extends backwards in time some 4,000 years. Through
a long period of history, China has played a major role
in the development of the world civilization, and made
great contributions to human advancement.
China has a land mass of 9.6 million square
kilometers, making it almost as large as the combined
nations of Europe. China's borders reach from the confluence
of the Heilong River and the Wusuli River in the east
to the Pamir Mountains in the west, taking in more than
60 degrees of longitude for a total of about 5,000 kilometers.
From the center of the Heilong River near Mohe in the
north to the Zengmu Reef in the Nansha Archipelago in
the south, China extends 5,500 kilometers, covering
more than 50 degrees of latitude.
On this vast expanse of China's richly
endowed land live 56 ethnic groups with a total population
of 1.248 billion. [This figure, taken at the end of
1998, does not include figures of Hong Kong, Macao and
Taiwan.] In the long course of developing the land they
have become an intelligent, brave and industrious people
with a rich tradition. By their common work they have
brought into being a collective creation, developing
the Chinese economy and creating a great culture.
In China, the Han people make China's
and the world's largest ethnic group, making up 91.96
per cent of the country's population.
The formation and development of the
Han people was a continuous process of integration of
the earliest Huaxia tribe with other related tribes
and ethnic groups. It was in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D.
220) that they adopted the name "Han"; their
language belongs to the Han group of the Chinese-Tibetan
A people first active along the Yellow
River, the Hans later expanded and gradually moved to
fill the country; the highest population concentrations
are now in the Yellow River, the Yangtze and the Zhujiang
River basins and on the Songhua-Liaohe River Plain in
Northeast China. In the long course of history they
have developed various political, economic and cultural
contacts with other nationalities to become more advanced;
Hans now play an overwhelming role in the life of the
The population of the other 55 ethnic
minority groups adds up to 8.04 per cent of China's
population. But there is a great difference in the size
of these minority nationalities. The ethnic minority
groups with over a million people include: Zhuang, Manchu,
Hui, Miao, Uygur, Yi, Tujia, Tibetan, Mongolian, Bouyei,
Dong, Yao, Korean, Bai, Hani, Li, Kazak and Dai, 18
in all. The largest of these is the Zhuang, with a total
of more than 15 million people.
Those with populations between 100,000
and one million each are the She, Lisu, Gelo, Lahu,
Dongxiang, Va, Shui, Naxi, Qiang, Tu, Xibe, Mulam, Kirgiz,
Daur and Jingpo.
Those with a population of 10,000 to
100,000 each are the Blang, Salar, Maonan, Tajik, Pumi,
Achang, Nu, Ewenki, Jing, Jino, Deang, Ozbek, Russian,
Yugur and Bonan. Those whose population is below 10,000
are the Moinba, Oroqen, Drung, Tatar, Oroqen, Hezhe,
Gaoshan (excluding those in Taiwan) and Lhoba.
Although small in number, the peoples
of the various ethnic minorities inhabit 50 to 60 per
cent of the country. This area includes Inner Mongolia,
Xinjiang, Tibet, Guangxi, Ningxia, Heilongjiang, Jilin,
Liaoning, Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou,
Guangdong, Hunan, Hebei, Hubei, Fujian and Taiwan.
Ethnic minorities live in places with
the following common characteristics:
1) A wide expanse of land with a sparse
distribution of population. Many minority peoples have
traditionally established their villages in mountainous
and pastoral areas, on high plateaus and in deep forests.
2) A wide range of products and abundant
3) Strategically important as border
regions for the whole country.
vicissitudes of time, war, migration and seizure of
lands throughout history have produced many shifts of
population in the border areas. Various ethnic minorities
live both mingled together and as separate compact communities.
Some minority nationalities live widely scattered over
the country, though they may also have one or two communities.
A permanent presence of several dozen millions of ethnic
minority people can be found in the country's big and
small cities and towns. So, with mutual influence on
each other in economy, politics and culture, they have
formed close ties with the Han people.