The Gejia (Chinese: 家人 or 革家人; Hanyu pinyin: Géjiā Rén; also Gedou) is an ethnic group of Chinese found in Guizhou province, southwestern China. They are officially classified as a part of the Miao, but have separate status in Guizhou Province. The Gejia live mainly in Qiandongnan Prefecture, in the counties of Huangping, Kaili, and Guanling. They are concentrated in the towns of Chong'an, Chong Xing, Huangpiao in Huangping and Longchang, Wanshui of Kaili. Matang is exclusively inhabited by these people. There are over 400 inhabitants in this village. The total Gejia population is approximately 50,000.
Gejia, according to legend, are the direct descendants of Houyi, a legendary hero who was said to shoot the nine scorching suns in order to salvage his people. They are noted for their war-like nature. Their costumes are indications of such warfare passion. In the 1953, soon after the Communist Party of China ran the Chinese government, it initiated classification of the ethnic minorities. Anthropologists were assigned to distinguish the ethnic groups based on social history, economic life, language and religion. Out of the 400 groups investigated, China officially approved 38 of them as distinct ethnicity in 1954. Although the official report of the original investigation recommended that they should be identified as separate minority, the Gejia were excluded in the final approval. They are officially recognised as sub-group of the Miao people. (The number of recognised ethnic minorities in China has risen to 56.)
The major occupation among the Gejia people is farming. They practice slash-and-burn system of cultivation. Rice, corn, and millet are their major crops. The women are specialised in embroideries and batik. Their handicraft style dates back to the Qin dynasty (221–207 BCE), the first dynasty of a unified China. They sell sell the items to visitors. The people are most noted for their batik products. Girls are taught the technique at a young age. The dress code of the women has a cultural symbol, particularly signifying the warfare of their ancestors. The head dress is a representation of the Sun and the arrow. Their shoulders and back are covered with thick wools like shawls that represent shield. They cover their legs with leggings as leg guards. The clothes are made in white and red patterns, and decorated with silver ornaments. They practice animism, and make offerings to appease invisible spirits to prevent diseases, calamities and death, and to make a good harvest.
A major festival among Gejia is Caiqing. It involved a dance called Caiqing Wu (Wu for "dance"), which is a dance of romance. It is held in the first lunar month. Gejia women wear colourful festival dress, including batik scarf, silver necklaces, pleated skirt, apron and leggings. There is also a lusheng festival (similar to that of Miao) held in November. The boys play a series of bamboo pipes called lusheng. They perform bird fight and antiphonal singing.
In spite of their unique customs, religious practices, and dialect variation, scholars generally belief that Gejia are a sub-group of Miao. But the Gejia people object to this assertion, and claim that they are unique minority group. Based on their similarities in lifestyle, language and costumes, the government of China officially categorise them as Miao. Fundamentally, their dialect is one of the Miao languages. But there are subtle differences. For example, Miao people cannot understand every word of Gejia speaking. Their insistent demand of reclassification as separate ethnicity has been to no avail. This is apparently because they are largely outnumbered by the main Miao people. They are also sometimes (mis)identified as Ge people, who are living the southeastern region of Guizhou.
A study in 2014 by researchers at the Huazhong Normal University indicated that the linguistic root of Gejia is same as that of Miao. They analysed five tongue moving types, including tongue rolling, tongue folding, tongue twisting, pointed tongue and clover-leaf tongue. They concluded that there are no significant differences in these linguistic properties.
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