Han Chinese subgroups

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"Chinese dialect groups" redirects here. For the linguistic classifications, see varieties of Chinese.

The sub groups of the Han Chinese people, also known as Chinese dialect groups or just dialect groups, are defined based on linguistic, cultural, genetic, and regional features. The terminology used in Mandarin to describe the groups is: "minxi" (Chinese: 民系; pinyin: mínxì; Wade–Giles: min2 hsi4 /min ɕi/ "ethnic lineages"), used in Mainland China, or "zuqun" (Chinese: 族群; pinyin: zúqún; Wade–Giles: tzu2 ch'ün2 /ʦu ʨʰyn/, "ethnic groups"), used in Taiwan. Other than Hui people, which is a classification for Muslims of all backgrounds, no Han subgroup is recognized as one of People's Republic of China's 56 official minority ethnic groups.

List of Han subgroups[edit]

The eight main dialect areas of Mandarin in Mainland China

Mandarin-speaking groups[edit]

  • Total Native Han Speakers: 885,000,000[1]

Mandarin, also known as the Northern dialects, is the largest of the Chinese languages. Native speakers, even in regions where non-Mandarin speakers historically dominated, Mandarin is being brought in as a lingua franca. The Mandarin-speaking groups are the largest group in mainland China, but in the diaspora the Min, Hakka and Cantonese dialects are more numerous. The Dungan people of Central Asia are native Central Plains Mandarin speaking Hui peoples. Other notable Mandarin-speaking peoples include the Sichuanese people and Subei people.

Wu-speaking groups[edit]

  • Total Native Han Speakers: 77,175,000[1]

Wu-speaking peoples, in particular, are concentrated in southern Jiangsu, most of Zhejiang, Shanghai, and parts of southern Anhui, northern Fujian, and northeastern Jiangxi. Scattered remnants of Wu-speaking Chinese are found in other parts of China, such as in Guizhou, Sichuan, Chongqing and Xinjiang, as a result after 1964. Most of them outside of Jiangnan region usually speak variants of Taihu Wu dialects. Wu Chinese is spoken chiefly in the Wu region. Jiangnanese people consist of both Shanghainese people and Ningbo people, as well as other ethnic Han in Jiangnan. They mostly speak variants of Taihu Wu Chinese. Other languages spoken are Jianghuai Mandarin and Xuanzhou Wu Chinese.

The Shanghainese people are centered around Shanghai and speak the Shanghainese dialect of Wu. Ningbo people are another Wu-speaking Chinese group and speak the Ningbo dialect. Wenzhou people are a Wu-speaking Chinese group who speak Wenzhou dialect. Though a significant minority are also speakers of a dialect of Min Nan known as Zhenan Min. If Huizhou Chinese was fully considered to be a subdivision of Wu Chinese, then people from Huizhou are considered to be Wu-speaking.

Wu Chinese is also spoken by a minuscule minority, particularly by Mainlanders, both in Taiwan and in Hong Kong, as also other overseas Chinese communities.

Yue-speaking groups[edit]

  • Total Native Han Speakers: 66,000,000[1]

Yue or Cantonese speakers are predominant in western-central Guangdong and eastern Guangxi, as well as in Hong Kong and Macau. The Yue dialects spoken in Guangxi Province are mutually intelligible with Cantonese. For instance, Wuzhou is about 120 miles upstream from Guangzhou, but its dialect is more like that of Guangzhou than is that of Taishan which is 60 miles southwest of Guangzhou and separated by several rivers from it. Cantonese is also spoken by some locals in Hainan. For example, the Mai dialect which is closely related to Cantonese, is spoken in Hainan Province.

There are Cantonese-speaking minority communities in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. Many Cantonese emigrants, particularily Taishanese peoples, also migrated to United States and Canada. As a result, Cantonese continues to be widely used by Chinese communities of Guangzhou and Hong Kong origin in the western world and has not been completely supplanted by Mandarin.

Min-speaking groups[edit]

  • Total Native Han Speakers of minbei and minnan: 60,000,000[2]
  • Total Native Han Speakers of other min:

Min speakers are scattered throughout southern China but mostly concentrated on province of Fujian and Hainan, with some parts in Guangdong and the tip of southern Zhejiang, and part of Taiwan.

