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Yao People Introduction

Yao Nationality(瑶族) is a very interesting ethnic group living in southwest China and Southeast Asia, who deem themselves as the descendants of dogs and during grand occasions dogs enjoy the privilege to eat prior to men. Legend had it that a war occurred between two influential kings in south China, which lasted for decades. One king declared that anyone who killed his opponent will be awarded with his beautiful daughter. The ancestor of Yao nationality, an extraordinary dog, shouldered the mission. It slipped into the military camp and beheaded this opponent. The following day, it went to claim its prize. Considering it is a dog, this king hesitated but it was too late to regret. Hence, he obeyed his promise but under one condition, they must live in the remote hilly areas. During midnight, this dog changed into a handsome young man miraculously and they lived happily ever after. They place they live is Qianjiaodong, the eternal hometown of Yao people. Though sounds like the Yao version Sleeping Beauty, it is kind of derogatory.

As a matter of fact, Yao people are very versatile, productive and intelligent, who are renowned for assorted festivals such as Panwang Festival, extravagant attires, marvelous crafts, exotic love and marriage customs, diversified singing and dancing as well as the time-honored herb Spa with outstanding medical properties.
guoshan yao peopleguoshan yao people
Guoshan Yao Guoshan Yao
daban yao peoplepaiyao people
Daban Yao Pai Yao


Numbered at over two million, Yao people are scattered in southern and southwest China’s Gangxi, Guangdong, Hunan, Guizhou and Yunnan as well as Southeast Asia. 60% of Yao people center on Guangxi. Over 170 thousand Yao people are distributed in Yunnan. With few occupying the river valleys or hilly slopes, the majority are found in high mountains. To highlight its extensive footprints, a saying goes like this: every hill in south China is occupied by Yao people.

China has 12 Yao autonomous counties and over 200 Yao autonomous townships. Here goes the detailed list:
GuangxiGongchen Yao Autonomous County (恭城瑶族自治县),Fuchuan Yao Autonomous County (富川瑶族自治县), Du’an Yao Autonomous County (都安瑶族自治县), Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County (金秀瑶族自治县), Bama Yao Autonomous County (巴马瑶族自治县) and Dahua Yao Autonomous County (大化瑶族自治县)
GuangdongRuyuan Yao Autonomous County(乳源瑶族自治县) Lianshan Zhuang and Yao Autonomous County(连山壮族瑶族自治县) Liannan Yao Autonomous County(连南瑶族自治县)
HunanJianghua Yao Autonomous County(江华瑶族自治县)
YunnanJinping Miao Yao and Dai Autonomous County(金平苗族瑶族傣族自治县) Hekou Yao Autonomous County(河口瑶族自治县)

Four subgroups of Yao Nationality



since Yuan dynasty, Yao people have frequented the frontier area where Hunan, Guangxi and Guangdong meet. Living by farming and animal husbandry, they mingled with Han Chinese and yet clung to their own traditions. The following dynasties saw their lifestyles changed dramatically and four main subgroups emerged, with each has its own distinctive features. They are Pan Yao(盘瑶), Bunu Yao, Chashan Yao(茶山瑶) and Pingdi Yao(平地瑶) respectively. Pan Yao constitute the majority of Yao population, who speak standard Yao language; Bunu Yao speak Bunu Lanuage, while Pingdi Yao speak mandarin. These four subgroups fall into 39 branches in total. To our astonishment, Yao boasts over 400 nicknames, which are based on their different headgears, habitats, lifestyles, totems, family names, political doctrines and ancestral worships. For instance, those who favor red clothes are grouped into Red Clothes Yao, those good at planting tea are named as Chashan Yao and those worship Panhu are labeled as Panyao.


chashan yao peoplebunu yao people
Chashan Yao Bunu Yao
pingdi yao peoplepanshan yao
Pingdi Yao Pan Yao



Qianjiadong(千家峒): the Holy Grail and Paradise Lost of Yao Nationality

Qianjiadong is believed as the originating place of Yao people. In ancient time, it was occupied by 1000 households, and the villagers were the descendants of 12 tribes. Due to the constant wars, they had to bid farewell to their hometown and parted with each other. A leader divided a bull horn into 12 pieces before handling them to 12 tribe leaders. They promised to see each other again after 500 years. To gaining back their lost paradise, Yao people staged numerous uprisings, but all in vain. By now, Yao women still wear horn-shaped pectoral decorations divided into twelve parts.

