The Tujia of China
There are many ethnic groups living in China, and the Tujia are one of the largest. Although their name suggests that they are a people native to the area in which they now live, their exact origin is uncertain. Some sources trace their ancestors to the ancient Ba people of the Sichuan province, while others identify them as the Wu Man (black barbarians) of the Guizhou province. Another explanation is that they originated in Jianxi province and moved westward at the end of the Tang dynasty.
Although the Tujia have their own language, called Tuchia, many of them speak only local dialects of Han Chinese or Miao. Written Chinese is in common use since there is no written script in their native language.
The Tujia have a rich repertoire of songs and dances, all of which are passed on orally. The "Hand Dance," with its seventy ritual gestures that represent war, hunting, farming and other aspects of life, is popular at the New Year's festival.
What are their lives like?
The Tujia are both valley and mountain terrace farmers. They grow a variety of crops including wet rice, wheat, maize, and sweet potatoes. Cash crops include beets, cotton, and tea. Pigs and chickens are raised for market and also provide the main sources of protein. Tujia men are also proficient hunters, trappers, and fishermen.
Tujia villages vary considerably in size. They are usually located at the foot of a mountain or on the lower slopes near a water source. Houses are made of wood or a combination of wood, stone, and brick. The tile roofs are constructed in the typical Chinese style. Houses are usually two stories, with the ground floor serving as the center of daily life. The central room is where ancestors are enshrined and worshipped. This is also the place for family activities and entertaining guests. The bedrooms and kitchen are built to the sides of the central room. Children sleep on the second story. The stables, pig sty, chicken coops, and toilet are built on the side of the main house.
In rural areas, weaving and embroideries are of high quality, and the patterned quilts and bags are especially beautiful. Recent regional industrialization means that skilled Tujia workers are now relocating in towns and cities, involving themselves in coal mining and light industry.
The women are responsible for weaving, embroidery, and handicrafts. They also help with the farming alongside the men, and the men share in household chores. In urban areas, Tujia women are freer to pursue professional work than women of other ethnic groups in the area.
What are their beliefs?
Prior to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960's, 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.
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. There is also an order of married Taoist priests who live among them and perform exorcisms and complex religious rituals.
Shamanism is the belief in an unseen world of many gods, demons, and ancestral spirits. Shamans (priests or priestesses) are depended on to cure the sick by magic, communicate with the gods, and control events.
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.
What are their needs?
Neither the Bible, the Jesus film, nor radio broadcasts are available in the language of the Tujia. With a current population of more than six million, much work remains to be done among these precious people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Tujia bound.
- Ask God to raise up loving Chinese Christians who will share Christ with the Tujia.
- Pray that the doors of China will soon open to missionaries.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to develop a written language for the Tujia so that the Bible may be translated into their language.
- Ask the Lord to open the hearts of China's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
- Pray that the Tujia will grow weary of serving many gods and will begin searching for the one true God.
- Ask God to raise up a strong local church among them by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Tujia
- Country: China
- Their language: Tuchia
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 24,150
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 2
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 2,076,900 (35%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 3,960,500 (65%)
- Country: China
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 42
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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