An Introduction to Zhuang
The Zhuang language (Saw cuengh in Zhuang) is mainly spoken in Guangxi Zhuangzu Autonomous Region, in the southwest of China is a branch of the Thai languages. The Zhuang people originally attended to agriculture. The language is a tonal language consisting of 6 tones in open syllables. This is the largest minority language in China with approximately 18 million speakers. Currently, Zhuang is probably one of the more well known minorities in China such that if you take a look at a renminbi 1 yuan note you will notice two Zhuang people on it.
There are two distinct dialects of Zhuang, the northern Zhuang and the southern Zhuang of Guangxi. Up until 1956 Zhuang never had a written language of its own and borrowed the Chinese characters then in 1956 they formed their own writing system using the English alphabet.
Here is a sample of “I love you” in Zhuang
Here is a comprehensive list of articles that I have written about the Zhuang language including Zhuang language lessons of the Wuming dialect.
Rural Zhuang, more than urban Zhuang, still live their traditional way of life and their traditional religion, animism. They believe in many spirits, often malicious, who control the events of their lives and must be calmed down. When a person falls ill, a spirit medium will be called in to perform elaborate ceremonies at the sick person’s bedside. Incense will be burned and food offered to the spirits. The medium may go into a trance hoping to discover what spirit is causing the illness. She may force and threaten the spirits to induce them to leave and throw a kind of dice to determine when the sick one will be cured.
Zhuang language, 壮語
One way the Zhuang hold fast to their ethnic identity is through the preservation of their language. The Zhuang language remained unwritten until the 1950s when an alphabet based on the Roman alphabet was developed. Now, some Zhuang primary school children in Guangxi are receiving a bilingual education learning both Zhuang and Chinese.
The Zhuang language has two major dialects: Northern Zhuang and Southern Zhuang, and descends from the Thai language family. (Even though their languages are part of the same family, the Thai and the Zhuang cannot understand each another.) A 65% lexical similarity exists between Northern and Southern Zhuang; sources indicate that the two languages are similar in grammatical structure and vocabulary. Ten million people, including all sub-dialect speakers, speak Northern Zhuang; four million, including all sub-dialect speakers, speak Southern Zhuang. Some sources report that the Zhuang language has over 50 dialects, most Zhuang also speak Cantonese and Mandarin today.
Singing is a favorite activity of the Zhuang people. Singing contests are a part of every festival. There are old songs, which are an important part of the Zhuang oral tradition; there are also new songs, invented on the moment. Much of the point of Zhuang singing contests are to show one’s quickness in composing verses. One person will sing out a greeting or question; the one sung to must frame a response and sing back without delay.
Urban Zhuang are often almost indistinguishable from Chinese. They have intermarried with the Chinese and over several generations have adopted the Chinese language and customs. This is not to say that they have lost all Zhuang identity, for the Chinese in Nanning and other cities of Guangxi have adopted some Zhuang customs as well. Both Zhuang and Chinese celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth lunar month. For the holiday’s major event, teams of twenty men sit in pairs in long canoe-like boats and have competitions. Each boat is carved in the shape of a dragon’s head and scaly designs are painted along the sides.
The Han Chinese, (not the dynasty) who ruled from 206 BC to 220 AD, expanded into the Zhuang area of Guangxi in the year 221 BC under Emperor Qin Shi Huang during the Qin dynasty; Emperor Qin was the first to unify the country. He had unified what was before known as China; however, he wanted to amalgamate the territories and subsequently conquer the peoples, southward. Though he had conquered these peoples, he did not entirely take over their pre-existing political forms and social institutions. By nature, this left the Zhuang with some autonomy. He brought in some, if only for a short time, some of the features of the central governing system, and he also established three provinces. Emperor Qin oversaw the building of the Li canal at Xing-an, which linked the southern and central river systems.
