi ethnic minority. However, women usually wear clothes with beautiful flowers embroidered on them and, long trousers with exquisite lace or skirts with numerous pleats. Men like to wear black narrow sleeved clothes, and loose pants. Both men and women wear head-handkerchiefs on their heads, while the women's are made with beautiful pictures embroidered on them.

Torch Festival of Yi Minority
Torch Festival of Yi Minority

Traditional festivals include the Torch and Chahua festivals. Among them, the Torch Festival is the grandest traditional festival, held on the 24th day of the lunar month of June. It is held to celebrate the victory of a rebellion against a tyrannical landlord. It lasts for three days, where families assemble together and hold rich and colourful activities. Wearing the traditional Yi clothes, they enjoy themselves with wrestling, horse racing, bull fighting, tug-of-wars and so on. When night comes, large bonfires are lit, with people sitting around, singing and dancing for the whole night.

Chahua festival is another characteristic festival which is held to commemorate the hero, Mi Yinu, who helped the Yi people overcome the tyrannical ruler. When the Maying flowers blossom, people will wear them on their hairs or present them to each other and sing to their heart's content to celebrate their happy life.

Other festivals such as Saichuan festival (a festival during which people dress in beautiful clothes and enter into fashion competitions), and Shiyue Nian (the traditional spring festival for the Yi ethnic group held on October) are also well worth participating in.

 Recommended Video Clip:   Yi Minority People Dance 

 See also Nuohei Village: A village of Yi people in Yunnan

 More Ethnic Groups in Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou Area:
Miao     Yao     Dai     Dong     Bai     Hani     Zhuang     Shui

- Last updated on Dec. 14, 2018 -
Ask a Question
Question Summary (100 characters)
Details (optional) (2,000 characters)