Nangang Yao Village (Nangang Thousand-Year Yao Village, Yao Nationality Village of Nangang,南岗千年瑶寨)


Located in Liannan County, Qingyuan City, Guangdong province, Yao Nationality Village of Nangang is over 1400 years old. Constructed during Song Dynasty (960-1279), it is the largest, biggest and most unique Yao village on earth. Hundreds of quaint architecture compounds of Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) cling to the middle waist of a mist-shrouded mountain like Potala Palace. Serene and picturesque, it is a place true to its past. Artifacts and remnants abound here, testifying to its past. In its heydays, there were over 5000 villagers. The remaining 200 Yao villagers here still live on rice cultivation and observe ancient and interesting festivals...
nangang yao village
nangang yao villagenangang yao village

Sanpai Yao Village

Located in Liannan County, Guangdong, Sanpai Yao Village (Yao Nationality Village of Sanpai, 连南三排瑶寨) boasts the most colorful and richest Yao culture in China. Postcard-perfect natural beauty coupled with arresting Yao ethnic culture quality it as a top retreat in Guangdong province. Hiking, enjoying Yao performances and crafts as well as unraveling how oil, rice wine and tofu are produced are highlights of your exploration...
liannan sanpai yao village


Huangluo Yao Village

 Situated in Longji of Longsheng Rice Terraces, Huangluo Yao Village(黄洛瑶寨) is inhabited by Red Yao people, who boast the longest hair on earth. Except for hiking along Longsheng Rice Terraces, you can enjoy Long Hair Performance, Yao wedding performance and Yao cuisine. Red Yao are famous for Red Clothes Festival, embroidered attires and fabulous silver ornaments...
huangluo yao village
huangluo yao village
Huangluo Yao Village in Longsheng Rice Terraces
jinkeng rice terraces
Jinkeng Rice Terraces of Longsheng Rice Terraces, Guilin, China
changshou village of bamachangshou village of bama
changshou village of bamachangshou village of bama
Changshou Village of Bama:top 5 Longevity Village on earth


Corns, rice and sweet potato are stable food of Yao people. Wheat and chestnut serve as side food. White watermelon, pumpkin, cabbage, chili pepper, tomatoes, eggplant, mushroom, bamboo shoots and fungus are very popular. Yao people in Hunan province are good at preparing tofu, which is famous for its slippery and smooth texture as well as tasty and lingering flavor. Smoked Pork, bacon and marinated fish, beef or pork are typical Yao specialties. Dayaoshan Yao people in Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County of Guangdong province, in particular, lures outsiders for its mouthwatering dish named “Niaozuo”, the marinated birds. Glutinous Rice Cakes(Ciba) grace their dining table during festivals also. Just like other ethnicities in south China, rice wine is a popular drink. Oil Tea(Da You Cha打油茶), roasted green tea mixed with assorted seasonings such as soybeans, corns, sesame and bamboo shoots, is very nutritional and delicious. In the joining area of Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan and Guangxi, this drink is very popular. Oil Tea prevails among Dong Nationality also.

Traditional Medicine and Medicinal Baths

Except for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) of Han Chinese, other ethnicities also approach health in their own ways. Among them, Yao people’s traditional medicine stands out as the most prominent one. It is national acknowledged that Yao people are good at treating cancer, Lupus erythematosus, traumatic fracture, rheumatic diseases and women’s diseases. Medicinal baths also win them good reputation. From time immemorial, Yao people have known how to pick up a myriad of herbs to prepare various medicinal baths, which can not only wash down fatigue, but also enhance immunity, alleviate diseases and beautify skin. Thanks to thousands of years’ practice, Yao people have accumulated a stunning number of prescriptions. From minor ailments to diseases such as high blood pressure, each has a specific prescription.
yao people medicinal bath

Faiths and Religions

Nature worship, ancestral worship, totem worship have a standing among the Yao people. In some areas, witchcraft and Daoism are major influences also. Daoism, in particular, is quite powerful. One can perceive this through their funerals.

