The Zhuang people (Traditional Chinese: 壯族, Simplified Chinese: 壮族, Hanyu Pinyin: Zhungz; own name: Bouчcueŋь/Bouxcuengh) are an ethnic group of people who mostly live in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. Their population, estimated at 18 million people, puts them second only to the Han Chinese and makes the Zhuang the largest minority in China.

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The Zhuang are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. They live mostly in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. Some also live in the Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou and Hunan provinces.



There is an indigenous Zhuang language, which was formerly written in Chinese characters, but now is usually written in Roman letters, as with Vietnamese (Guangxi borders Vietnam).


Most Zhung follow a traditional animist/ancestor-oriented religion, however, there are a number of Buddhists, Daoists, Christians, and Muslims in Guāngxī as well.


The Zhuang are of Tai origin, a people who migrated south from central China roughly 5000 years ago. The Zhuang settled in what is now Guangxi, while other Tai peoples continued to migrate South to create the Lao, Thai and Shan peoples of Indochina. It is suggested the Tai peoples migrated for food purposes, as the culture developed a unique irrigation system which was useful for growing rice. As the soil was terrible for this purpose in Central China, the Tai sought out more fertile plains.

The Zhuang failed to record their history until the Dong (Eastern) Zhou dynasty (475-221 B.C.) of China. The Chinese referred to the area as Bai-Yue (the Hundred Yue - referring to the aborigines of southern China). Eastern Guangxi was conquered by the Han people under the Qin Dynasty in 214B.C. The Hans, to reform the area, built the Ling Canal to link the Xiang and Lijiang rivers and form a North-South waterway.

An independent state known as Nan Yue (Southern Yue) around Canton was created by General Zhao Tuo when the Qin Dynasty collapsed. This Kingdom was supported by the Zhuang until its collapse in 111 BC. The Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) thought the Zhuang culture unproductive, so they reduced local authority and consolidated their authority with Military posts at Guilin , Wuzhou, and Yulin.

In 42 AD an uprising in Tonkin was quelled by an army under General Ma Yuan, who sought not only victory on the battlefield but felt true concern for the Zhuang people. He reorganized the Zhuang Local Authority, improved public works, dug canals and reclaimed land to increase production. His work brought the Zhuang into a more modern condition, and temples in his honor can still be seen to this day.

An influx of immigrant Yao's from Hunan after the collapse of the Han Dynasty caused the region to become unstable as the Yao showed hostility to assimilation. The Guiping area of Guangxi, where the Yao settled, would become a hotbed of revolution against Han rule, causing the Zhuang people to suffer terribly, despite their passive stance on assimilation.

Under the Tang Dynasty Guangxi became part of Ling-nan Tao (large province) with present day Hainan and Guangdong. The noted scholar Liu Zongyuan was prefectural administrator at Liuzhou. Irked by Chinese expansion, However, the Zhuang moved to support the Tai kingdom of Nanchao in Yunnan. Guangxi was then divided into an area of Zhuang ascendancy west of Nanning and an area of Han ascendancy east of Nanning.

After the collapse of the Tang a new Chinese Kingdom known as Nan Han (Southern Han) based in Guangdong gained minimal control over the Zhuang, but the Nan Han Kingdom was plagued by instability and it was annexed by the Song Dynasty of China in 971. The Nan Han rule of the Zhuang was marked by minimal interference in Zhuang affairs by the Chinese rulers.

The Song developed a new way of dealing with the Zhuang that was a combination of force and appeasement, a policy that neither satisfied the aspirations of the Zhuang nor ended the savage warfare brought to the region by the Yao against the Chinese. In 1052 a Zhuang leader, Nong Zhigao, led a revolt and set up an independent kingdom in the Southwest. The Revolt was crushed, and the Song rule became more brutal, causing the region to spasm in revolt against the Chinese.

After the Yuan Dynasty liquidated the Song, they spent several years deciding what to do with the Zhuang. Weary of the bad relationship previous Chinese rulers had with the region, they decided to make it a full province of China rather then let it remain an occupied territory. This only caused greater stress as the Zhuang and Yao felt alienated, and hated direct rule from the Chinese Government. Further complicating Zhuang aspirations, another aboriginal peoples, the Miao, left Guizhou and Hunan for the Zhuang lands.

