Tujia Ethnic Minority

Written by Sally Guo Updated Jun. 18, 2021

The Tujia ethnic group possesses its own language, but most can speak Mandarin Chinese. At present the Tujia’s language is used only in a few areas; it lacks written characters, so Chinese characters are used instead.

Tujia people mostly engage in agriculture. The women are master the art of weaving and embroidering. The other traditional handcrafts of Tujia people are carving, drawing, paper-cutting, and wax printing. The Tujia brocade is called Xi Lan Ka Pu and is one of the three most famous in China.

Tujia people like singing. They have love songs, crying songs sung at weddings, hand waving songs, labor songs, and Pan songs. Their traditional dances include the hand waving dance, Ba Bao bronze bell dance, and Mao Gu Si in which people dance and sing. Tujia musical instruments are the so-na, mu ye, dong-dong-kui, da-jia-huo.

Tujia Etiquettes

The Tujia people have many customary manners. When Tujia people meet, they must greet each other. When a guest drops in, the host must be very hospitable. Tujia people eat simple in daily life, but a guest might be served first a bowl of sticky rice rum in summer and a bowl of Tuan San in boiled water, and then a big feast. When a guest is invited for tea, he is usually offered oil tea, Yinmi, Tangyuan, or a half-cooked egg.

Tujia people feast for every occasion from wedding and funeral to the construction of a new house. According to their custom, each table should be served with nine, seven or eleven dishes. A meal with eight dishes is for a beggar and ten in Chinese (shi) is pronounced the same as stone (shi); serving this amount is therefore considered disrespectful and not done.

Tujia Fashion

Men's clothing: They typically wear a coat with a Pipa collar, a double breasted shirt and a collarless shirt. A long band of cloth is usually tied in their waist. Trousers, usually green and blue, are fat with large and short bottoms. Most men wrap puttees around the legs; their heads are wrapped with a green silk handkerchief or a white cloth of nearly 2 meters long the shape of a  “人” on the head. They wear straw sandals with side opening or full opening, cloth shoes and spiked shoes.

Women's clothing: Tujia women usually wear low-collar blouses with an opening in the right side. The collar is usually embroidered with three laces, and the cuff and the place just right at the lower edge of the collar have three laces of small flowers. They used to wear skirts with many straight ruffles and later changed to big round trousers with three colorful laces at the bottom of the trousers. Young women commonly dress in white coats inside and black short gowns outside because black is like that of a crow and a magpie; the style is called Ya Que Yi. Tujia women use a nearly 3 meters long green silk handkerchief to wrap their head decorated with silver pieces like combs, Gua Zi Zhen (a silver hairpin), Mo Li Zhen (a silver hairpin), and Ba Jiao Shan. They also like to wear earrings, bracelets made of gold, silver or jade.

Tujia Diet

Tujia people mainly eat rice and corn, and sometimes take wheat, sweet potatoes and yam as the second choice. Tujia food has a unique sour and spicy taste in its dishes. Tea culture and drinking culture have rich methods and history.  The iron ware, wood ware and bamboo ware used in Tujia dining and cooking are all very special. Tujia people use a variety of different cooking methods.

Tujia Architecture

A traditional Tujia house comes in mainly four styles: thatched cottage, adobe cottage, wooden wall house and Diao Jiao Lou; some Tujia people also live in stone houses and caves. The structure of a Tujia house has three parts: the grand house, the side house, and the back house. The grand house has three rooms; the middle one is the hall which has Tun Kou in front. The side house is the two rooms apart in front of the grand house. The house behind the grand house is the back house. The rich Tujia families have courtyard dwellings, the front of which is called Men Lou Zi, and the middle of which is the yard. Tujia people like to live with their clan which formed their concentrated living regions.

Tujia Festivals

Tujia people observe the traditional festivals very much greatest of which is the Spring festival. Each family will butcher a pig, make mungbean noodles, cook sticky rice wine or make wine for the Spring festival. Zhu Rou He Cai is the important course Tujia people make on the Spring festival or other big days. The second day of the second month of the Chinese calendar is She Day; on that day people will have She meal. Tujia people have Zongzi on Dragonboat Day. Sticky rice baba is one of most popular Tujai food.

Having an early Spring festival is called having the Spring festival in advance, or called Coir Raincoat festival, which is the day previous to the last day of the year of the Chinese calendar. Tujia's early Spring festival differs from other fellow people's Spring festival.