Love and Marriage

Catch and Throw Embroidered Purse: Yao people’s embroidered purses are pieced together with red, yellow, blue and white fabrics, inside of which corns are sheltered. It is a flirting game of the single youths. Many Yao find their lifetime partner in this way.

Yao Wedding Night: Wedding night is one of the most expecting moments in our life. But Yao people’s wedding night has nothing to do with romance. Instead, it is time for them to catch up with buddies or sisters. Only after three days later can they spend night together.

Yao Nationality Music and Dances

Yao music, dance and folk songs are deeply rooted into daily labor life and mirror various religious influences. Dozens of dances thrive among them, such as Long Drum Dance, Lion Dance, Grass Dragon Dance and Stick Dance. Long Drum Dance, in particular, has become their cultural symbol. Yao songs fall into labor songs, wine songs, love songs and mourning songs…The song “When You Believe” recorded by Whitney Houston and Marian Carey is renowned worldwide. However, few people know its first 18 notes were inspired by Dance of the Yao People(瑶族舞曲), one of the most successful and trendy songs marking the 1950s.  The Chorus of Panwang King《盘王歌》with 24 qupai is quite challenging to the performer and refreshing to the outsiders.

As an indispensible part of Yao people, the time-honored Long Drum Dance is immortalized by Quyuan over two thousand years ago. Grand occasions and festivals such as ancestral worship, wedding, Yao New Year Festival, Panwang Festival, Harvest Festival and (Shuagetang耍歌堂) won’t be complete without it. During these periods, Yao villages will be haunted by their melodious voices and Yao people will indulge in fun to their hearts’ content.

Long Drum Dance is a hybrid of singing, dancing and performances. It epitomizes Yao people’s daily labor life and mimics the gestures of animals and birds, such as the fluttering butterflies, the lively birds and rebellious goats.

To perform Long Drum Dance, Yao people pair up in two or four. The tunes vary from pensive and melancholy to joyful and ecstatic, serving to memorizing their ancestors and praising the beauty of life and love. The dance steps are expressive and robust, which shed light on typical Yao people’s daily labor activities such as build wooden houses, grind the rice and toil the rice fields. Blending the gestures of animals and birds, it is comic and entertaining also.
 yao nationality long drum dance

Drum Culture

Drum is an integral part of Yao culture, just as Beijing opera to the Han Chinese, Tibetan opera to the Tibetans, Khoomei to the Mongols, Naxi ancient music to the Naxi people and Kam Grand Choirs to the Dong Nationality. Yao drums split into Long Drum, Copper Drum and Pottery Drum. Long Drum prevails among Pingdi Yao in Guangxi, Copper Drum is popular among Bunu Yao and Pottery Drum is used by Chashan Yao in Jinxiu Yao Autonomous County, Guangxi. Primitive in appearance, Pottery Drum can be placed above legs or in front of chest and is accompanied by other folk instruments such as Gong.

Copper Drum: it is a common sight in Du’an, Bama and Nandan of Guangxi province, which is famous for Li River. Related to Milutuo, Jesus of the Yao people, Copper Drum is imbued with rich religious connotation. Specific rules are made as to how to treasure or use it. Copper drums of White Trousers Yao have two ears and their main bodies are decorated with auspicious patters. Copper drums even split into male ones and female ones. With thicker bodies and longer necks, male copper drums can produce high-pitched voices. Copper Drum also prevails among other ethnicities, such as Miao people.

Long Drum is closely related to Panhu Worship. Panhu was the ancestor of Yao people and Long Drum was invented to memorize him. Long Drum Dance, one of the most famous dances of Yao people, have many variants. It involves a solemn religious ceremony prior to the performance. The longest one measures over 2 m. the most elaborate Long Drum Dance includes over 72 sets of dance steps. Long Drum is to the Yao people just like the cross is to the Christians. Yao people deem it as a holy item and the core of their culture.
yao people copper drumyao people pottery drumyao people long drum
 Copper Drum Pottery Drum Long Drum

Etiquette and Taboos


Yao people are very polite and hospitable. They usually greet each other warmly no matter they know each other or not. Negligence to the housewife is especially rude. Yao people respect the senior very much. For instance, if a Yao young man is riding a horse and he meets an old man, he is expected to dismount to show respect. In the dining table, the honorable seat is reserved for the senior and the best dishes are placed in front of them.

