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You are here:      Home Information Ethnic Minority

Total population: 2,971,460 (2000)
Languages: Tai languages, Chinese
Religion: Animism, Buddhism, Christianity
Related ethnic groups: Zhuang

Buyei minority Shitou village, west GuizhouThe Buyei (also spelled Puyi, Bouyei and Buyi; Vietnamese are an ethnic group living in southern mainland China. Numbering 2.5 million, they are the 11th largest of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. Some Buyei also live in Vietnam, where they are one of that nation's 54 officially recognized ethnic groups. Despite the Chinese considering them a separate group, they consider themselves Zhuang (Tai peoples).

The Buyei live in semi-tropical, high-altitude forests of Guizhou province, as well as in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, and speak a Tai language. Traditionally they practice animism, although some have now converted to Christianity.

The Buyei speak the Buyei language which is very close to the Zhuang language. There is a dialect continuum between these two. The Buyei language has its own written form which was created by linguists in the 1950s based on the Latin alphabet and with spelling conventions similar for the Pinyin system that had been devised to romanise Chinese.

Vietnamese postage stamp depicting Buyei in traditional dressThe Buyei are the native Tai peoples of the plains of Guizhou. They are one of the oldest peoples of China, living in the area for more than 2,000 years. Prior to the establishment of the Tang dynasty, the Buyei and Zhuang were linked together; the differences between both ethnic groups grew greater and from year 900 already they were two different groups. The Qing dynasty abolished the system of local heads and commanded in its place to officials of the army which caused a change in the local economy; from then on, the land was in the hands of a few landowners, which caused the population to revolt. During the Rebellion of Nanlang in 1797, the Buyei underwent a strong repression that caused many of them to emigrate to neighboring Vietnam.


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