SHE MINORITY

SHE MINORITY


The She are an ethnic group that lives primarily on the border region between the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang in southeast China, with smaller numbers in Guangdong, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces. They have mixed with the Han for a long time and most speak Han languages. They cultivate rice and tea. The original meaning of She was “slash and burn.” According to traditional songs that describe their history, the She are the descendants of a daughter of the legendary Emperor Gai Xin and a young man, Pan Hu, who helped the emperor defeat and enemy in battle. They had three sons, Pan, Lan and Lei, and a daughter who took here husband’s surname, Zhong. Pan, Lan, Lei, and Zhong are the most common She surnames today (See Origins of the She Below). [Source: "Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China", edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company, 1994)]

More than 90 percent live in the mountainous areas in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, and the rest are scattered within the territory of Jiangxi, Guangdong and Anhui provinces. They live mainly in villages made up of scores of families, with the Han villages living around them. Some also live together with Han people. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences]

The She live primarily on steep slopes in river valleys or hilly area at elevations between 500 and 1, 500 meters. They inhabit an area the highlands of southeast China, where, it is said, the mountains are not high but are dark green, and the rivers are not wide but run vertically and horizontally. The climate is mild and humid, the frost season brief, and the land fertile. She are mostly farmers. They grow rice, potatoes, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, wheat, rape, beans, tobacco, tea, oil tea, dried and cured bamboo shoots, peanuts, ramie, camphor and medicinal herbs. Huiming tea of the autonomous county of Jingning is very famous. Timber and bamboo are important commercial commodities for the She. Mineral resources include coal, iron, gold, copper, alum, graphite, sulfur, talcum, mica and many other non-ferrous metals. There is only one She Autonomous County: Jinning, in the mountainous area of South Zhejiang Province. She, some say, have been living in Jinning since 766. At that time they moved from Fujian Province to southwestern Zhejiang Province. Jinning is called the hometown of She ethnic group.

The She are also known as the Shanda, Shanha, Shemin and Yu. They speak a Sino-Tibetan language similar to Hakka and are believed to have originated in Guangdong Province and migrated to their present location beginning in the early 7th century. Most She speak Chinese instead of their ethnic tongue. Some She also use Southern Fujian dialect. A few Guangdong She speak a language similar to the Miao. The She don’t have their own script. They use the written Chinese language. [Source: China.org]

The She are the 20th largest ethnic group and the 19th largest minority out of 55 in China. They numbered 708,651 in 2010 and made up 0.05 percent of the total population of China in 2010 according to the 2010 Chinese census. She populations in China in the past: 710,039 in 2000 according to the 2000 Chinese census; 630,378 in 1990 according to the 1990 Chinese census. A total of 234,167 were counted in 1964 and 379,080 were counted in 1982. [Sources: People’s Republic of China censuses, Wikipedia]

Origin of the She

The She people, it is believed, date back at least to the Tang Dynasty, when they were called “Man”, “Manliao”, “Dongman” or “Dongliao”, living in the boundary district between Fujian and Jiangxi provinces. At the end of the Southern Song Dynasty, they were named “Shemin” and “Quanmin”, which started to appear in historic books. During the Southern Song Dynasty, the name of "She people", meaning using knife and fire, appeared in history books. She call themselves "Shanda"or "Shanha", meaning "the guests in the mountain". Since the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, they have been referred to as She.


Lacking a written language, She traditionally relied on songs and oral tales to maintain their identity and to preserve their history. Their most important legend, "The Song of Emperor Gao Xin," describes their origins. In ancient times, a man named Pan Hu acquired the right to marry the third daughter of Emperor Gao Xin for helping the ruler to defeat a powerful enemy. The princess bore three sons and a daughter. The first son, placed on a tray when he was born, was given the surname Pan (tray, plate); the second son, after being put into a basket upon birth, was named Lan (basket); and the third son, because thunder sounded as he was being born, was called Lei (thunder). The daughter took her husband's surname, Zhong. Pan Hu’s offspring are regarded as the She’s apical ancestors,and are the four most surnames among the She today. [Source: Jordan I. Pollack, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]

