An Introduction to the Ethnic Minority Groups of China – Part 1 – the Miao and Uyghur People

Written by Harry Wilson

In this new series, it is our goal to introduce you to the areas in which the ethnic groups of China live. Each blog post will introduce you to the region and the customs of a few groups, giving advice on places to visit as well as the best times of the year if you wish to have the best cultural experience.   China has 55 official minority groups and today’s post will take you on a journey through the regions of two of them, namely those of the Miao and Uyghur people.

The Miao ethnic people are mainly found in Southwest China and are most well-known for their embroidered products made by the Miao ladies.  The Miao ladies (often referred to as Hmong ladies) learn both Batik and embroidery from the age of six or seven and spend years mastering this craft.  They use embroidery to tell stories and record their cultural heritage, which in 2006 was named Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.

Miao Lady in a hand-embroidered dress

The Miao people live in over 700 cities throughout the South of China and number over seven million, with the around one-third of China’s Miao people living in the Wuling and Miaoling mountain range in the Guangxi Autonomous Region and in the Guizhou Province.  Mount Fanjing is the highest peak in this mountain range and is found in the Guizhou province, where many Miao tribes are located.  Most of these areas have a rather mild climate with large amounts of rainfall.   The Miao people are extremely self-sufficient and live in houses which are one or two stories.  The rear of the house is built on the mountain slope and the front typically rests on stilts.  Grain is stored in the ceiling and the bottom of the house is typically used to keep livestock and poultry.

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A village heavily populated by Miao people in the Guizhou Province

There are dozens of Miao festivals throughout the year.  One of the most important festivals is the offering of sacrifice to ancestors which are performed at fixed dates throughout the year.   The Miao people farm and hunt extremely diligently during the appropriate seasons and sacrifices following these seasons are common in order to help the people socialize and celebrate.  During holidays such as the Spring Festival (lunar New Year) the Miao people participate in songs, dances, horse races, reed-pipe wind music, and dating.  All of these events are rich in cultural heritage.  Take a look at the video below to get an insight into the Miao people, their region, customs and festivals:

The Miao people are extremely hospitable and will always keep their house open to guests, who are greeted with both wine and songs.   If you visit the region, make sure you prepare for the weather, but mainly for an amazingly rich variety of high quality embroidered clothing, incredibly spicy food (mainly rice-based dishes) and an outstanding cultural experience!

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A variety of rice in different colors prepared by the Miao people (ranging in spiciness)

The second ethnic group which we will discuss in this post is the Uyghur people.  They are a Turkic ethnic group found across East and Central Asia.  The majority of Uyghurs live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China.  This region borders several countries such as Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan amongst others.   The borders of this region are largely occupied by several mountain ranges including the rugged Karakoram, Kunlun and Tian Shan ranges.

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The Eastern portion of the Tianshan mountain range in Xinjiang was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 with the rest of the range following suit in 2016.    

Modern-day Uyghurs are primarily Muslim and constitute the second largest Muslim group in China after the Hui people.

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An Uyghur mosque in Khotan By Colegota – Own work 

The most interesting cultural aspects of the Uyghur people are found in the music, dance and arts.  Uyghur folk music is produced using several handmade instruments including the Dutar, Khushtar and Rawap and examples of several traditional Uyghur instruments can be seen and heard by clicking the following link:

This traditional music is often accompanied by the Sanam dance which is a popular folk dance.  It is commonly seen at weddings, festivities and parties.  It is a group dance which is most often seen during Newruz (New Year) and the dances are often accompanied by singers or people playing the traditional Uyghur hand-drum known as the dap.

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A variety of Uyghur instruments found in a local store

Uyghur food is a combination of Central Asian and Chinese cuisine.  One of the most famous Uyghur dishes is polu (known also as pilaf) and is typically served with carrots, mutton and rice.

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A typical Uyghur dish of polu by Rjanag – Own work












When visiting an Uyghur area, be prepared for similar levels of hospitality,  lots of meat-based dishes, hauntingly beautiful music and traditional clothing such as the Chapan and Doppa.

We hope that you have enjoyed this unique insight into the areas and customs of the Miao and Uyghur people and will come back soon for an introduction to another selection of fascinating ethnic groups!

About Interact China

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

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