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The Che people (Chinese: 輋民 or 輋族; pinyin: Shēmín or Shēzú) are a branch of the Yao people found in the provinces of Guangdong and Jiangxi, China. Outside of those areas, they are also known as the She people.
The Che people are some of the earliest known settlers of Guangdong; they are thought to have originally settled along the shallow shore for easier fishing access during the Neolithic era. Eventually, after an influx of Yuet people moved south during the Warring States period, serious competition between the two peoples for resources developed.
From the time of the Qin dynasty on, waves of migrants from northern China have had a serious impact on the Che people. Because they possessed superior tools and technology, these migrants were able to displace the Che and occupy the better land for farming. As a result of this some of the Che were forced to relocate into the hilly areas of the Jiangxi and Fujian provinces.
Following this relocation, the Che people became hillside farmers. Their methods of farming included burning grasses on the slope, casting rice seeds on those embers and then harvesting the produce following the growth season. Some of the Che people also participated in the production and trade of salt, obtained from the evaporation of local pools of salt water.
Many conflicts took place between the Han Chinese and Che peoples. For example, in one incident, Che salt producers on Lantau Island in Hong Kong attacked the city of Canton in a revolt during the Song dynasty.
The Che people speak a language derived from the Hmong–Mien group of languages. However, with the assimilation of other ethnic groups, the Che have gradually lost their mother-tongue and now speak other languages such as Hakka.
After thousands of years of conflict and assimilation with the Han Chinese and Yuet peoples, specific evidence of the inhabitance of the Che in coastal Guangdong has virtually disappeared. However, linguistic traces of their former presence can still be inferred from the following place names:
- Tung (峒) are habitats of the Che people found on hills. Examples are Kwun Yam Tung (觀音峒) and Tai Tung (大峒) near Plover Cove in Hong Kong.
- Che () are also habitats of the Che people on hills. This can also refer to the method of farming the Che people used. For example, Wo Che (禾輋) in Sha Tin and Ping Che (坪輋) near Ta Kwu Ling in Hong Kong.
In the 1997 play, Fei ba! Lin liu niao, fei ba! ("Archaeological Bird") by Chan Ping Chiu, the Che people are referenced as the mysterious ancestors of the people of Hong Kong, distinct from other peoples of mainland China and the Taiwanese, who disappeared without a trace.
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