People, language, religion in China

With a total area of 9,600,000 square kilometers, according to 2014 census, the population of China is estimated to be around 1.37 billion, making it the most populated country in the world. The density of the country is around 110 people per square kilometer. When talking about people of China, it is important to mention that there are around 56 ethnic groups, with 91.51% Han Chinese, and the other 55 groups make the rest 8.49% of the population. The most populous groups after Han Chinese are Zhuang, making around 16.9 million of population, Uyghur, Hui and Manchu with an average of 10 millions of people per one group. No matter the huge differences among different groups, regarding their language and belief, they all should have protected rights from the government. The situation was not as such in the past, where only several groups were recognized, including Han, Manchu, Mongol, Turkish, and Tibetan. The region with the biggest number of diverse ethnic groups is Yunnan Province, with around 25 minorities.

As previously mentioned, the most populous ethnic group is Han Chinese, and besides being the majority in China, they also constitute 19% of world’s population. They have quite long and prolific history and their name comes from the Han Dynasty, whose ruler unified China in 226 BC. They consider themselves to be the Descendants of the Dragon and use red color as their symbol. The group is a product of a thousand years long assimilation of various other groups, thus, there are many social, genetic, linguistic and cultural diversities among its people.

As for the language, it is crucial to note that today there is no actual Chinese language in the full meaning of that word, but there are various language systems arising from the development of Chinese civilization. In China itself, the most widespread is the Mandarin language, which is also the official language of the country. It is also one of the six languages that are used by the UN. The dialect of the language developed from Beijing dialect. There are also a variety of other dialects, out of which the most important is Cantonese, spoken in the area around Hong Kong. The other dialects are Hakka, Wu, Min, Xiang and Gan. Other 29 ethnic groups, such as Tibetan, Mongol, Uyghur and Zhangu have their own languages, at times even more than one. Uyghur language is an official language in the northwest of China, and it has around 10 million of speakers, while Tibetan, being considered as the language of Buddhism is spoken by about 6 million people. Mongol and Zhangu are also one of the most spread minority languages of the country. The tourists should know that not many people speak English in China, including taxi drivers as well. It is why you should write the destination in Chinese before you decide to go somewhere. Our travel guides have names of attractions and other POI written in both, English and Chinese, as well as pronunciations is written in Latin alphabet (pinyin).

Since China today is a communist country, there is no official religion in the state, though there are many things that should be mentioned in this regard. The Cultural Revolution in the 60s and 70s brought to the state where all of the religions were repressed. The sacred buildings, such as temples, churches and mosques were demolished, and in order to take away the religion from the people, many of them were killed and tortured. Today’s statistics says that 59% of the population claims not to follow any particular religion, 12% describe themselves as atheists, while 20% practice traditional religions, Taoism and Confucianism. Further on, 6% are Buddhist, 2% are Muslim, and 1% percent of the population is Christian. Confucianism developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, and is rather humanistic religion, where everyday activities and human relationships are regarded as sacred. Taoism and Buddhism are somewhat similar in rejecting everything that is material, including classes and ranks, putting the emphasis on balance and order. The minority ethnic groups such as the Uyghur, Kazakh, and Hui People are the practitioners of Islam. Christianity, including Catholics and Protestants, is the least spread religion, though its growth is noted in the recent decades.