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Tujia People: China’s Mysterious Witchcraft Tribe

Numbered at 8.39 million by 2010, Tujia people rank as one of the top ten ethnicities in China regarding population (just after Zhuang, Hui, Manchu, Uygur, Miao and Yi).
This music-obsessed minority is mainly found in Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou and Chongqing’s mountainous areas. They live on agriculture and reside in Stilt Houses, eat spicy and sour dishes and celebrate the most diversified festivals including Gannian Festival (Tujia New Year Festival), Eat New Harvest Festival, Buffalo King Festival, June the Sixth (Liu Yue Liu)and Huazhao Festival. Nature Worship, Animal Worship and Totem Worship still dominate their spiritual world.
Tujia people are notable for sensational witchcraft, sorcery and wedding customs, such as Gan Shi(walking the corpse home), expel their children into forests for three years when he turns 14-year-old and kill an unfaithful partner with witchcraft.
tujia people

Except for Mandarin, they also speak Tujia language, which belongs to Tibeto-Burman family and resembles Yi language in terms of grammar and pronunciation. Tujia language splits into two dialects. They have no script of their own.

Hubei Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Wufeng Tujia Autonomous County, Changyang Tujia Autonomous County
GuizhouTongren City
ChongqingYouyang Tujia and Miao Autonomous County, Xiushan Miao and Tujia Autonomous County, Qianjiang Area, Shizhu Tujia Autonomous County and Pengshui Autonomous County
HunanXiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture and Zhangjiajie. (Among over the over 26 minorities in Zhangjiajie, Tujia people overtakes the rest regarding population.)

fenghuang ancient town
Fenghuang Ancient Town, Zhangjiajie features timeworn Stilt houses and rich ethnic culture. Tujia people is the biggest minority group here.
Tujia Top Crafts

Remarkable crafts of Tujia people including embroidery, brocade, paper cutting, batik, painting and sculpture. Among which, the prestigious Tujia brocade is reputed as China’s Top Five Brocades and Water-Dripping Bed are the most favored furniture.
water dripping bedwater dripping bed
Weeping before Wedding CustomWater Dripping Bed
tujia religion

Tujia Top Folk Songs and Dances

Baishou Dance, Youyang Folk Song and Youyang Ancient Music are accredited as National-level Intangible Heritages. In 2010, the Baishou Dance staged in Youyang County attracted 100,000 participants, which is a Guiness World Record Holder. This anonymous county won the title as “Cradle of China Folk Song ”. Besides, the primitive Maogosu Dance is very appealing also, you can see it in Zhangjiajie.
baishou dance
baishou dancebaishou dance
Maogusi Dance
Maogusi means “hairy hunters” in Tujia language. Maogusi Dance is an ancient and primitive dance surviving till nowadays. Falling on the first lunar month, this dance features funny steps. The performers are none exceptionally half naked men wearing straws. It brings the hunting, fishing, spinning and weaving of tribe society to life. In Zhangjiajie, you can enjoy this dance.
tujia people maogusi dance
tujia people maogusi dance


Rather than inquire “ni chi le ma?” (have you eaten?), or present you a cup of tea or rice wine, Tujia people show their hospitality by setting off a special iron cannon which can produce deafening sound. If they run of out iron cannon, a hunting rifle will make a fair substitute. Hearing the voice, all the villagers, old and young, will throng into the entry to greet you. The master will prepare Oil Tea, a popular snack named Ciba (Glutinous Rice Cake baked to adopt a golden color and filled with sugar and honey ) and load their tobacco pipe for you. During the banquet, you are expected to eat and drink like a hungry ghost. Swallow big chucks of meat and drink cupful of rice wine continuously won’t be prejudiced; in contrast, they will feel very happy.  (click to read Top Nine Sensational Customs of Tujia people)
tujia people oil teatujia people oil tea
1 Oil Tea is Tujia people’s national drink,
  to prepare this delicacy, fried tea, rice noodles and soybean are mixed with well-cooked and minced bacon and tofu and corns.
tujia people oil teatujia people oil tea
Sprinkled with ginger and scallion, they will be poured with hot soup. Several minutes later, a palatable treat is born.Oil Tea can repel coldness during winter and refresh during summer.

Tujia people seldom treat guests with dog meat. As to the number of dishes, three, seven and eight and nine are avoided. It is a taboo to cross your legs in front of the senior. Without permission, you cannot go into the maters' or their daughter’s bedrooms. On dining table, you should place chopsticks neatly along the bowl after the meal rather than perch them vertical or cross them into a “X”.


Tujia people adore buffalo, sheep, dog, white tiger and eagle. White tigers, which are deemed as the incarnations of their ancestors, enjoy peerless status in particular. Many altars and monasteries are set up for them.
tujia religion

Folk Residences

Just like Miao, Dong and Zhuang people, Tujia people reside in Stilt House, which can save arable land and shield from snakes and animals. In Fenghuang Ancient Town, you can find intact Tujia folk residences.

Baishou Hall:it is the ancestral worship and harvest celebration site of Tujia people. You can say it is their churn. Shemihu Baishou Hall, the most ancient Baishou Hall, can be found in Hedong Township, Baifusi Town, Laifeng County, Hubei province. Built in 1651, it is deemed as the birthplace of all Baishou halls and the Mecca of Tujia people. Within the white-washed walls and black-tiled roofs hides a divine world composed of mansions, statues and avenues. Baishou Hall is the place where Tujia people perform Baishou Dance, which has become their cultural symbol.
tujia people architecture
tujia people architecture
tujia people architecture
tujia people architecture
tujia people architecturetujia people architecture

Love and Marriage

Tujia people find their partners through singing love songs. Their wedding customs are very bewildering and funny. To avoid being laughed at, a Tujia bride needs to weep in the presence of neighbors, relatives, friends and matchmakers one month prior to their wedding, to show filial piety. These songs are themed with showing gratitude to parents, brothers, sisters and cousins. In Zhangjiajie or Three Gorges Area, you will have the chance to witness the peculiar custom. Besides, the bride and bridegroom will compete each other to sit on the center of their wedding bed, for the winner will rule the family.
tujia people wedding custom


Falling into ancestral worship, memorial, celebration, entertainment and harvest, Tujia festivals promise cultural shock. Notable Tujia festivals include Gannian Festival, Buffalo King Festival, Daughters’ Meeting and Huazhao Festival. Among them, Gannian Festival is one of the most important.
tujia festival
Buffalo King Festival of Tujia people
Places to savor Tujia culture
Author: Sophia  (post on: May 29, 2013)


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