You are here > Home > Quick Navigation > Chinese Ethnic Group >


Population and Distribution

The Hani ethnic group is one of the many unique tribes in Yunnan Province. With a population of 1.25 million, they are mainly distributed over the mountain areas between the Red River and the Lancang River in Yunnan Province.


The Hani ethnic group share the same origin with the Yi and Lahu ethnic groups. According to the historical records, they all evolved from the ancient Qiang people. The Qiang people used to be a nomadic tribe living in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Later one branch of them moved south and early by the 3rd century, their forefathers had inhabited the swampland along the Dadu River and Yalong River. In the 7th century, they immigrated into the area near Mt. Ailao and Mt. Wuliang. In the Tang and Song dynasties, this area was successively reined in by the Nanzhao and Dali kingdoms. The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) established a prefecture to rule the Hani and other ethnic groups in Yunnan. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) exercised its rule through local chieftains, who were granted official posts. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) court officials replaced the chieftains.

The Hani ethnic group comprises over twenty subgroups. They used to be called "Hani", "Heni", "Budu", "Biyue", "Yani", etc. With the founding of the PRC in 1949, following consultation with the ethnic group, it was decided to agree upon the official name of Hani ethnic group.


The Hani people have their own language. Their language consists of three dialects and belongs to the Yi branch of the Tibetan-Burmese language group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. They have no written script in the past and used to keep records by carving notches on sticks. In 1957, with the help of the central government, a script system based on the Roman alphabet was created, but failed to achieve a popular use.


The Hanis believe in polytheism and practice ancestor-worship.


The Hani people mainly engage in agriculture. Situated in the subtropical climate zone, the area inhabited by the Hani people is blessed with a mild climate, abundant rainfall and fertile soil, providing an ideal condition for the development of agriculture. Main crops include rice, corn, cotton, peanut, indigo, etc. The Hani are also good at planting tea and the tea produced here occupies one third of the total tea yield of Yunnan Province.

This area also abounds in natural resources, such as plants, animals, and mineral resources. Growing on the rolling Ailao Mountains are pine, cypress, palm, tung oil and camphor trees. It is also a habitat for many wild animals, including tigers, leopards, bears, monkeys, peacocks, parrots and pheasants. Besides, this area also has rich deposits of mineral resources such as tin, copper, iron, nickel, etc.


The Hani people have two meals per day. Their staple food is rice, which is complemented with corn and a kind of locally produced purple rice. They prefer spicy and acidic food and are adept at making various pickles. Deep-fried locusts and cooked chicken heads are the dishes the Hani consider the best to offer important guests.

Hani people, men or women, all favor tobacco, drinking wine and tea. Some who live in Xishuangbanna also like to chew betel-nut.


The Hani people usually build their villages on the south slopes of the mountains. A village comprises from ten to as many as 400 households, which are related by blood ties.

The houses of the Hani people vary depending on the area they lived in. For those who live in Honghe, their houses are built with mud walls and thatched roofs and are supported by wooden pillars placed on stone foundations. While in Xishuangbanna, houses are built of bamboo. With the roof covered with straw and wood, this kind of house normally have two stories with the upper floor serving as the living area for the family and the ground floor is used for storage and provides accommodation for the livestock. The shape of the whole structure resembles a mushroom, hence the name "mushroom house." Viewed from a distance, the stockaded villages with their terraced fields, bamboo forests, and "mushroom houses," make a tranquil rural scene.


The Hani people prefer clothing made of home-spun dark blue cloth. Children before 7 years old have no sexual divisions in their clothing.

The grown men often wear short jacket buttoned down on the front and long trousers. They like to wrap their head with black or white cloth turbans. Old people often wear skullcap.

The costumes of the Hani women show diversity among different clans. Women in most areas wear collarless short blouses with buttons on the right side and long trousers. Women in Xishuangbanna and the Lancang area wear jackets buttoned on the right side, short skirts, leggings and caps decorated with silver ornaments. Women from Baihong branch in Mojiang area wear a short and tight jacket, tube shaped or long pleated skirts, embroidered waist belts and girdles. The Hani women of the Yeche branch wear white pointed caps and short sleeved, collarless jackets opening at the front without buttons. They always tightened their jacket with a colorful waistband.

Young women like to wear earrings, silver rings and necklaces. Married and unmarried women wear different hairstyles.

Social Life

In the past, the Hani people had only an oral literature, which includes legends, fairy tales, poetry, fables, ballads, mythology, proverbs, riddles, etc. Some of them tell the origin of the world, some narrate people's conquest of the natural disasters and some relate the history of their tribe.

The Hani people are good at singing and dancing. The music instruments they usually used are three- and four-stringed instruments, flutes and Sheng (a reed pipe wind instrument). Famous dances include the "Hand Clapping Dance", "Fan Dance", and the "Dongpocuo" dance which is popular in Xishuangbanna area.


Like the Han people, the Hanis celebrate the Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival. Their traditional festivals include October Festival, June Festival and etc.

June Festival, called "Ku Zha Zha" festival in Hani language, is one of the three most important festivals of the Hani nation. It is held around June 24 of the Chinese lunar calendar and lasts for three to six days. During the festival, people sacrifice to the heaven and the cattle, and enjoy the festival by swinging, wrestling, singing and dancing. The main activities of the festival are those of killing an ox for sacrificing, preparing the green grass for the horse of God, playing the turn-swing, having the long street party, dancing and singing and wrestling.

The October Year, also known as Amutu Festival, is the most ceremonious traditional festival of the Hani people. It comes on the first dragon day in the tenth lunar month and is celebrated as the New Year's Day by the Hani people. On the first day of the festival, every stockaded village holds a big banquet in the center of the main street. The banquet is so large in scale that many tables piled high with different dishes are laid end to end along the street like a colorful dragon, hence the name Long Dragon Banquet

When preparing this kind of banquet, all the families get their tables line up along the street. The villagers then sit along the table with the priest and the head of the village sitting in the seats of honor. Food and drink offered by each family are presented and people eat and drink and wish each other good luck and happiness.

The New Year's celebration lasts for five to fifteen days. All other activities break off. Any intruder will be kept in the village until the celebration is over.

Quick Navigation

New Article