There are several main dialects in Min Chinese. The first would be Fuzhou dialect of Min Dong, which is spoken by the Fuzhou people who are native to the city of Fuzhou. The dialect of Puxian Min is represented by the Putian people (also known as Xinghua or Henghua), the Puxian-speaking people are native to Puxian. The Min Nan dialect of Min Chinese is the largest Min dialect and spoken by larger population compare to other Min dialects. This forms many unique subgroups of Min Nan who speaks variety of the dialect. The Teochew people, Hoklo people and Hainanese people are all Min Nan dialect groups. The Teochew are native to eastern Guangdong (Chaoshan), the Hoklo to southern Fujian and Taiwan, and the Hainanese to Hainan. The dialect of Cangnan, which is Zhenan Min, is spoken in Wenzhou, Zhejiang

Xiang-speaking groups[edit]

  • Total Native Han Speakers: 36,015,000[1]

Xiang speakers mostly live in Hunan province, and so are often called Hunanese people. Xiang-speaking people are also found in the adjacent provinces of Sichuan and Jiangxi.

Hakka-speaking groups[edit]

  • Total Native Han Speakers: 34,000,000[1]

The Hakka people speak the Hakka Chinese and are predominant in parts of Guangdong and Fujian as well as parts of Taiwan. They are one of the largest groups found among the Chinese in Southeast Asia.

Gan-speaking groups[edit]

  • Total Native Han Speakers: 20,580,000[1]

The origin of Gan-speaking peoples in China are from Jiangxi province in China. Gan-speaking populations are also found in Fujian, southern Anhui and Hubei provinces, and linguistic enclaves are found in Taiwan, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Zhejiang, Hunan, Hainan, Guangdong, Fujian and non-Gan speaking Jiangxi.

Smaller groups[edit]

Other minor subgroups include speakers of the Tanka people, Peranakans, Chuanqing, and Kwongsai people

Han subgroups by region[edit]

Greater China[edit]

Mainland China[edit]

For more details on the Han Chinese in mainland China, see ethnic groups in China.

The Han people originated in Mainland China. Each Han subgroup is generally associated with a particular region in China; the Cantonese originated in western Guangdong, the Putian in Puxian, the Foochow in Fuzhou, the Hoklo in southern Fujian, the Chaoshan/Teochew in eastern Guangdong,[3] the Hakka in eastern/central Guangdong and the Shanghainese in Shanghai.


Demographics of Taiwan
For more details on the Han Chinese in Taiwan, see Taiwanese people and Han Taiwanese.

In Taiwan, the main distinction within the Han Chinese is between two groups:

  1. The Pen-sheng-jen (Chinese: 本省人; pinyin: Běnshěngrén; Wade–Giles: Pen3-sheng3-jen2 [pən ʂɤŋ ʐən]; lit. "Native Province Person", meaning "People of the local province"), who are early Hakka and Hoklo migrants from Fujian and Guangdong provinces of mainland China.
  2. The Wai-sheng-jen (Chinese: 外省人; pinyin: Wàishěngrén; Wade–Giles: Wai4-sheng3-jen2 [waɪ ʂɤŋ ʐən]; Chinese: 外省儂; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Gua sieng lang [gua ɕiəŋ laŋ]; lit. "External Province Person", meaning "People from other province"), who are descended from recent migrants from all over mainland China who emigrated during and after the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

The CIA World Factbook puts the number of Pen-sheng-jen at 84% and the number of "mainlanders" at 14%.[4] 70% of Taiwan's population is Hoklo, while 10-15% is Hakka.[5]

Hong Kong[edit]

For more details on the Han Chinese in Hong Kong, see Hong Kong people.

In Hong Kong, a majority of the population are Cantonese. According to the CIA World Factbook, 89% of Hong Kongers speak the Cantonese language.[6]

Other Han Chinese peoples present in Hong Kong include the Hakka, Hoklo, Teochew and Shanghainese.


For more details on the Han Chinese in Macau, see Macanese people.

Macau, like Hong Kong has a Han (Cantonese) majority. According to the CIA World Factbook, 85.7% of Macanese speak Cantonese.[7]

The term "Macanese people" can either refer to anyone from Macau, or Macanese of mixed Cantonese and Portuguese descent.

Overseas Chinese subgroups[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Top 100 Languages by Population". Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  2. ^ http://www.davidpbrown.co.uk/help/top-100-languages-by-population.html
  3. ^ James Stuart Olson (1998). An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-28853-4. 
  4. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook – Taiwan". CIA. 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  5. ^ "FAQ about Taiwan". 
  6. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook – Hong Kong". CIA. 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  7. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook – Macau". CIA. 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-08.