Muya Profile

Autonym: mə ȵa

Other names: Minyak, Minyag, Munya, 木雅

The whole region east of the Yalong River, from the south of Daofu and Danba Counties to the north of Jiulong County, is historically regarded by Tibetans as “Muya” (or Minyak) territory. Hence, those living there may generally be referred to as “Muya”, though ethnically the majority of inhabitants are actually Kham Tibetans. Muya Tibetans - those that speak the Qiangic Muya language - number only about 15,000 and reside just in the southern reaches of the ancient territory.

The Qiangic Muya are dispersed in an arc around the mighty 7,556m (24,783ft) Gongga Mountain, king of Sichuan’s mountains. They are mostly farmers, though a few are nomads. The eastern and western dialects are linguistically related, but are sufficiently different as to be mutually unintelligible to a large extent. This language has no script, but the oral language is still very much alive. Muya people only speak Chinese (Sichuan dialect) or Kham when they need to communicate with outsiders. The Western Muya live along the valley that has the main road-link through southern Kangding County down into Jiulong County. They are generally very devout Tibetan Buddhists, and have a monastery where the monks all speak Muya. The Eastern Muya are in eastern Jiulong County and part of Shimian County in Ya’an District. Here they follow Bon, with Tibetan Buddhist rituals mixed in, which is most evident at the annual “Shine Upon the Buddha Festival” on the fifteenth day of the eleventh month of the lunar calendar.