Miao Dong Yao
Officially, there are 56 different nationalities in China. Among them, 55 are ethnic minorities while the overwhelming majority, the Han, represents 91,8% of the total population of the country. The minorities represent 8,2% of the population, i.e. the large number of 106 430 000 people. Most of the time, these minorities live in mountainous or desertic areas at the very end of China’s borders while the Han are living in plains and urban zones. The word ‘nationality’ can cover several ethnies. Some of these people have assimilated themselves and thus become quite chinese, others have left the fertile plains for the mountains in order to protect themselves and have remained isolated. The latter have kept their ancient customs, language and beliefs, preserving their identity in front of the huge Han majority who invaded their areas. Today these ethnies are part of the Chinese nation but it has not always been the case. It is sometimes surprising to find in Chinese press, stories using the notion of ‘national minorities’ when talking of relations between China and people whowere living outside of its boundaries at the time.
The four main ethnolinguistic families
In China, the different ethnies are part of 4 main ethnolinguistic families with very diferent sizes :
• The ethnies are classified from the bigger number of people to the smaller, data in parentesis is taken from official chinese sources (November 2001) • ** Percentage given for the ethnic minorities, not for the Han. We introduce here 3 ethnics minorities who live in the area where ‘Couleurs de Chine’ is acting : Miao, Yao and Dong.