Zhuang, Qiubei in China

Zhuang, Qiubei
Photo Source:  Anonymous 
Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Zhuang, Qiubei
Country: China
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 221,000
World Population: 221,000
Primary Language: Zhuang, Qiubei
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 1.20 %
Evangelicals: 0.90 %
Scripture: Translation Needed
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: No
People Cluster: Zhuang
Affinity Bloc: Southeast Asian Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Qiubei Zhuang are also known as the Sha Zhuang, or simply, Sha.
The Qiubei Zhuang live among the beautiful mountains of southern Yunnan. They are concentrated in these three counties: Qiubei, Shizong, and Guangnan. Qiubei and Shizong are in Wenshan prefecture while Shizong county is in Qujing prefecture. Until recently the Qiubei Zhuang were very isolated from mainstream Chinese society. They are still not on the main beaten path of China, but the development of a AAAA national park, PuZheHei, has put Qiubei town more on the map in Yunnan which has in turn made the Qiubei Zhuang more accessible. A fast train has opened running between Kunming and Nanning, and Qiubei is one of the stops. The Zhaung people of Quibei speak their own dialect, setting them apart from other Zhuang peoples.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The vast majority of the Qiubei Zhuang still live in villages, market towns, and the county seat town of Qiubei. Villages range in niceness from concrete shell homes, road access, wifi, and running water with cement streets to old mud brick homes, difficult dirt trail access, with little evidence that it is the 21st century. Most villages have access to electricity now. A village or market town Qiubei Zhuang person would tend to their fields daily except for a short spell during winter and usually raise a few animals such as pigs, chickens, ducks, and/or geese. The implication of this is that they are very busy people during the day and the only time to truly have access to men and families is at night after they have come in from the fields. However, thousands have left their villages to work in factories and do construction on the east coast of China. Many of the ones that leave go to Guangdong Province for work.
They are a very communal people and are hospitable to friendly outsiders. This makes initial relationship building easier, but they have a strong identity of family and don't easily let people into their inner circles.
On the note of directness, the Zhuang are typically a very indirect people. They will not tell you direct answers and if you ask direct questions that are outside their cultural norms, it may come across as rude.
The Qiubei Zhuang are very easy to identify because the middle aged and elderly women still self-identify (in 2016) with their traditional Qiubei Zhuang clothing. However, as modern trends reach the more rural regions of China, less and less minorities are self-identifying with special clothing. The women are identified by a red or maroon head wrap with a gold glimmer mixed in with it. Their shirts are usually a light or dark blue with seven buttons that fasten underneath their arm. However, around festival times and special occasions the brighter yellow and pink shirts can be seen more frequently as well. The men have traditional clothing as well but can only be seen on the most special of occasions.
Due to most families being very poor, the overall education level is low which gives difficulties when sharing new stories and ideas with them, such as Bible stories and the gospel. Also, due to low education and strong Qiubei Zhuang identity the level of Mandarin Chinese spoken is low. Older people will often not speak Mandarin, but some speak Chinese local dialect, while middle aged and younger people will definitely at least speak the local dialect version of Mandarin and most speak understandable Mandarin Chinese. However, even young Qiubei Zhuang people still speak Qiubei Zhuang, which is a separate language from Mandarin Chinese.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The majority of Qiubei Zhuang are animists with Buddhism mixed in with it. They venerate their ancestors by having the ancestor shelf in their homes and offering food and incense before the ancestors regularly. Just as with any beliefs, some families take it more seriously than others.
Qiubei Zhuang believe strongly in ghosts and spirits and that they can be their ancestors. They genuinely live in fear of their ancestors and ghosts and different Qiubei Zhuang in different areas have said they have seen ghosts. As with any animist, the actions of their beliefs work themselves out by trying to manipulate spirits to either get them to leave them alone or help them. This can be seen with dog-teeth bracelets on children, mirrors over doors into homes, and sometimes chicken blood and feathers being put on houses or cars.
Traditionally, during festivals they will sacrifice chickens or pigs depending on the festival, but this is being practiced less and less.
Qiubei Zhuang celebrate normal Chinese holidays but also have a few of their own as well such as SanYueSan. This is a generic Zhuang holiday better known in Guangxi, but the Qiubei Zhuang celebrate it too.

What Are Their Needs?

A difficult part of working with the Qiubei Zhuang is that they are notorious drinkers and brawlers. Among other minorities and the Han in the area, the Qiubei Zhuang are known for their love of "white liquor" and common vices that go along with poverty such as stealing and fighting. A Zhuang man will not trust you if you do not drink with him. This is a difficulty in building relationships and witnessing to them the gospel. They also speak their own Zhuang dialect, so gospel materials are hard to come by.

Prayer Points

Pray against Satan's hold on them through alcoholism.
Pray for a translation team to work on translating the word of God into their mother tongue.
Pray for Chinese believers to rise up to intentionally share and church plant among the Qiubei Zhuang.
Pray for Qiubei Zhuang who leave for university or work will hear the gospel while abroad, be discipled, and come back to be missionaries to their own people.
Pray for the handful of Qiubei Zhuang believers to be given courage and grace to be bold and loving in their faith among family and friends.

Text Source:   Joshua Project