Jump to content

Tujia people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tujia girl in traditional dress
Total population
8,353,912 (2010 census)[1]
Regions with significant populations

(Hunan · Hubei · Guizhou · Chongqing)
Mandarin Chinese
Tujia (traditional)
Predominantly Nuo folk religion

The Tujia (Northern Tujia: Bifjixkhar / Bifzixkar, IPA: /bi˧˥ dʑi˥ kʰa˨˩/ /pi˧˥ tsi˥ kʰa˨˩/, Southern Tujia: Mongrzzir, /mõ˨˩ dzi˨˩/; Chinese: 土家族; pinyin: Tǔjiāzú; Wade–Giles: Tu3-chia1-tsu2) are an ethnic group and, with a total population of over 8 million, the eighth-largest officially recognized ethnic minority in the People's Republic of China. They live in the Wuling Mountains, straddling the common borders of Hunan, Hubei and Guizhou Provinces and Chongqing Municipality.

The endonym Bizika means "native dwellers". In Chinese, Tujia literally means "local families", in contrast to the Hakka (客家; Kèjiā), whose name literally means "guest families" and implies migration.[2]


Although there are different accounts of their origins, the Tujia may trace their history back over twelve centuries and possibly beyond, to the ancient Ba people who occupied the area around modern-day Chongqing some 2,500 years ago. The Ba Kingdom reached the zenith of its power between 600 BC and 400 BC but was destroyed by the Qin in 316 BC.

After being referred to by a long succession of different names in ancient documents, the Tujia appeared in historical records from about 14th century onwards.

Ming and Qing dynasties[edit]

The Tujia tusi chieftains reached the zenith of their power under the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), when they were accorded comparatively high status by the imperial court. They achieved this through their reputation as providers of fierce, highly disciplined fighting men, who were employed by the emperor to suppress revolts by other minorities. On numerous occasions, they helped defend China against outside invaders, such as the wokou ("Japanese" pirates) who ravaged the coast during the 16th century.

The Manchus invaded and conquered the Ming in 1644 and established the Great Qing Empire, known in China as the Qing dynasty. Ever suspicious of local rulers, the Qing emperors always tried to replace Han officials with Manchu officials wherever they could. In the early 18th century, the Qing court finally felt secure enough to establish direct control over minority areas as well. This process, known as gaituguiliu (literally 'replace the local [ruler], return to mainstream [central rule]'), was carried out throughout South-West China gradually and, in general, peacefully. The court adopted a carrot and stick approach of lavish pensions for compliant chieftains, coupled with a huge show of military force on the borders of their territories.

Most of the Tujia areas returned to central control during the period 1728–1735. While the rule of the Qing government was more orderly compared to the rule of chieftains, many in the Tujia peasantry came to resent the attempts of the Qing court to impose national culture and customs on them. With the weakening of central Qing rule, numerous large-scale uprisings occurred, culminating in the violent Taiping Rebellion.

Recent history[edit]

Tujia village in current-day Yichang
Tujia brocade

Following the collapse of the Qing, the Tujia found themselves caught between various competing warlords. More and more land was given over to the cultivation of high-earning opium at the insistence of wealthy landlords and banditry was rife. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Tujia areas came under communist control and banditry was rapidly eradicated. The Great Leap Forward led to mass famine in Tujia communities.

The Tujia were officially recognized as one of the 55 ethnic minorities in January 1957 and a number of autonomous prefectures and counties were subsequently established.[3]

State Councillor Dai Bingguo, one of China's top officials on foreign policy, is the most prominent Tujia in the Chinese government.[4]


Today, traditional Tujia customs can only be found in the most remote areas.

The Tujia are renowned for their singing and song composing abilities and for their tradition of the Baishou dance (摆手舞), a 500-year-old collective dance which uses 70 ritual gestures to represent war, farming, hunting, courtship and other aspects of traditional life. They are also famous for their richly patterned brocade, known as xilankapu, a product that in earlier days regularly figured in their tribute payments to the Chinese court. For their spring festival they prepare handmade glutinous rice cakes called ciba cake. They gather round the fire to sing folk songs and eat grilled ciba.[5]

Regarding religion, most of the Tujia worship a white tiger totem, although some Tujia in western Hunan worship a turtle totem.


Tujia is a Sino-Tibetan language and is usually considered an isolate within this group. It has some grammatical and phonological similarities with Nuosu, though its vocabulary is very different.[6]

Today there are at most 70,000 native speakers of the Tujia language, most of whom live in the northern parts Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in North-Western Hunan Province.

The vast majority of the Tujia use varieties of Chinese, mainly Southwestern Mandarin; a few speak Hmongic languages. Few monolingual Tujia speakers remain; nearly all are bilingual in some dialect of Chinese. Children now learn Chinese from childhood and many young Tujia prefer to use Chinese when communicating among themselves. Among fluent Tujia speakers, Chinese borrowings and even sentence structures, are more common.


