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History and Culture Background
Special> Aftermath of the Quake> Timeless Qiang Culture> History and Culture Background
UPDATED: July 11, 2008 Web Exclusive
The ancient Qiang minority group has had a big impact on China's history

The history of the Qiang ethnic group, one of the oldest minority groups in China, can be traced back to the period of Yan Di and Huang Di, two legendary rulers of ancient times, also referred to as ancestors of China. Records of the group can be found on inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells from the Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C.-1046 B.C.).

The ancient Qiang minority group has had a big impact on China's history and the development of its diverse nationalities. "The main tribes in China's first kingdom Xia (2070 B.C.-1600 B.C.) were Qiang people," said historian Xu Zhongshu who has contributed to researching the history of Qiang people lived in Sichuan. Both legend and historical records show that Yu the Great, founder of the Xia Dynasty (2070 B.C.-1600 B.C) and reputed tamer of floods, was born in Beichuan, a Qiang inhabited area in the northwest of Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

The ancient Qiang peoples lived mainly in Gansu and Qinghai provinces, and the upper reaches of the Minjiang River in Sichuan Province in northwest China. They were in many different tribes and lived a nomadic life without a firm home, some engaged in agricultural production.

During the Zhou Dynasty (1046 B.C.-256 B.C.), some Qiang people were moved to the Central Plains, the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, that encompasses Hebei, west Shandong, and most parts of the Henan and south Shanxi provinces.

Qiang People living in Gansu, Qinghai, and Huangshuihe River drainage areas ate less grain in their diet and had more wild animals and birds as staple food, as they hunted throughout the Spring and Autumn Period (722 B.C.-476 B.C.). Influenced by the Han, they learnt planting and breeding livestock and poultry. Also during this period, a group of Qiang people moved to the upper reaches of the Minjiang River in today's Sichuan Province.

Qiang people were widely allocated to different places during the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D.220), and people who had settled down in the Central Plains had basically intermingled with the Han. Those who moved to the juncture of the Gansu and Qianghai provinces and the Tibet Autonomous Region were partly amalgamated with Tibet, and the leftover people became the present Qiang ancestors.

The current Qiang ethnic group is mainly concentrated in Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County, and the counties of Wenchuan, Lixian and Maoxian under Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in northwest Sichuan Province.

Administratively, Han courts from the Qin, Han, Sui and Tang dynasties down to the Ming Dynasty, from 221 B.C to A.D.1644, had all governed the Qiang-occupied areas.

Since 1838, imperialists from France and Britain began to invade the Qiang living regions. The Qiang people participated in battles against British invaders during the Opium War (1840-1842). They also participated in uprisings against the Qing (1644-1911) government, including the ones in the Maoxian and Wenchuan counties in 1911.

In 1935, over 1,000 Qiang people from Maoxian County joined the army when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) passed through the area, and over 10,000 people served with the army's logistic support. The Qiang region was liberated by the PLA on January 19, 1950.

To further preserve and develop Qiang culture, the Chinese government approved the establishment of the Maoxian and Wenchuan Qiang Autonomous Region in 1958, and in 1963, Lixian County was included in the autonomous region. Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture was set up in 1987.

Beichuan, a Qiang inhabited area, was approved to be an autonomous county in 2003. The county has a population of 161,107 (as of 2006), with more than 50 percent being minority groups, and the Qiang ethnic group accounts for 94.9 percent of this total.

In 1991, the ancient Qiang claimed it had its own script for the first time. The written language has 50 Latin letters, including 42 consonants and eight vowels.

(Source: china.org.cn, e56.com.cn,and qiangzu.com)

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