Scholars disagree about the true origins of the She. Are they descendants of the ancient Yue? Do they share common ancestry with the Yao (another ethic group located in pockets throughout southern China)? Yue (Baiyue) refers to various ethnic groups who inhabited the regions of East China, South China and Northern Vietnam during the 1st millennium B.C. and A.D. 1st millennium known for their short hair, body tattoos, fine swords, and naval prowess. Most believe that the She' ancestors originally lived in the Phoenix Mountains in Chaozhou, Guangdong Province. They left their native place to escape the oppression of their feudal rulers. That's why they called themselves "guests from the mountains." [Source: China.org]

Many scholars believe the She people and Yao people evolved together from the “Wulingman (also called Wuximan)” around present-day Changsha in Hunan Province in the Han and Jin dynasties around the A.D. 3rd century. They shared the same origin with the Yao people. In the 7th century at the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, She lived in the border areas of Fujian Province, Guangdong Province and Jiangxi Province. After the Song Dynasty, they started to migrate to areas in middle and north part of Fujian Province. [Source: Chinatravel.com]

She History

The best available evidence suggests that the She once lived primarily in Guangdong Province, but starting in the early A.D. seventh century they migrated north to the border region separating the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang in southeast China. [Source: Jordan I. Pollack, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]

In the Sui and Tang dynasties, from the 7th to 10th centuries, She people living in the border mountainous areas of Fujian Province, Guangdong Province and Jiangxi Province began to engage in agriculture and hunting. She were ruled by the central government for the first time in the 7th century, when the Tang court organized prefectures in Zhangzhou and Tingzhou in Fujian Province. Feudal patterns among the She were well established by the Song Dynasty (960-1279). At that time, the She were planters of rice, tea, sugar cane and ramie. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, many She people lived in mountainous areas in eastern Fujian, southern Zhejiang and other areas. * [Source: Chinatravel.com; China.org]

By the 14th century, many She had migrated into the mountain areas in eastern Fujian, southern Zhejiang and northeastern Jiangxi. Over the next few hundred years, the She grew culturally loser to their Han Chinese neighbors. There were linguistic and technological convergences and regular economic and political interaction. Some She were exploited by local landlords who seized large tracts of land. Others worked hired laborers, or fled to the mountains to eke out a living.


She towns, townships and counties in Zhejiang

The situation improved under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ming rulers allowed She communities to operate autonomously to a degree, in exchange for their loyalty and tribute. Some prosperous She were picked to govern the rest in the interests of the Ming court. The Qing dynasty (1644-1911), however, brought military occupation and compulsory changes in certain She practices, including dress. In the mid-nineteenth century, European missionaries introduced schools, hospitals, and converted some to Christianity.

According to the Chinese government: “From the Tang Dynasty to the foundation of the People' s Republic of China, She people resisted efforts to control them and often rose in revolt. In the Tang Dynasty, the revolts led by Lei Wanxing, Miao Zicheng and Lan Fenggao lasted for nearly 50 years. In the Yuan Dynasty, She people participated enthusiastically in the struggle against the ruling government, led by Zhang Shijie and Wen Tianxiang. During the Civil War in 1924-27, She peasants in eastern Guangdong organized to fight landlords, and similar uprisings sprang up in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces. Revolutionary activities exploded in eastern Fujian during the Agrarian Revolution (1927-37), and most of the She areas were under the worker-peasant democratic power.

The She actively resisted Japanese occupation of China (1937-45) during World War II and aligned themselves with the Communists in their civil war against the Kuomintang (Nationalist party). The She made great contributions to the Anti-Japanese struggle and in the struggle against the Kuomintang. Many revolutionary bases were in She areas during the war that led to China's liberation in 1949. Since 1949, She communities underwent many of the great institutional changes occurring throughout China; land redistribution, collectivization, and the post-1979 decollectivization of agriculture.