By province[edit]

Furong, an ancient town located in Yongshun County of Xiangxi, Hunan

The Fifth National Population Census of 2000 recorded 8,028,133 Tujia in China.

Provincial Distribution of the Tujia
Province Tujia Population % of Total
Hunan 2,639,534 32.88%
Hubei 2,177,409 27.12%
Guizhou 1,430,286 17.82%
Chongqing 1,424,352 17.74%
Guangdong 135,431 1.69%
Zhejiang 55,310 0.69%
Sichuan 41,246 0.51%
Fujian 29,046 0.36%
Other 95,519 1.19%

In Chongqing, Tujia make up 4.67% of the total population; in Hunan, 4.17%; in Guizhou, 4.06%; in Hubei, 3.66%; and in Guangdong, 0.16%.

By county[edit]

Distribution of Tujia people in China
Tujia autonomous prefectures and counties in China.
County-level distributions of the Tujia

(Only includes counties or county-equivalents containing >0.5% of China's Tujia population.)

Province Prefecture County Tujia Population % of China's Tujia Population
Chongqing Same Youyang 462,444 5.76%
Hunan Zhangjiajie Cili 399,906 4.98%
Hubei Enshi Lichuan 388,035 4.83%
Hunan Changde Shimen 387,480 4.83%
Guizhou Tongren Yanhe Tujia Autonomous County 383,499 4.78%
Chongqing same Shizhu 348,790 4.34%
Hunan Xiangxi Yongshun 342,570 4.27%
Hunan Zhangjiajie Yongding 319,330 3.98%
Guizhou Tongren Dejiang 300,432 3.74%
Hubei Enshi Xianfeng 276,394 3.44%
Hubei Enshi Enshi 270,753 3.37%
Chongqing Same Qianjiang 261,327 3.26%
Hunan Zhangjiajie Sangzhi 260,092 3.24%
Hunan Xiangxi Longshan 251,007 3.13%
Guizhou Tongren Yinjiang 233,802 2.91%
Hubei Enshi Badong 212,424 2.65%
Hubei Yichang Changyang 211,129 2.63%
Chongqing Same Xiushan 197,570 2.46%
Hubei Yichang Wufeng 174,546 2.17%
Hubei Enshi Jianshi 173,984 2.17%
Guizhou Tongren Sinan 160,089 1.99%
Hunan Xiangxi Baojing 148,291 1.85%
Hubei Enshi Hefeng 142,805 1.78%
Hubei Enshi Xuan'en 140,837 1.75%
Hunan Xiangxi Jishou 103,242 1.29%
Hunan Huaihua Yuanling 102,636 1.28%
Hubei Enshi Laifeng 93,471 1.16%
Guizhou Tongren Jiangkou 77,791 0.97%
Chongqing Same Pengshui 74,591 0.93%
Guizhou Tongren Tongren 70,286 0.88%
Hunan Xiangxi Fenghuang 64,727 0.81%
Hunan Xiangxi Guzhang 47,162 0.59%
Guizhou Zunyi Wuchuan 46,253 0.58%
Hunan Huaihua Xupu 45,900 0.57%
Hunan Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan 41,910 0.52%
Hunan Xiangxi Luxi 40,643 0.51%
Other 771,985 9.62%

Autonomous Areas Designated for Tujia[edit]

Province-level Division Name
Hunan Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
Hubei Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
Changyang Tujia Autonomous County
Wufeng Tujia Autonomous County
Chongqing Shizhu Tujia Autonomous County
Pengshui Miao and Tujia Autonomous County
Xiushan Tujia and Miao Autonomous County
Youyang Tujia and Miao Autonomous County
Qianjiang District (former Qianjiang Tujia and Miao Autonomous County)
Guizhou Yanhe Tujia Autonomous County
Yinjiang Tujia and Miao Autonomous County

Famous Tujia[edit]



  1. ^ "中國2010人口普查資料". Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  2. ^ 土家族族源 [Origins of the Tujia]. Xinhua. Archived from the original on 3 September 2006.
  3. ^ McLaren, Anne E. (2008). Performing Grief: Bridal Laments in Rural China. University of Hawaii Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-8248-3232-2. The Tujia people have been given the status of 'minority' by the People's Republic.
  4. ^ Lin, Li (2012). On Minority Rights. Paths International Ltd. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-84464-214-4. Hui Liangyu (Hui) was elected Vice Premier of the State Council and Dai Bingguo (Tujia) State Councillor.
  5. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "A special Spring Festival snack: The Tujia tradition of making 'ciba,' a glutinous rice cake". YouTube.
  6. ^ Brief Introduction to the Tujia Language


