The Qiang people 羌族


Chinese Name: 羌族

English Name: The Qiang people

Languages: Qiangic language 羌语, Chinese 汉语

Total population: 3.1*105 (China mainland 2022)

Distribution: Mainly distributed in Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province

The Qiang people  羌族
The Qiang people 羌族

Brief introduction

The Qiang people 羌族 originated from the ancient Qiang which is an ancient ethnic group in western China. The ancient Qiang has had an extensive and far-reaching influence on the historical development of China and the formation of the Chinese nation. The national language of the Qiang nationality is the Qiang language, which is a group of related languages within the Sino-Tibetan language family 汉藏语系.

The Qiang people  羌族

The history of the Qiang people

The Qiang people originated from the ancient Qiang. The ancient Qiang people are famous in the world for herding sheep. They are not only an important part of the Huaxia 华夏 but also have extensive and far-reaching influences on the historical development of China and the formation of the Chinese nation.

“Qiang” was originally a general term for the nomadic tribes living in the western part of the motherland in ancient times. The Yellow River 黃河, Huangshui 湟水河, Tao River 洮河, Datong River 大通河 and the upper reaches of Sichuan Minjiang River in today’s Gansu and Qinghai are the activity centres of the ancient Qiang people. In the late Ming 明 and early Qing 清 dynasties, a part of the Qiang people moved from Sichuan to the Tongren area of Guizhou. So far, the distribution pattern of the Qiang people was basically formed.

The religion of the Qiang people

The Qiang people generally believe in primitive religions, namely, animism, polytheism and ancestor worship, except for some of the neighbouring Tibetan areas who believe in Tibetan Buddhism 藏传佛教. The gods are symbolized by white quartz stone and are worshipped in the mountains, woodlands, roofs and indoors. Generally, there are five white stones at the four corners of the roof of the watchtower, which symbolize the gods of the sky, the gods of the earth, the gods of the mountains, the goddess of the mountains and the gods of trees.

The Cultures of the Qiang people

Qiang clothing 羌族服饰

Qiang costumes vary slightly from place to place. Among them, the national costumes of Songpan County 松潘县 are representative. The Qiang people all wear long gowns made of cotton or brocade, with a loose right hem and a shape similar to a cheongsam.

The Qiang people  羌族
Qiang clothing 羌族服饰

The colour of clothing varies with age. Middle-aged and elderly people are mostly blue and black, while young girls prefer bright colours. The collar, cuffs and front placket are decorated with flowers, and the slanted placket is inlaid with patterns of one to three finger widths, and some are inlaid with plum-shaped silver ornaments, all of which are handcrafted.

In decoration, women generally like to wear silver medals, collar flowers, earrings, bracelets, rings, hairpins, and some also inlaid agate, jade and coral on the rings. Adult men usually wear waist knives and tobacco pouches.

The Qiang people  羌族
Qiang clothing 羌族服饰

Qiang diet 羌族饮食

The Qiang people have a rich diet. The staple food is mainly corn, potato, wheat, and highland barley, supplemented by buckwheat, oil wheat and various beans, and there are various kinds of vegetables. Traditional diets include stir-fry, corn steamed, potato cakes, boiled potato, pork fat and so on. The Qiang people generally smoke orchid cigarettes, and they also like to drink alcohol, which is quite popular in the Qiang area.

Qiang architecture 羌族建筑

The Qiang people generally build houses in the sunny, leeward, high mid-mountain or river valley areas with arable land and water sources, and a few or dozens of households form natural villages. Buildings are roughly divided into two categories: Diaolou 碉楼 and Diaofang 碉房.

The Qiang people  羌族
Diaolou 碉楼

Diaolou is an ancient architectural relic, which is used to defend against the enemy and store food and firewood. Most of them stand in the vicinity and centre of the pass or the village. They are built with stone. The appearance is majestic, solid and practical. The top is thin and the bottom is thick, the edges and corners are prominent, and the structure is tight. There are six or seven floors, and the highest is thirteen or four.

The Qiang people  羌族
Diaofang 碉房

Diaofang is a living room. It is square and generally divided into three layers. Grain is stacked in the upper layer, people in the middle layer, and livestock in the lower layer. The floors are connected by a zigzag staircase made of single wood.

Qiang manner 羌族礼仪

The Qiang people still maintain ancient life etiquette. After the child is born, the son-in-law will bring gifts to the mother-in-law’s house to announce the good news. Relatives and friends visit mothers with clothes, wish rice, eggs and noodles.

Qiang men hold a coming-of-age ceremony when they reach the age of fifteen. Every time they come to this important festival, relatives and friends sit around the fire pit, and the recipients wear new clothes, kneel and bow to the shrine at home, and receive gifts. Finally, the elders of the clan narrate the history of the ancestors and worship the family gods and many gods.

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