She Religion, Totems and Funerals

The She worship their ancestors and believe in ghosts. Among their most important celebrations are ceremonies that honor family ancestors. In these a picture of Pan Hu is hung in the ancestor hall and the names of all living lineage males are written on a banner. Other festivals honor folk heroes and gods. Part time shaman are consulted for treatment of diseases and the exorcism of ghosts. The dead have traditionally been cremated but now they are often buried.

As hunting has traditionally been an important part of She life, She people have worshiped a hunting deity since ancient times. Hakka people also worship the She hunting deity under the influence of the She. Sanshan Guowang (Three-Mountain-Guandian) is one of the most important deities of today’s Hakka people in eastern Guangdong Province. Some She also worship this god. Many people think the Sanshan Guowang is the unique deity of Hakka people.

According to the Chinese government: “Until education became widespread after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, She believed in hosts and spirits. Superstition used to hamper people's minds and production. Among the old and the uneducated, it still does. Traditionally, every clan was symbolized by a dragon-headed stick, a sign of the She' totemic beliefs. Moreover, She used to trace their ancestry to a legendary "Panhu," who helped an emperor put down a rebellion and won the love of his princess. Legend has it that Panhu and the princess had three sons and a daughter, who became the ancestors of the She. She used to worship a painting of their legendary ancestors and make sacrificial offerings to them every three years.” [Source: China.org]

Centuries ago, She cremated their dead, but since the 1940s earth burial has been common. On who can and can not attend a funeral, the deceased’s birth year should not be the opposite birth year of his or her relatives. For example, if the dead was born in the Zi year, relatives born in the Wu year are forbidden from attending the funeral because Zi year and Wu year are opposite to each other. During the funeral, it is forbidden to let the coffin bump on the two sides of the house gate. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

She Festivals and Ceremonies

left She people attach much importance to traditional festivals and worshiping of ancestors. When worshiping ancestors, they will offer sacrifices including two cups of wine, one cup of tea, three vegetable dishes, three meat dishes and seasonal wheat. She pay respects to their ancestors three times a year, in the first, fifth, and seventh lunar months. Every third year there is also a lineage wide ceremony held in honor of family forebears, officiated at by the reigning head of the lineage. During the festivals, there are rules about what to eat. Wine and meat are generally allowed and indispensable, Ciba (cooked glutinous rice pounded into paste) is prepared for all festivals. On the birthday of adults, people prepare Ciba, and slaughter a chicken and duck. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

Like Hans, She celebrate the Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Pure Brightness Festival (in memory of the dead), Dragon Boat-Racing Festival, Moon Festival and the Double-Ninth Festival. In addition, the third day of the third lunar month is a holiday on which no work is done. Ancestor worship is the center of another festival on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. Sacrifices are offered to the "Duobei King" in October, and people have a day off on the 19th of the second lunar month to mark the Buddha's attainment of Nirvana. [Source: China.org |]

Taboos during the Spring Festival: 1) It is forbidden to tote excrement with a carrying pole on New Year day. 2) It is forbidden to sweep the floor from the 1st day to the 4th day of the New Year. 4. 3) On the 5th of the New Year, people see off the past year by burning the rubbish on the roadside after sweeping the floor. From the New Year’s Eve to the 3rd , and the 15th day of New Year, it is not allowed to scold people, strike a fire, light up the lamp or borrow stuff from neighbors. It is forbidden to air clothes on the 15 and do farm work on the 20th. \=/

Among the uniquely She celebration are rituals held during the third, fourth, and tenth lunar months that honor, respectively, rice, wheat, and a folk hero, King Duo Bei. San Yue San is three day festival celebrated on the 3rd day of the 3rd lunar month (usually late March, Early April) by the Li, Zhuang, Dong, Miao, Yao, She, Mulao and Geleo minorities in China's southern and central provinces. Sometimes called Venus Day, it is a time when boyfriends and girlfriends are chosen and villages celebrate the occasion with singing, dancing, archery, wrestling, playing on swings, tug of wars, pole climbing and other activities. All of the minorities perform the Money Bell and Double Daggers Dance. In this dance one man holds two daggers in his hand. Another man holds a money bell. The man with the daggers tries to stab the man with the money bell, who in turn tries to run away.

