Ethnic Minorities of China

Chinese Ethnic Minorities - Portrait Photography - Thierry Bornier

China is a diverse country, both in terms of landscapes and peoples. The ethnic minorities of China has made up a part of the cultural landscape for hundreds of years. The largest group of ethnic minorities that is recognized is the Han, who make up approximately 90% of the Chinese population. The remaining groups, have been identified as 55 separate communities that have their own customs, festivals, food and costumes. China has recognized that it is a country made up of many diverse peoples and customs. As a way to preserve the culture of the 56 minorities, the government has established a series of policies to maintain harmony amongst the diverse groups.

While minorities can be found throughout the country, some areas are home to more than others. In the Yunnan province, over 25 different minority groups can be found – including the Hani who are responsible for the iconic rice terraces that fascinate Thierry. When referring to sheer numbers, more than 16 million individuals from ethnic minorities live in Zhuang.

Some of China’s Ethnic Minorities:


This is China’s largest ethnic minority and can be found in nearly all regions of China. Like many of the other minority groups, they have their own set of distinct cultural practices and way of life. This group is the largest and most dominant group in China and has representatives within all parts of the county, government and beyond. 


The Hani peoples have traditionally been found between the Yuan and Lantsang Rivers in southern China. Beyond their impressive engineering abilities that can be seen in their beautiful (and practical) rice terrace they are a very spiritual group. They have strong traditions honoring their gods and ancestors. 


This is one of the groups with the most distribution throughout China, with the highest concentration living in the northwest. Hui peoples are active practitioners of Islam. The religion is engrained in their day-to-day life and distinguish them greatly from some of the other minorities that can also be found in the area.


This group is primarily found in Inner Mongolia in Northern China. They are most well known for their affinity to horses and animal husbandry.


This is one of the largest groups with the most spread worldwide. They have spread across all major continents, including parts of southern Asia, Europe, Oceana and North America. One of their most recognized qualities are their skills in handicrafts such as paper cutting, weaving and embroidery.


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