Han Nationality

Written by Matteo Updated Jun. 18, 2021

Han Nationality is the largest nationality among the 56 ethnic groups in China and the world at large. Han people are originally known as Huaxia descendants living in the Yellow River drainage area. Later they assimilated and integrated with other nationalities. Starting from the West Han Dynasty, They were called Han Nationality.

Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language system comprising seven dialects. Modern Chinese takes North Dialect as its basis and the pronunciation of Beijing people as its standard pronunciation. Chinese Characters are one of the ancient characters in the world, boasting a long history of about 6000 years. They evolved from oracle-bone inscriptions and inscriptions on bronze. By now, the total number of Chinese characters is 40,000 and that of the most commonly used ones is about 6000 to 7000. Chinese is one of the international official languages designated by the UN. There is no universal religion in China and parts of its population believe in Buddhism, Catholicism, and Christian. Han Nationality, as always, encourages the co-existence of various religious beliefs. Seeking happiness through one's own efforts and respect (rather than adoration) on ancestors are the major traditions of Chinese people. In history, some Chinese of Han Nationality believed in Buddhism and Taoism; when Catholicism and Christian were introduced to China others started to believe in the foreign religions. For thousands of years, benevolence is the center of Chinese ethnics which emphasizes moral and ethnic education. Confucian School featuring the thoughts of Confucius and Mencius has exerted wide and deep influence on Han people.


Widely distributed in the immense land area, Han people have developed various styles of residential houses. For instance, Han people residing in North China Plateau usually live in wood-made bungalows with four-section compound represented by Beijing four-section compound; Han people living in Northeast China are very similar to those in North China. But they are different in wall and roof. The walls of houses in Northeast China are much thicker so as to keep warm; those living in North Shanbei Province dig cave dwellings. That is because Huangtu Plateau has thick earth layers and low water levels. Cave dwellings are therefore warm in winter and cool in summer. Moreover, they do not take extra land area; Han people living in South China like to reside in wood houses which feature flying eaves and exquisite pavilions. Even in South China, construction styles of houses vary from each other according to different customs and natural conditions. For instance, buildings on rolling lands are built up close to mountains; houses in Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces usually constructed close to streets and rivers; earth towers in Fujian Province are huge and elegant while pavilions and towers in Suzhou look exquisite and elaborate.


Han people take grain as their staple food, and various meat and vegetables as assistant food. It is quite different from the diet habit of Tibetan, Mongol, and western nationalities. Besides, Han people gradually developed the eating habit of three meals one day. Each meal is arranged with different staple food, dish, and beverage. The components of three meals in different regions have common characteristics, but they still vary according to geographical locations, economic development, and conditions of life and production. Han people are good at cooking. Through various cooking methods and skills, such as fry, stew, cook, steam, and bake, as well as cold and dressed with sauce. They have developed different flavors which could be summarized as eight major cuisines, namely, Sichuan Cuisine, Guangdong Cuisine, Fujian Cuisine, Anhui Cuisine, Shandong Cuisine, Hunan Cuisine, Zhejiang Cuisine, and Jiangsu Cuisine.

Traditional Festivals

1. Spring Festival is the largest traditional Chinese festival.

2. Lantern Festival is celebrated on the last day of the first lunar month.

3. Dragon Boat Festival was established to commemorate a notable official and patriotic poet Qu Yuan. 


In the past most marriages were arranged by parents. Contract for a marriage was very popular. Some young people were arranged as husband and wife by their parents when they were not born. Before engagement, the go-between will be invited to the bride's family as marriage interview. During the ceremony of engagement, the groom's family should send some presents to his wife-to-be as betrothal gifts. On the wedding day, the bride should also bring gifts to the groom's family as dowry.

On the wedding day, the groom will sit on a sedan and go to fetch the bride. Usually the sedan is decorated with music band. When the bride arrives at the groom's family, she will bow to the groom's parents and worship Heaven and Earth. After the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom will enter the bridal chamber while the groom's family members will treat guests and friends with big dinner. In some areas, there are customs of tease the bride and listening to the love chatting between the bride and groom.


Funerals of Han Nationality have many superstitious customs. But most of them emphasize expensive coffins and grand burial ceremonies. The dead person should be bathed before encoffined. The rite of burial can be divided into simple ones and grand ones. In a simple burial ceremony, the dead will be covered with new clothes; while in a grand one, the dead should be laid into a coffin. Coffin should be well made, and for rich families coffin is made of rare woods and painted with color paintings. Burial ceremony should be hold solemnly. After that there is the memorial ceremony which usually lasts ten days or more. Sometimes monks or Taoists are invited to chant scriptures because local people believe it can help the dead to reach paradise earlier.

Taboos in Diet

On the first, second, and third day of the first lunar month Han people do not eat raw food. They usually prepare cooked food before Spring Festival, and heat them if they wan to eat during the three days. According to the custom of Han people, eating something raw would bring bad luck while taking cooked food would bring good fortune. In some places, the local people like to get everything prepared so that they need not to touch any cooking ware during the three days. For instance, in some areas of Henan Province, the third day of the first lunar month is the birthday of rice. On that day local people never eat rice because they are afraid that the production of rice next year might be reduced. In the past there were a lot of taboos on the diet of women who are pregnant or have just given birth to babies. For example, in some regions pregnant females of Han Nationality never eat rabbit; otherwise, they believe, her baby would have a harelip. Still in many other areas raw ginger is considered as the cause of hyperdactylia on babies. In addition, in ancient times pregnant Han females were forbidden from dog meat, a kind of food which, according to the then customs, would lead to dystocia.

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