She Marriage

Marriages are typically between men and women with different surnames or different villages. . However, because the respective surnames are often concentrated in particular area, marriageable partners who reside close can be hard to find. In such cases, the She follow a custom called "incenseburner" exogamy (marrying outside a clan or community). This allows marriage between persons from different lineage subgroups who worship the same ancestors but distinguish between themselves by their use of different incense burners within the same temple. Although permitted the practice, is relatively rare. [Source: Jordan I. Pollack, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]

Young men and women flirt and court openly and have traditionally used folk songs to express their feelings. Couples need permission of their parents to wed but marriages are typically not arranged. Husbands adopt their wives’ surname and move to their wives’ villages. Extramarital sex is not that big of a deal. Women have the “trouble of 18”, which means that they should not get married at the age of 18, because, it is believed, they will not get pregnant and will do harm to their husband. Men have the “trouble of 20”, which means that they should not get married at the age of 20.


Before a She marriage, there are two main stages: finding a matchmaker and getting engaged, both of which involve quite a bit of proper etiquette. The She don't like to marry people with the same name. Among them there are only four family names: Pan, Lan, Lei and Zhong. The wedding and marriage process is overseen by a matchmaker, who can be the bridegroom's uncle or a singer. A fortuneteller or priest is consulted to fix the date of the wedding ceremony, according to the birth dates of the couple. During the weddings numerous gifts are exchanged. That forces some of the poorest families to seek other types of marriages that alleviates the economic pressure of the weddings, such as the adoption of a girl as daughter-in-law or a boy as a son-in-law. *\

The She have two unusual kinds of marriages; a man marrying an unmarried woman to be a "son-in-law" and a man marrying a widow to be called "dropping in." Families with no sons are most likely to seek a man to marry into the family. But some families with sons also like to have a man marry into the family so a daughter remaining at home can find a husband and the family can "get a son" (get a son-in-law). Traditionally if a single son was born he took the mother's family name, and if two sons were born they took the mother’s and father’s name respectively. If a married couple is made of single children they have to act as "two families". That's to say they have to take care of families of both the husband and wife, not settling down. Several years later, they may decide to choose the wealthier of the two families to live with. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities ~]

According to the Chinese government: “Today, She marital customs are much like those of the Hans. But under pre-1949 feudal conditions, parent-arranged marriages were common, as were outright sales of daughters. Brides' dowries usually included farm tools, bamboo hats and rain capes. “As the feudal landlord system evolved, parents and matchmakers became more important in making "correct" marriages; bride prices became exorbitant, and the poorest peasants were unable to afford marriage. Because of so many pre-arranged, loveless marriages, folk singing gatherings became a means for people to spend time with their lovers — in defiance of the feudal marriage system.” [Source: China.org]

She Wedding

According to the Chinese government: “The wedding ceremony was simple. The groom would go to the home of the bride's family for a feast. Finding the table empty, he would sing out what he wanted, calling for chopsticks, wine and traditional wedding food. At the end of the banquet, he would sing again, this time ordering the dishes to be removed. The cook, in turn, would return his songs with melodies of his own. The newlyweds would say prayers to their ancestors and bid farewell to the bride's relatives. With the groom in front, they would walk to his family's home, each holding an umbrella and singing in echo. The groom's parents would welcome them at the front door, completing the wedding ceremony. [Source: China.org]

Before a She wedding, the bridegroom sends a team to escort the bride to the bridegroom's home, which is made up of his uncles, eloquent "red men" talented for singing, "meeting aunts" that serve as bridesmaids, as well as cooks. The matchmaker leads the team to the bride's home. The entourage sets off firecrackers to knock at the door, present gifts, and conducts "the ceremony of taking off shoes"(to take off straw sandals, wash feet, and put on new cloth shoes). At a banquet, the singers from both the bride’s and groom’s sides sing antiphonal songs. The bride proposes toasts and accepts envelopes with money given by guests and seniors, a ritual called "asking for one hundred families' silver." The song banquet goes on throughout the whole night. If the husband's singers can not answer the questions raised by the wife's singers through singing, their faces are wiped with pot bottom ash, which makes people burst into laughter. The next day, the ceremony of "inviting ancestors" is held by bride's family. This involves reporting the marriage before her ancestor’s memorial tablet, and asking for blessing. After that the bride' s mother puts the dowry on the bed. Mother and daughter sit by the bed crying of the bride leaving home. This is called "crying for the dowry." [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities ~]

