The rich cultural traditions of China's minority peoples are found in her mountain valleys, high plateaux, rolling grasslands, desert oases and frozen tundra. China's minority population of over 50 million comprises 56 different peoples. Their costumes, customs, languages and religions present an exquisite mosaic of lifestyles - nomadic Kazakh and Mongol herdsmen, rice-cultivating Dai and Miao, hunting Wa and Oroqens, sinocized Tujia and Daurs. Inspite of concerted political campaigns to suppress their individualism, for many their societies retain their uniqueness. Rich oral tradition preserve tribal myths and histories where no written language exists. The hallmarks of elegance and status for many minority women are their heavy silver jewellery and rich costumes, handwoven and embroidered. Colourful festivals and clan celebrations punctuate the seasonal round while the mystical worlds of animism, Islam, Buddhism and shamanism deal with the vagaries of nature and the unknown. Both Judy Bonavia, author and sinologist, and explorer How Man Wong, whose photographs provided a stunning visual record of the minorities, travelled many thousands of miles across China whilst researching this unusual guide.
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