The Tujia people of Chongqing


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The Tujia people are the 6th largest ethinic minority in China, drawing many visitors to tour Sichuan and Chongqing to see their interesting culture, long established in southwest China. Guests of the Tujia enjoy activities such as the Tujia's time-honored Baishou dance, or "hand-waving" dance, observing their special customs, and learning odd cultural taboos.

The Tujia people mainly live in China's Hunan, Hubei, and Guizhou provinces, as well as Chongqing Municipality. Many of the Tujia people who live in Chongqing have largely assimilated into China's majority Han culture, but some Tujia, especially in remote areas, still proudly keep the old ways of the Tujia people. Trekking in China's remote areas can be truly unique!

The Tujia people are renowned for their singing ability, song compositions, and for their traditional "hand-waving dance" - a 500-year old collective dance which uses 70 ritual gestures to represent war, farming, hunting, courtship and other aspects of traditional life! This cultural distinctive of the Tujia people is highly treasured, not only within their own community but across China. Come travel to Chongqing and learn to wave your hands with the beautiful Tujia girls as they express their culture and history through song and dance!

In addition to their beautifully poetic dancing, the Tujia have some rather distinctive taboos, including:

  • Young girls and pregnant women were not permitted to sit on thresholds, while men are not allowed to enter a house wearing straw rain cover, or carrying hoes or empty buckets.
  • Young women were not allowed to sit next to male visitors, although young girls may.
  • At worship ceremonies, cats were kept away as their meowing was considered unlucky.  
  • Tujia people are not allowed to approach the communal fire or say unlucky things on auspicious days.

However, there is an even more odd observance among the Tujia - their funeral dance. When someone among the Tujia passes away, the community all gathers around the coffin, singing and dancing all night. They wear their colorful traditional costume as if they were celebrating a festival!

Relatives of the deceased will finally join in the merriment when the ceremony reaches its peak. As odd as the custom seems, it reflects Tujia people's philosophy of life and death. They are open-minded about where death leads, believing that those who have passed on deserving a happy ending!

Next time you travel to Chongqing, make sure your guide includes a stop to see the unique Tujia people and their special customs. In fact, why don't you make Chongqing your whole trip to China - see the Tujia, enjoy the historic old town flavor of Ciqikou, taste world famous Chongqing-style hot pot, and relax on an amazing Yangtze river cruise!

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