The Qin dynasty did not last long after the death of Qin Shi Huang. The reason for this was that he made such drastic reforms in China that the rest of the country could not catch up with the ruler’s tight-fisted demands. Eventually the Han dynasty took over. During the period of upheaval in the Qin Dynasty, a Han Chinese, Zhao Tuo, declared himself “Martial King of the Southern Yue.” The region he controlled included the Zhuang areas. It was not until 111 BC that the area under his control was again conquered by the Han Dynasty.
The Zhuang, over the years, have been involved in battles with approaching foreigners. In the 1070s, they fought against a people known as the Annamese. Then, in the middle of the 16th century, they fought against Japanese pirates who invaded their shores. Later, in the 1800s, they formed the Black Banner Army along with the Han Chinese and defeated the intruding French near Hanoi in both 1873 and 1882. Again, in 1885, they fought against the French and won a victory that proved crucial at Zhennanguan, a pass on the Sino-Vietnamese border.
The Zhuang also joined in the revolutions that began at the beginning of the 20th century. First, they joined with Sun Yatsen in his revolutionary organization, Tong Meng Hui. Later, in 1925, a communist organization was established in the Zhuang area. Whether or not they participated in the revolution is not clear.
Origins of the Zhuang peoples
The Zhuang are China’s largest minority group and they mainly reside in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, west of Guangdong province, east of Yunnan and borders Vietnam. A great number of the Zhuang live in villages in the mountainous areas, specifically in the western two thirds of Guangxi. The Zhuang may also be found in most of Guangxi’s major cities, in each case making up to a third of the population while the remaining live in Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou, and Hunan Provinces.
The Zhuang are an offshoot of a Thai-related people group that over 2,000 years ago who existed over a large area of Southern China. The Zhuang probably emigrated from the south in Vietnam. Archaeological remains in Bai-lian Dong near Liu-zhou and Zhen-pi Yan near Guilin have turned up burial sites with burial styles common not to China but to Vietnam. These burial styles also suggest a relationship between the Zhuang and the Haobinhian (9000-5600 BC) and Bacsonian (8300-5900 BC) cultures of Vietnam.
Zhuang language Spelling /zhuang-language-spelling/
Part 2 Pronounciation of vowels (1) /part-2-pronounciation-of-vowels-1/
Part 3 Pronounciation of vowels (2)http://www.sanamionline.net/part-3-pronounciation-of-vowels-2/
Part 4: Vowel pronounciation (3) /part-4-vowel-pronounciation-3/
Part 5: Pronounciation of consonants /part-5-pronounciation-of-consonants/
Part 6: Tones (1) /part-6-tones-1/
Part 7: Tones (2) /part-7-tones-2/
Zhuang language Part 8: Syntax (1) /zhuang-language-part-8-syntax-1/
Zhuang language Part 9: Syntax (2) /zhuang-language-part-9-syntax-2/
Zhuang language: Part 10 Syntax (3) /zhuang-language-part-10-syntax-3/
Zhuang language: Part 10 Syntax (3) Commentary/zhuang-language-part-10-syntax-3-commentary/
Zhuang: Part 11: Structure of Words (1) zhuang-part-11-structure-of-words-1/
Ningming Zhuang from 1 – 10 http://www.sanamionline.net/zhuang-numbers/
Street view video: PingXiang, Guangxi /street-view-video-pingxiang-guangxi/
壮族乐器《竹玉琴》Zhuang Instruments: Zhuyu Hu /zhuang-instruments-zhuyu-hu/
壮族乐器《葫芦琴》 Zhuang Instruments: Hulu Qin /zhuang-instruments-hulu-qin/
壮族乐器《马骨胡》 Zhuang Instruments: Magu Hu /zhuang-instruments-magu-hu/
Zhuang: Let’s eat! 壮語：ご飯を食べましょう!
Let’s eat! ごはんですよ。
I’m hungary. おなかがすいた。
It’s delicious! おいしい！
You will go have okayu. あなたがお粥をたべます。
I will go eat. 私はご飯を食べます。
Greetings in Zhuang – 壮語での挨拶
Zhuang Instruments: Zhuyuqin /zhuang-instruments-zhuyuqin/
Northern Zhuang Folk Song /northern-zhuang-folk-song/