Queyu Profile

Autonym: tɕhy, tɕho

Other names: 却域

The 7,000 speakers of the Queyu language are strung out along the Yalong River valley, starting around Yajiang County town and then to the northwest following the borderlands of Yajiang and Litang Counties, and then Litang and Xinlong Counties. They prefer the lower altitudes in the deep valleys of that region, whereas the higher elevations are home to Kham Tibetans. Some Queyu are being displaced to Kangding County, however, due to the construction of a reservoir to harness the water of the Yalong River. The Queyu follow Tibetan Buddhism and a mix of their local shamanistic rituals.

A number of ancient stone watchtowers are dotted along the Yalong River valley, similar to those found through much of the Ethnic Corridor. This is remote terrain, seldom travelled by outsiders. Most Tibetans and Han Chinese in surrounding counties have never even heard of this distinctive people group, but that has served to preserve the Queyu’s indigenous language and identity. Like most other Qiangic languages, Queyu has no written script. Children often grow up monolingual and will only encounter Mandarin Chinese and Tibetan when they start their formal education, or when TV satellite dishes are sold in their area.

The Queyu remain one of the least known and least researched of the Qiangic speaking Tibetan groups.