Shui Nationality


The Shui ethnic minority is distributed mainly in the Sandu Shui Autonomous County in Guiyang Province. According to the census taken in 2000, the Shui have a population of 406,902.


The Shui speak in their own language belonging to the Zhuang-Dong group of the Sino-Tibetan phylum. As no written form of the Shui language exists, they usually write using Chinese characters. Historically there was a written form of the Shui language whose characters were called 'Shui Shu', but it was used only for religious activities.


The Shui have many customs that reflect their ethics - such as respecting their elders. For example, to celebrate an older person's birthday, his descendants will make him a long gown out of white cloth and present it to him on that day. This act is to wish him longevity.


In the past, the Shui believed that all natural things had spirits and that there were many gods who steered their lives. So when the Shui met with disasters or unhappiness, they would turn to wizards and worship those powers.


The Shui people live in the upper reaches of rivers in a climate bestowed with mild temperatures. They enjoy rice as their staple food and supplement this with pickled fish, vegetables and yellow wine. The Shui also grow wheat and harvest all kinds of fish from the rivers in their region. The Shui ethnic minority is very hospitable to visitors. At dinner, wine is a must. Head part of pig and chicken are the symbols of dignity, so the former is for worshipping ancestors and the latter for guests.


Their folk arts include paper-cuts, stone-carving, silver jewelry making, and batik techniques. The Shuijia Bu, meaning cloth of the Shui, is particularly delicate and durable. With a history of over 700 years, it has been the pride of the Shui ethnic minority.


The Shui ethnic minority has their own calendar which basically follows the lunar calendar of the Han people. However, there is one big difference, that is, the Shui treat the first day of the ninth month as New Years Day and celebrate it with horse-racing and dancing with a copper drum or lusheng, a flute-like musical instrument. The extent of these celebrations makes the Shui New Year as important as the Spring Festival. In addition to these festivals, the Shui people also celebrate the Pure Brightness Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival.


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