The area continued to be unruly, forcing the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to impose an underhanded way of dealing with it; The Ming would give Tribal leaders of the Zhuang an army to attack the Yao. Once the Yao were devastated, the Ming used the armies they had given the Zhuang leaders to kill the Zhuang Leaders, and force a leaderless Zhuang society under their heavy handed rule. This resulted in perhaps the bloodiest period of history in a relatively calm region. The battle of Rattan Gorge in 1465 in which 20,000 deaths were reported. Needless to say, the Ming policy failed miserably, but the larger cities in the region did prosper under Ming Economic reform.

The Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) let the region remain in chaos until 1726 when they imposed direct rule as the Yuan had. This was also a failed venture as a Yao revolution took place in 1831. Twenty years later in 1850, the same area witnessed the Taiping Rebellion break out. The execution of a French Missionary lead to the Second Opium war in 1858. The Franco-Chinese War of 1885 put Vietnam under French supremacy and opened up the area to foreign encroachment. All of this caused a constant economic depression through the 19th century.

Together with neighboring Guangdong, Guangxi became an area of Sun Yat-sen's Nationalist revolution. With the fall of the Qing, the Zhuang sent representatives to the central government to campaign for Guangxi autonomy, but when years of protocol failed, the "Guangxi Clique" turned to open revolt in 1927. Maintaining a defiant self-rule stance for two years, the Zhuang leaders of Li Tsung-jen and Li Chi-shen modernized Guangxi, but Chiang Kai-shek ruthlessly crushed their revolt in 1929. Despite the Clique's failure, Chiang could not put Guangxi under direct provincial rule, and it remained unruly until 1950. The Kuomintang's suppression of Guangxi lead to widespread support of Communism.

During World War II Guangxi was a major target of Japanese attacks, who invaded the coast in 1939. The famous patriotic newspaper National Salvation Daily was printed at Guilin. In 1944 the Japanese launched a major offensive to take the western half of Guangxi, but with relentless Zhuang guerillas and a Chinese counterattack, the Japanese were routed.

In 1958, after centuries of being under Chinese rule the Zhuang finally achieved the aspiration which eluded them for so long: autonomy. Since the creation of the Zhuang Autonomous Region of Guangxi, the Zhuang have settled back into the 1st century idealism: remaining unique, remaining Zhuang, but being an integral part of China. Some say this has gone too far, as the Zhuang are being totally assimilated. The elderly Zhuang feel alienated as the language has been reformed, and they no longer can write Zhuang in the new way, and the Zhuang Autonomous Region of Guangxi has been marked by perpetual economic depression since 1970.

Etymological Note

The name of the Zhuang minority used to be written 獞. This character contains the "Animal" radical, which is also used in the characters for animals and other characters whose meanings have negative connotations. Because of this fact, it was considered an ethnic slur. In 1949, the animal radical was replaced with the "Person" radical, and the character became 僮. Eventually, the character was replaced with 壯, a previously existing character meaning "sturdy" or "strong". ¹


  1. Defrancis, John (1984). The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy, pp. 117. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824808665.

Chinese ethnic groups (classification by PRC government)

Achang - Bai - Blang - Bonan - Buyei - Chosen - Dai - Daur - De'ang - Derung - Dong - Dongxiang - Ewenki - Gaoshan - Gelao - Gin - Han - Hani - Hezhen - Hui - Jingpo - Jino - Kazak - Kirgiz - Lahu - Lhoba - Li - Lisu - Man - Maonan - Miao - Monba - Mongol - Mulao - Naxi - Nu - Oroqen - Pumi - Qiang - Russ - Salar - She - Sui - Tajik - Tatar - Tu - Tujia - Uygur - Uzbek - Va - Xibe - Yao - Yi - Yugur - Zang - Zhuang


es:Zhuang fr:Zhuang ja:チワン族 nl:Zhuang zh-cn:壮族


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