An Introduction to China's Bouyei People

Bouyei Woman
Bouyei Woman | © http://veton.picq.fr / WikiCommons
Photo of Rachel Deason
9 May 2018
View

Number over 2.5 million, the Bouyei make up the 11th largest ethnic group in China and one of the largest in the country’s diverse south.

Though the Bouyei people, also commonly known as Buyi, are one of China’s 56 officially recognized ethnic groups, they see themselves as part of the Zhuang, China’s largest minority group. They do indeed share similarities with the Zhuang but maintain their own language, style of dress, and homeland.

Homeland

Aside from those who live in Vietnam, most Bouyei can be found in the mild forests of Guizhou province, as well as in parts of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. They are spread out across the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, where rugged beauty abounds in all forms. The semi-tropical environment of the plateau, where the annual average temperature sits at a pleasant 16°C (61°F), has lent itself well to Bouyei’s cultivation of crops from rice to sorghum, cocoa to cotton.

Parts of the Bouyei homeland have become popular tourist destinations, such as Dragon’s Palace Cave and Huangguoshu Falls, but luckily for the Bouyei themselves, their communities have yet to garner the attention of those who would see to steal their authenticity.

Guizhou | © Jonathan Kos-Read / Flickr

History

It is believed that the Bouyei are descendants of the ancient Liao people who blended with other tribes, producing the Bouyei, Zhuang, Dong, and Dai.

China as a whole has a long history of referring to all outsiders as barbarians. Thus, up until the Tang dynasty, the Bouyei were known as the “Zhong Barbarians” or “Barbarians in the Southwest.” Under Tang rule, however, the Bouyei gained local representation, becoming part of the feudal system that would define China for hundreds of years.

China’s last dynasty, the Qing, abolished the feudal system, replacing it with a landlord economy in which army officials lorded over large groups of people at once. This spelled disaster for the Bouyei and other agricultural peoples. Together, such groups formed a rebellion in 1797, during which many Bouyei emigrated to Vietnam.

Buyi Flute-playing depicted on a parasol | © 三猎 / WikiCommons

Culture

Interestingly, the Bouyei have one of the best preserved minority cultures in China but also one of the least academically studied.

Whole Bouyei villages still stand, most of which contain no more than 100 houses centered around a banyan or camphor tree. The houses themselves are typically two stories, the first for livestock and the second for the family.

Handicrafts have long been and are still being created by the Bouyei, particularly cloth-weaving and batik-dyeing. Other folk traditions have been preserved as well, from a unique style of drama to local holidays and festivals that celebrate Bouyei gods and ancestors.

Language is one of the only ways the Bouyei are not unique as an ethnic group. They speak a language very similar to the Zhuang, so much so that it is categorized by some as a dialect.

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel – and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travellers and friends who want to explore the world together.

Epic Trips are deeply immersive 8 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and enough down time to really relax and soak it all in. Our Mini Trips are small and mighty - they squeeze all the excitement and authenticity of our longer Epic Trips into a manageable 3-5 day window. Our Sailing Trips invite you to spend a week experiencing the best of the sea and land in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm – and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"