Yugur Ethnic Minority

Yugur Ethinic minority is an ancient ethnic minority inhabiting in the northern part of China. People of Yugur ethnic minority are engaged in stock farming for generations, which is unique in Gansu Province. They mainly inhabit in two areas, including the mountainous area on the northern foot of Qilian Mountain and flat area in Hexi Corridor. The former area is in the northern edge of Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, which enjoys a semiarid alpine climate. The latter area is on the artery of the famous Silk Road, which enjoys a continental monsoon climate. On the separate gobi oasis, the Yugur people have been engaged in agriculture economy and animal husbandry economy for many years. In history, since the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.- 206 B.C.) and the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220A.D.), this place used to be an ideal place for ancient nomadic people to inhabit.

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There are mainly three kinds of languages used by the Yugur people, including the Eastern Yugur language (which is also known as Engel language, belonging to Mongolian language family), Western Yugur language (which is also known as Yoghur language, belonging to Turkic language family) and Chinese language. After the founding of the Republic of China, the Yugur people began to write their own literary works in Chinese language. In the 1980s, a group of Yugur students in colleges and universities began to create a kind of self-conscious activities on their own ethnic literature. The cultural diffusion and social practice of the college graduates has greatly contributed to promoting the prosperity and development of the modern culture of the Yugur people.


According to the historical traces and the research materials, the origin of the Yugur ethnic group is very long and complex, dating back to the Huns before Christ and the Uyghur in the 7th and 8th century. The Yugur ethnic minority is the combination of a tribe of the ancient Uyghur ethnic minority and a tribe of ancient Mongolian ethnic minority.

The Yugur ethnic minority was originated from the nomadic Uyghur ethnic group in the Orkhon River basin in the Tang Dynsty (618-A.D.- 907 A.D.). In the mid 9th century, one of its tribes went to the area of Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province, getting the name of "Hexi Uyghur". In the early Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D.-1644 A.D.), they successively moved to the Qilian Mountain area, and the Yugur ethnic group gradually formed. In 1953, the whole group is renamed to the Yugur ethnic minority. On February 20th, 1954, Southern Yugur autonomous county in Gansu Province was set up.


People of the Yugur ethnic minority mainly live on boiled lamb, tea with milk, distillate spirits and barley wine. Yugur people have three meals a day. They are used to taking tea as food and having a little cooked wheaten food at night. The Yugur people are fond of drinking. Drinking tea with milk is an important dietary habit of the Yugur people. Yugur people mostly drink distillate spirits, and sometimes they also drink barley wine. Yugur people serve their guests according to their traditional customs: the elderly welcome the guests at the door and the guest is seated on the ground bed on the left, facing the door (this is the seat for distinguished guest). The Yugur people are used to squatting on two knees first of all and then being seated cross-legged. Usually, the male and the female are seated separately with the male being seated on the left while the female on the right. The first dish is tea with milk. If the guest has had enough tea with milk, he or she has to eat up the "Qula" at the bottom of the bowl. If he or she does not eat up the "Qula", it shows that the guest wants more and the host will add more tea. The dish after tea with milk is boiled lamb and barley wine. Generally, one toast of the Yugur people means two cups. Sometimes, the host may sing toasting songs to propose a toast. They sing one song and propose a toast of two cups of wine.


Long gown and leather boots are the two major typical traditional clothes of Yugur ethnic minority. As a nomadic people living in gobi for centuries, the Yugur people get the materials from the products of stock farming to make clothes. The traditional costume of the Yugur people is simple in design, which can keep people from cold and sands. The Yugur people living in the pasturing area still wear long gown and leather boots now, but the Yugur people living in the agricultural area, cities and towns only wear their traditional costume during festivals. The costume consists of two styles: the formal costume and the casual costume. The headwear of the Yugur women is quite unique. They wear horn-shaped red-tasseled hat or hat knitted with Achnatherum splendens.

