Guiqiong Profile

Autonym: gwi tʃh

Other names: Yutong, 贵琼, 鱼通

Though merely 7000 in number, the remarkable diversity found within the Guiqiong people group is indicative of the melting pot of customs, culture, language and religion in Sichuan’s Ethnic Corridor. Centuries ago, when they migrated into their present-day location around the Dadu River in northeast Kangding County and northern Luding County, they were a tribe of ethnic Qiang. Spreading northwards through the Dadu and Jintang valleys, however, into what was known as the Yutong District of present-day Kangding, the settlers were gradually influenced by the surrounding Tibetan society. Hence, to this day there are pockets of Guiqiong who still dress in the dark blue style of Qiang, practising animism, and even celebrating Qiang New Year on the first day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar. Further upstream, though, Guiqiong wear tunics and headdresses somewhat akin to Jiarong Tibetan style, and follow Tibetan Buddhism, though mixed with some traditional Guiqiong customs. Here, they sometimes refer to themselves as “Yutong” Tibetans.

Despite this wide spectrum, their roots are the same, and the Guiqiong still consider themselves to be a single unified people group. During the state ethnic classification project of the 1950s the Guiqiong of Luding County were originally given “Han” status, while those in Kangding were classified as Tibetan. However, a campaign in more recent years led in 1986 to the Luding Guiqiong also receiving Tibetan classification. The Guiqiong language is Qiangic, rather than Tibetan, with 4 tones and no written script, but few can speak it fluently these days. The Chinese Linguist Sun Hongkai stated: "Speakers of Guiqiong use Chinese (Sichuan dialect) outside of their own villages. The Guiqiong language they speak is under heavy influence from Chinese, containing many Chinese loan-words"(5).