With a population of approximately 8 million people, the Tujia is an ethnic minority found in the provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan and Guizhou. The Tujia have a long history with 2,000 years and their ancestors first immigrated to the western parts of Hunan and Hubei.
They live mainly on agriculture and fish. Industrial crops, such as tung oil and tea are the main economic drivers in the area. Tourism is also popular, driven by scenic spots such as Zhangjiajie, Mt. Wuling and Mt. Wudang, which have attracted tens of thousands of people. The natural abundance of the area and its great scenery are indeed a source of pride for the Tujia people.
There are several conflicting versions of the origin of the Tujias. Some say they are the descendants of the ancient Ba people; others claim they came from Jiangxi Province in the east at the end of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). In any case, the Tujia was a distinct ethnic group in western Hunan by the early Five Dynasties period, around the year 910. The Tujia ethnic group was officially recognized as one of the 55 ethnic groups in 1957 by the Chinese government.
Language and Religion
The Tujia language belongs to the Tibeto- Burman group of the Sino-Tibetan language family, yet it is only used in a few areas today. Since there are no written version of the Tujia language, the language of the Han is most often used among Tujia people.
Like many minority groups in China, the Tujia people believe in the power of ancestors and gods. White tigers are highly revered and are thought to prevent evil. White tiger worship is quite significant among the group as they call themselves “Offspring of the White Tiger.” The belief sprang from a legend about an ancient leader of Tujia defeating enemies and helping his people settle down. He gained respect and esteem of his people and he turned into a white tiger after his death. Statues of white tigers can still be found in homes of most Tujia families as a protector. And the white tiger worship also can be seen in their wedding decorations and traditional dances.
Not surprisingly, their main staples are rice and corn. Wine, brewed out of glutinous rice and pickled vegetables are common culinary items. An additional breakfast is included during the busy harvest.
Tujia brocade is one of the traditional handcrafts of Tujia and regarded as one of the four excellent brocades of ethnic minorities in China. Traditional Tujia brocade is hand-knitted, using organic materials such linen, cotton and silk.
Tujia brocade is called Xi Lan Ka Pu, which means quilt with embroidered patterns in Tujia’s language. It has been widely used in Tujia people’s daily life as bedcover, cover for baby’s cradle and accessory in skirt and etc. Tujia people have enjoyed it for more than 1,000 years due to its beautiful appearance and durableness. It is woven by hand, with blue, black, red, and white threads going lengthwise and silk, cotton and wool of many kinds of colors going across. It has tight structure, bright and beautiful colors and unique patterns, showing significant artistry.
Traditionally, Tujia women wear jackets trimmed with lace and with short, broad sleeves. They wear long skirts, and wrap their coiled hair in cloth. They adorn themselves with necklaces, earrings, bracelets and ankle bracelets. Tujia men wear short jackets with many buttons in front. The traditional hand-woven "xi" and "tong" cloth with intricate designs are the main material for clothing. In pre-1949 times, the gentry wore furs in winter, while the poor peasants wore thin garments and were cold.
Diaojiaolou, House of Tujia Ethnic Group
Their houses, known as Diaojiaolou are very functional and similar to those of the Miao. On the lower floor, there is livestock; while the girls' bedrooms are kept upstairs. This design focuses on the use of small rooms but is also well ventilated, damp-proof and clean.
The girl of Tujia ethnic group is ready to cry after she is engaged. The procedure is crying with mother, with sister-in-law, then with the female neighbors every night. Both cry with handkerchief on bed, and the others are sobbing. It will last 7-10 days until the bride is tired.
Crying-wedding is mainly to describe the sad feelings of the leaving home, to pay gratitude of being treated kindly by relatives, to curse the matchmaker and to encourage the bride. Crying- wedding symbols the girl’s wit, kindness and maturity. They learn to cry wedding when they are 12 or 13 and the tune is harmonious.