The Buyi of Southwest Guizhou


The Buyi live in south and southwest Guizhou province. They call themselves Buyi or Buyue. Some branches call themselves Bunong, Bumin, etc.

Their language and culture are closely related with Zhuang language and culture. Some scholars consider that the separation of the Buyi and the Zhuang is more politic than linguistic or cultural.

If they share with the Zhuang a common language and culture, with Han Chinese and Miao they share a common territory, with the Buyi and Han usually living in the lowlands and Miao in the mountains.

Their old history is unknown for us today. Some writers think they are the descendants of the old Liao, others think they belonged to the Baiyue peoples of South China. They have been related also to the Baipu (Hundreds Pu) and Yelang Kingdom. All these ethnic and politic entities existed in the past in the territory now inhabited by the Buyi, so they can be related to some of them.

The Buyi are one of the most numerous minorities in China. Nevertheless, in spite of their number and of their interesting culture, largely preserved until today, they are one of the less known minorities. Their complex form of understand the world seems to have passed unnoticed for anthropologists and travelers.

Nevertheless, their villages are of the most interesting that can be seen in China, because the Buyi are the best artisans working the stone. All the houses are made of finely cut stone, forming a splendid, harmonic and original group.

Their mastery in the work of the stone has a certain religious component. Because the Buyi have some deep beliefs connected with the myths of their old culture that none of the big religions (Buddhism, Taoism and later Christianist), has been able to banish. Their deep religiosity is transmitted to all the facets of their existence.

This can be due to the dialectal varieties of their language, or maybe because several ethnic groups with close linguistic and cultural relations have been included under the denomination "Buyi."

The Buyi are 2.971.500 inhabitants, according to the census of the year 2000. Their population has been slowly increasing during the last years, as they were 2.545.792 in 1990 national census, and 2.120.469 inhabitants in 1982 census.

They live mainly in the southwest part of Guizhou province. A few of them live in Yunnan, and even less in Sichuan.

The Buyi has the following autonomous administrative entities:

Qiannan Buyi and Miao Autonomous prefecture.
South of Guizhou, with a surface of 26.000 km2, and a population (in 1990) of 2.950.000 inhabitants, of those 909.000 are Buyi and 330.000 Miao.

Qianxinan Buyi and Miao Autonomous prefecture.
Southwest of Guizhou, with a surface of 16.000 km2, and a population (in 1990) of 2.166.000 inhabitants, of those 638.000 are Buyi and 105.000 Miao.

Zhenning Buyi and Miao Autonomous County.
South of Anshun, with a surface of 1718 km2, and a population (in 1990) of 268.000 inhabitants, of those 110.000 are Buyi and 26.000 Miao.

Guanling Buyi and Miao Autonomous County.
Southwest of Anshun, with a surface of 1473 km2, and a population (in 1990) of 243.000 inhabitants, of those 52.000 are Buyi and 22.000 Miao.

The Buyi language belongs to the Sino - Tibetan family, Zhuang-Dong subfamily, Zhuang-Dai branch. Their language has so many similarities with the Zhuang language that some authors affirm that they are the same ethnic entity, called Buyi in Guizhou and Zhuang in Guangxi.

It has three dialects:

1. South Guizhou or Qiannam dialect.
2. Central Guizhou or Qianzhong dialect.
3. Western Guizhou or Qianxi dialect.

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