Photographic book

People of China


Chinese woman
Chinese woman

The Chinese population is approximately 93 per cent ethnic, or Han, Chinese. The Chinese are primarily of Mongolian stock and are differentiated within China not so much by ethnic as by linguistic variation. The 7 per cent minority population is settled over nearly 60 per cent of China’s area. This gives the non-Han peoples of China a significance that looms larger than their percentage of the population might suggest. China is a multinational country, with a population composed of a large number of ethnic and linguistic groups. The Han (Chinese), the largest group, outnumber the minority groups or minority nationalities in every province or autonomous region except Tibet and Xinjiang. The Han, therefore, form the great homogeneous mass of the Chinese people, sharing the same culture, the same traditions, and the same written language. For this reason, the general basis for classifying the country’s population is largely linguistic rather than ethnic.

Some 55 minority groups are spread over approximately three-fifths of the country’s total area. Where these minority groups are found in large numbers, they have been given some semblance of autonomy and self-government; autonomous regions of several types have been established on the basis of the geographic distribution of nationalities. The government takes great credit for its treatment of these minorities; it has advanced their economic well-being, raised their living standards, provided educational facilities, promoted their national languages and cultures, and raised their literacy levels, as well as introduced a written language where none existed previously.

It must be noted, however, that some minorities (e.g., Tibetans) have been subject to varying degrees of repression. Still, of the 50-odd minority languages, only 20 had written forms before the coming of the communist regime in 1949; and only relatively few written languages—e.g., Mongolian, Tibetan, Uighur, Kazakh (Hasake), Dai, and Korean (Chaoxian)—were in everyday use. Other written languages were used chiefly for religious purposes and by a limited number of people. Educational institutions for national minorities are a feature of many large cities, notably Beijing, Wuhan, Chengdu, and Lanzhou. "China" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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