Religious Belief

People of the Yugur ethnic minority believe in Lamaism, especially the Gelugpa Sect of Lamaism. Before the middle 8th century, the Uyghur people believed in Shamanism. They worshipped the spirit, the ancestor and thunder. Due to the condition, there were even witches and wizards who claimed that they could predict the future and control the force of the nature. After that, the ancestors of Yugur ethnic minority believed in Manicheism and Buddhism successively. In the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty (1644 A.D.-- 1911 A.D.), the Gelugpa Sect of Lamaism gradually spread to the Saliweiwu'er area and built the earliest Geglugpa temple there, which is named Huang Zang Temple (or Gu Fo Temple, meaning the Temple of Ancient Buddha). Since that time, Lamaism has gradually become the main religion that the Yugur people believe in.


In the history, as a nomadic people, people of the Yurgur ethnic minority mainly lived in yurts and moved with water and grass. Until the 1950s, except a small group of Yugur people living in Hexi Corridor, most of other Yugur people still lived in yurts. The yurts of the Yurgur people are similar in shape to the yurts of the Tibetan people. Mainly made of cattle hair cloth, the yurt is water-tight and has good air permeability. So in rainy and snowy days, it can keep water out, while in strong sunshine, it is cool inside the yurt.

The houses of the Yugur people live are greatly influenced by the surrounding Han culture in terms of style and form, which are similar to the houses of the Han people from the material to the structure. However, the distance between any two houses can be as far as one or two thousand kilometers or even tens of kilometers.


Drive Demon with Fire: As an ancient tradition of the Yugur ethnic minority, the festival falls before the Spring Festival Eve. In the past, people thought that the period between Spring Festival Eve and January 5th of the next year according to lunar calendar is the most furious time of the demons. As a result, when the Spring Festival Eve comes, every family in the Yugur ethnic minority will clean up their yurt or house and light two bonfires in the open air. Then they will set off fireworks and drive the livestocks going through the space between the two fires simultaneously.

June Pageant: June Pageant is a traditional religious festival in Yugur ethnic minority. It is popular among the Yugur people living in Sunan County, Gansu Province. The date of June Pageant varies from one temple to another, from Jun 1st to June 15th according to the lunar calendar. During the June Pageant, Yugur people in the mountainous area will send for a Lama to chant scriptures for peace, and will go to the mountains to offer sacrifice to Ebo. They will go to the fixed place with Ebo pole and green tea. They spread the tea on the mountain to pay for bless of the mountain god.

Wrestling: Wrestling is a traditional recreational activity in Yugur ethnic minority. It is a rivalry of strength. The two players compete with each other with technique, wisdom and willpower. The two players hold each other's waist sideways, and try to trip the rival with their legs. The one who firstly trips his rival is the winner. The winner will get people's praise. People will call the winner "the true man", which is "Bateer" in Yugur language.


In Yugur ethnic minority, every family worships "Mao Deity" at home. Other people's guns, bullets, whip, raw meat and raw skin cannot be brought into the yurt. It is said that the "Mao Deity" wears red clothes and ride a red horse. So people in red clothes or riding a red horse are forbidden to go into the yurt. When the guest enters the yurt, the male is seated in the left and the female is seated in the right.

Diet Taboos: The Yugur people are not allowed to eat the meat of animals with pointed mouth or round hoof. Animals with pointed mouth mainly refer to the birds and fish, while animals with round roof mainly refer to donkey, mule and horse. The modern Yugur people are no longer forbidden to eat the meat of animals with pointed mouth; however, they are still not allowed to eat the meat of animals with round hoof. In addition, even though dog is excluded from the animals with pointed mouth or round hoof, the Yugur people are strictly forbidden to eat its meat.

Rite Taboos: When Yugur people drink tea, they are forced to use one chopstick instead of two chopsticks. When passing teacup or wine bowl to the guest, people should use both of their hands instead of one to show their respect to the guest.

Taboos of Fire: In daily life, it is forbidden to throw filthiness into the fire. It is forbidden to point the edged tools such as knife, bow and arrow and needle at the fire. In winter, people are not allowed to warm their feet by put their feet above the fire, or the fire basket or the stove directly. It is also not allowed to dry shoes, socks and underwear on the fire, which are seen as filthiness.

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