The People

The people living in this area is from a minority group known as Tujia people (meaning "soil family").

The origin of the Tujia UPG was intimately related to the group of people historically known as the Cong or “wooden Shield barbarians.” They are an ethnic group numbering about 8.3 million, living in the Wuling Mountains of China’s Hunan, Sichuan, Chongqing, GuiZhou and Hubei province. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognised by People republic of China in 1957. There is an ancient cultural and there are different accounts of their origins, though their history can be traced back over twelve centuries. They came into extensive contact with the country's Han Chinese majority almost one thousand years ago, but it was only in the past century that the Tujia's native culture began to disappear as a result of acculturation and assimilation. Today most of the Tujia, who still speaks their own language known as Tucia, lives in the remote area of Western Hunan and Hubei Province.)

The Tujia are renowned for their singing and song composing abilities and for their tradition of the Baishou hand dance, a 500 year old collective dance which uses 70 ritual gestures to represent war, farming, hunting, courtship and other aspects of traditional life.

What are their beliefs?
Prior to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, some Tujia families embraced the Catholic faith. Today, however, little or no evidence of Catholicism remains. Nearly 100% of the Tujia now practice ethnic religions. Their beliefs are a mixture of shamanism, Taoism, ancestral worship, and earlier beliefs involving ghosts and evil spirits.

Shamanism is the belief in an unseen world of many gods, demons, and ancestral spirits. Shamans (priests or priestesses) in Hunan their shamans are always male, are depended on to cure the sick by magic, communicate with the gods, and control events such as natural disaster, human calamity or other crisis, and in times of childbirth, the tima were called in to perform their rituals in order to seek blessings, break curses, and drive off evil through their rituals. The tima came to be regarded as a powerful elite of “divine humans’ or “Spirit mouthpieces’. Not only were their rituals needed to heal sickness and mitigate the effects of disasters, but they also mediated in civil disputes – as "trouble-shooters."

Through a recent research by a British linguist couple, the Tujia was also known to have done child sacrifice during the early days of their history when they were still actively engaged in Shamanism.

Taoism emphasizes moral teachings and collective ceremonies. They believe that good moral conduct is rewarded with health and long life, while bad conduct results in disease, death and suffering in the afterlife.

Ancestor worship is the belief that the spirits of deceased ancestors are alive and must be fed and cared for. These spirits are said to become hungry and dissatisfied when they are not properly appeased, turning into evil spirits.


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