Nu'er Hui, whose primitive name is Shi Ge Peng Nu'er Hui, is popular in Shi Hui Yao and Da Shan Ding in En Shi; on that day, Tujia youths get together to look for their love. It is held on the second day of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar every year. When the day comes, the youths from different parts in Xuan En, Jian Shi, and He Feng also come for the Nu'er Hui.

Tujia Marriage Customs

Tujia girls will cry to welcome their marriage day. The brides usually start to cry half a month previous to the marriage day; some brides even will cry about one month. The shortest days brides might cry is about 3 or 5 days. Tujia people judge a girl's intelligence and virtue by how well she can sing crying songs in the wedding.

Ten sisters' accompanying is a unique form that Tujia girl takes when she cries over her marriage. The day previous to the bride's marriage day, her parents will invite 9 unmarried girls in the neighborhood to home, and they sit with the bride around the mat singing songs for the whole night, which is called ten sisters' accompanying singing. Ten girls sit around the table, and then the bride cries ten times called a Put. At each interval the cook will put a dish on the table. When the bride finishes there are ten dishes at the table. When all ten dishes are at the table, the nine unmarried girls will take turns to cry. After the ninth girl cries, the bride will cry ten times, called Collects, and the cook collects ten dishes in turns. That ends ten sisters' accompanying.

Tujia people are very cautious about the marriage if the bride and the groom have the same surname. If they have the same surname, they may be of the same blood. The marriage of the same blood is a big taboo in Tujia. In fact, nowadays, even though the marriage between the same surname is in accordance with Tujia marriage rules, most Tujia people won't accept it.

Tujia Taboo

Tujia brides can not sweep the ground for her parents when she pays the first visit to them after marriage because Tujia people think she might sweep away good luck. The groom cannot finish the big bowl of rice served specially and cannot eat the two soybeans (a soybean here stands for a gold bean) put in the cup while drinking a cup of wine when he has the first meal at the home of his parents-in-law because it will make them poor. The new couple can not make love when they spend a night at the house of the bride's parents.

Tujia people in the west of Hubei must serve the guests 3 or 4 eggs in oil tea treat. They think, one egg means to eat the ginger, two eggs mean to blame, five eggs mean to destroy 5 crops, 6 eggs mean to pity someone with small positions, 7, 8 and 9 eggs suggest the unpropitious phrase Qi Si Ba Wang Jiu Mian ( 7 and 8 is to die, and 9 is to be buried).

Tujia Religion

Tujia people used to believe in ghost and spirits, especially their dead ancestors. On important days, people show big respect to their ancestors; on the first and the fifteenth day of each month, they also show small respect. The food for big respect has pig heads, rice balls, ciba, chicken, ducks and vegetables. In order to show respect towards their ancestors, some will use chopsticks to put some food on the rice in his bowl and mourn in silence a while before eating; this symbolizes the ancestors eat first. The Sixth day of June of the Chinese lunar calendar is the day Tujia people sacrifice the king of Tu; during that day, handwaing hall are setup in each Tujia village in which many sacrifice things like pig heads, fruits, etc. Tujia people cook chicken and ducks for the guests to do the winter sacrifice on the first day of the tenth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Tujia people respect the god of kitchen stove, the god of land, the god of crops, the god of Shi Guan, and Lu Ban( people sacrifice Lu Ban when they are going to build a house). Tujia people prepare offerings like wine and meat for their sacrifice, and a big rooster is also a necessary offering.

White tiger (Bai Hu) worship: white tiger has an important place in the deep heart of Tujia people, because they believe they are the descendants of the white tiger. It is said that once upon a time, Ba Wu Xiang, the ancestor of the Tujia people, was respected as the leader of five different tribes, called Lin Jun. Lin Jun led the people to sail along the river to Yan Yang. There they killed the terrible and cruel goddess of the Yan river and settled down. Since then, Lin Jun was greatly respected by the people. When he died, his soul changed into a white tiger which Tujia people look upon as the god who protects them. Tujia never fail to remember to worship the white tiger: A wooden sculpture of a white tiger is worshiped in the idol niche of each Tujia house throughout the year; during the wedding, the groom will cover the big table in the hall with a tiger blanket in remembrance of their ancestors.

Apart from the religious sacrifice to worship white tigers, Tujia people let the shape of white tiger cover their daily life. They hope the image of the tiger can remove the evil from their house and bless it with happiness and safety.

Create My Trip

Need Help?

Request a custom itinerary today and get one step closer to your personalized trip

Create Your Trip