Zhuang is the second largest of the 56 ethnic groups in China. The ancestors of the Zhuang were a branch of the ancient Baiyue people, who lived in south China. It has a population over 16 million. Most of the Zhuang live in southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The rest have settled in Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou and Hunan provinces.
Zhuang area enjoys a mild climate with an average annual temperature of 20 degrees centigrade, being warm in winter and sweltering in summer in the south. Plants are always green, blossoming in all seasons. Zhuang ethnic group has its own language, which belongs to the Zhuang-Dai branch of Zhuang-Dong Austronesian, part of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Although the language has its own characters, they are underdeveloped and dated. Chinese was widely used among the Zhuang people until 1955, when a writing system based on the Latin alphabet was created by the Zhuang, with the help of central government.
The Zhuang region enjoys a mild climate and abundant rainfall, which supports tropical and subtropical crops such as rice, yam, corn, sugar cane, bananas, longan, litchis, pineapples, shaddock and mangos. Rice and corn make up the Zhuang staple diet, with pork, beef, mutton, and poultry the popular meat consumed.
The traditional Zhuang costume, worn on special occasions, is unique in its style. Zhuang women wear collarless, embroidered and trimmed jackets buttoned to the left together with baggy trousers, embroidered belts and shoes, and pleated skirts. They often bind their heads with black cloth. Men wear long collarless clothes or short shirts, long trousers with girdles on, bind their heads with cloth, and wear cloth shoes.
Zhuang people are adept at singing and dancing. Common musical instruments include the suona (Chinese cornet), bronze drum, cymbal, gong, sheng (Chinese wind pipe), xiao (vertical bamboo flute), di (Chinese flute) and huqin (a stringed instrument made of horse bones). Zhuang dances are characterized by distinct themes, forceful and nimble steps, jocular and humorous gestures and realistic emotions. The Timbal, a kind of ceremonial utensil representing power and fortune and also a sacred musical instrument, is especially favored by all Zhuangs.
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