Just like the Mongols and Yi people, the fireplace is the most sacred place for Yao people. You cannot trample on it.


Girl Street Festival
trade, folk singing and dancing performance
(the first market day after Spring Festival)
Bird Dispel Festival
singing competition
Feb 1st(solar calendar)
 hair completionMar 15th to Apr 8th
Buffola Festival
celebrate the birthday of buffalos
Feed buffaloes with rice wine and glutinous rice cakes, worship the God of Buffalo to pray for their longevity
Apr 8th (lunar calendar)
ancestral worship, singing , dancing.
May 29th (solar calendar)
Zhangrou Daike Festival(掌肉待客节)
Entertain relatives and friends with big chucks of meat
Literally means “entertaining guests with big chucks of meat presented by palms” it is celebrated to memorize their female god named Miluoyuan.
May 29th(lunar calendar)
Danu Festival
singing, Long Drum Dance, Kung Fu contest, football competiton
May 29th(lunar calendar)
Xijiu Festival
singing, Long Drum Dance
May 29th(lunar calendar)
Shaiyi Festival
 Yao people in Longsheng and Guiping, Guangxi province celebrate this festival by exposing all their clothes to sunshine. When sun sets down, they will wave it goodbye. Each household will prepare a banquet.Jun 6th(lunar calendar)
Yao New Year Festival (Yueban Festival, 月半节)
Yao people celebrate their New Year Festival since the 10th day of the seventh lunar month. Yao people will gather together, eating, chatting and worshiping ancestors. Yao villages in this period will be immersed into joyful atmosphere. July 15th (lunar calendar) marks the last day of this festival. A sumptuous banquet will be prepared. After dinner, Yao young men and girls will dance from dark to the next morning.July 10th -15th
Getang Festival
(歌堂节 )
 Singing, dancing, parade, look for soul mates
Oct 16th(lunar calendar)
will last for three to nine days
 Daogao Festival
Oct 16th(lunar calendar)
 Ganba Festival
Copper Drum Dance
the late half month of December(Solar calendar)

Yao Nationality Crafts

Among a multitude of crafts practiced by Yao such as batik, tie-dying, embroidery, bamboo weaving, sculpture and painting, cross-stitch embroidery(tiao hua) and batik are two most notable ones.

Embroidery: Yao embroidery split into several species such as plain embroidery, long-stitch embroidery and cross-stitch embroidery. They are widely used in women’s and children’s attires. Red, yellow, white, green and purple threads are used to bring out rainbow-colored patterns. Hence, Yao people win a nickname as “Colorful Yao”. Yao girls pick up embroidery when they are six years old. Years of practice will prepare them into masters. In Liannan, Guangdong province, a Yao girl must prepare a piece of rectangular-shaped brocade before her wedding, which double functions as the apron and the swaddling clothes for her future baby. Mianyao girls, however, will weave pieces of square-shaped brocades which are used to cover their heads during the wedding. With intriguing patterns and unrivaled craftsmanship, these masterpieces are treasured and passed down from generation to generation. In Jianghua Yaoshan, Hunan province, Yao girls will make “Eight Treasure Quilt”. Eye-dazzling in appearance, these quilts furbished with eight traditional auspicious patterns possess connotations sweeter than their appearances.
Batik: Since Song Dynasty (960-1279), Yao people have invented ingenious ways to dye the snow white homemade fabrics. This timeworn technique surviving till nowadays involves the use of indigo and wax to create exquisite patterns, which is known as Yaoban fabric. If you visit a Yao village, chance is that you can observe the whole process. Living a self-sufficient life at large, Yao people make almost everything by themselves, from clothes, aprons, bags, headgears, shoes to quilts. Various souvenirs such as batik handicrafts can make good gifts also, which will surprise the fellows in your hometown.
yao nationality


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