  • Brown, M.J. (2001). "Ethnic Classification and Culture: The Case of the Tujia in Hubei, China," Asian Ethnicity 2(1): 55–72.
  • Brown, M.J. (2004). "They Came with Their Hands Tied behind Their Backs" – Forced Migrations, Identity Changes, and State Classification in Hubei. Is Taiwan Chinese? (pp. 166–210). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Brown, M.J. (2007). "Ethnic Identity, Cultural Variation, and Processes of Change – Rethinking the Insights of Standardization and Orthopraxy". Modern China. 33(1): 91–124. Sage Publications.
  • ---- 2002. "Local Government Agency: Manipulating Tujia Identity," Modern China.
  • Ch'en, J. (1992). The Highlanders of Central China: A History 1895–1937. New York: M.E. Sharpe.
  • Dong, L. (1999). Ba feng Tu yun—Tujia wenhua yuanliu jiexi (Ba Manners, Tu Charm—An Analysis of the Origins of Tujia Culture). Wuhan: Wuhan Daxue Chubanshe.
  • Dong, L., Brown, M.J., Wu, X. (2002). Tujia. Encyclopedia of World Cultures – Supplement. C. Ember, M. Ember & I. Skoggard (eds.), NY: Macmillan Reference USA, pp. 351–354.
  • Huang B. (1999). "Tujiazu Zuyuan Yanjiu Zonglun" ("A Review of Research on Tujia Ancestral Origins"). In Tujia zu lizhi wenhua lunji (A Colloquium on Tujia History and Culture), edited by Huang Baiquan and Tian Wanzheng. 25–42. Enshi, Hubei: Hubei Minzu Xueyuan.
  • Li, S. (1993). Chuandong Youshui Tujia (Tujia of the Youshui River in East Sichuan). Chengdu: Chengdu Chubanshe.
  • Peng, B., Peng, X. et al. (1981). Jishou University Journal, Humanities Edition #2: Special Issue on Tujia Ethnography [in Chinese]. Jishou: Jishou University.
  • Shih C. (2001). "Ethnicity as Policy Expedience: Clan Confucianism in Ethnic Tujia-Miao Yongshun," Asian Ethnicity 2(1): 73–88.
  • Sutton, D. (2000). "Myth Making on an Ethnic Frontier: The Cult of the Heavenly Kings of West Hunan, 1715–1996," Modern China 26(4): 448–500.
  • Sutton, D. (2003). "Violence and Ethnicity on a Qing Colonial Frontier: Customary and Statutory Law in the Eighteenth-Century Miao Pale". In: Modern Asian Studies 37(1): 41–80. Cambridge University Press.
  • Sutton, D. (2007). "Ritual, Cultural Standardization, and Orthopraxy in China: Reconsidering James L. Watson’s Ideas". In: Modern China 33(1): 3–21. Sage Publications.
  • Tien, D., He, T., Chen, K., Li, J., Xie, Z., Peng, X. (1986). Tujiayu Jianzhi (A Brief Chronicle of the Tujia Language). Beijing: Minzu Chubanshe.
  • Wu, X. (1996). "Changes of chieftains' external policy in the Three Gorges Area in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties [1630s–1660s]". In: Ethnic Forum, (3): 88–92. (Hunan, China)
  • Wu, X. (1997). "Tujia's food-getting pattern in west Hubei in the Qing Dynasty". In: Journal of Hubei Institute for Nationalities, (2): 33–35. (Hubei, China)
  • Wu, X. (1997). "On the Tage Dance". In: Journal of Chinese Classics and Culture, (2): 22–29. (Beijing, China)
  • Wu, X. (2003). "Food, Ethnoecology and Identity in Enshi Prefecture, Hubei, China". (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Alberta, 388 pages).
  • Wu, X. (2003). "Turning Waste into Things of Value": Marketing Fern, Kudzu and Osmunda in Enshi Prefecture, China. In: Journal of Developing Societies, 19(4): 433–457.
  • Wu, X. (2004). "Ethnic Foods" and Regional Identity: the Hezha Restaurants in Enshi. In: Food and Foodways, 12(4): 225–246.
  • Wu, X. (2005). "The New Year's Eve Dinner and Wormwood Meal: Festival Foodways as Ethnic Markers in Enshi". In: Modern China, 31(3): 353–380.
  • Wu, X. (2006). "Maize, Ecosystem Transition and Ethnicity in Enshi Prefecture, China". In: East Asian History, 31(1): 1–22.
  • Wu, X. (2010). "Tujia National Minority". Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion.
  • Ye, D. (1995). Tujiayu yanjiu (Studies of the Tujia Language). Jishou, Hunan: Hunan Chu Wenhua Zhongxin, Jishou Daxue.

External links[edit]