Yi people mainly live in Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Boasting a population of 4,446,100 people (according to census made in 1997 in Yunnan), Yi Ethnic Minority is the largest Ethnic Minority among all ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province. Most counties and cities of Yunnan are settled by Yi people, and the most populated areas are Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Ailao Mountain and Wumeng Mountain areas in Honghe River Hani Yi Autonomous Prefecture, and Little Liangshan Mount area to the north of Dianxi. Yi Ethnic Minority has a long history and it was recorded quite early in historical books. The ancestors of Yi people were known as Kunming people who had close relations with Shiqiang people in history.
Yi language comes from the family of Tibetan-Cambodian of Sino-Tibetan system. Comprising of six dialects, it has its own written characters, the earliest form of Chinese pinyin. Among them, the most widely used characters are about 1000. In 1957, a standard Yi language diagram was passed by. It came into forth at once specified with 819 standard characters.
Yi Ethnic Minority has splendid culture and art. Works on history, literature, medicine, and chronology written in Yi language are valuable documents. The popular civil dance with Yi people is called Tiaoye, a form of collective dance. Traditional industrial arts include embroidery, coating of lacquer, silver accessory, carving, and painting, etc. Yi people depend on agriculture with husbandry as their assistant industry. Handicraft industry is very developed. Clothing of Yi people are diversified with about 100 categories.