The third day of the wedding festivities is the formal wedding day. The bride decides the starting time according to the distance between the two families. The aim is for her to get to the bridegroom's family before daybreak. On the way, the bride should not look back, to ensure she enjoys conjugal bliss to a ripe old age. After arriving in front of the gate of the bridegroom's house, the bride opens her umbrella, and steps on red sacks spread on the ground, which symbolizes producing a male heir to continue the family line. On the way to the central room, the relatives and friends of the bridegroom drop raw peanuts, wishing the couple to give birth to many male heirs. During the formal memorial ceremony for the ancestors in the central room, the bridegroom and the bride meet each other for the first time. On the third day after marriage, the bridegroom accompanies the bride to come back to her home. They may go back home after two or four nights. Up to now, this old custom is still in prevails among She people. ~

During a She wedding and marriage process the antiphonal singing (alternate singing by two choirs or singers) is generally done by the bride and bridegroom, but if a new couple is not good at singing, the bridesmaids and friends of grooms can replace them. At the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, some She areas, influenced by the Han people, began to marry daughters in the bridal sedans. After the area became more developed, brides began making the trip in motorcycle, car, tractor or other agricultural vehicle. ~

On the way to the husband’s home, the bride should never look backward. If she does, the She believe, she will be divorced and remarried. It is also inauspicious for the bride to encounter a pregnant woman on the way to the husband’s home, because the She think that the pregnant woman will ruin the happiness of the bride and the evil spirits will follow the bride to her husband’s home. [Source: Chinatravel.com]

She Society and Families

According to the Chinese government: “The basic living and production unit remains the patriarchal family, led by the eldest man. Still, She women enjoy a higher status than their Han sisters. In fact, She men often live with their wives' families and adopt their surnames. She families are organized by "ancestral temples" together with people of the same surname or clan. Each such temple has a chief responsible for settling internal disputes, administering public affairs and presiding over sacrificial ceremonies. Within each temple are the "fangs," under which blood-related groups live together.” [Source: China.org ]

She women are regarded as hard workers. They raise children, do housework and fieldwork plus do much of heavy agricultural work done by men in other societies. As part of her dowry She women often receive a plow, hoe, water wheel and other tools. Hunting is regarded as the primary duty of men.

As mentioned before the She have only four main surnames — Pan, Lan, Lei, and Zhong — marking four major lineage divisions. Village are typically made up of people with the same surname. There is usually a lineage temple or ancestor hall that has every member listed on it. Sometimes several villages share a single surname and a single temple. Lineages typically are comprised of branches that form when the adult sons split off from a family. The branches themselves often split over time, and brothers establish branch and subbranch temples. [Source: Jordan I. Pollack, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]

She generally observe patrilineal descent rules. Family and lineage heads are male, and heritable property typically transfers from father to son. Lineage elders have traditionally acted as leaders, judges and mediators of disputes. Punishment for offenses tends to be light. Thieves, for example, are generally only required to return what they stole.

According to the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “ She communities have long existed within the framework and political control of the Chinese nation-state. In pre-Communist times, they were administered by soldiers and officials sent by dynastic rulers. Communist party and state functionaries, whether delegated to She settlements or locally recruited, continue the tradition, performing educational, adjudicative, and enforcement roles. At present, there are nine "autonomous areas" of county level or lower in which She are granted some degree of freedom by authorities to administer their own affairs. She, for example, have been exempted from the strict, government-regulated family-planning programs implemented elsewhere in China. The hand of the state is evident, however, in the Chinese-language schools whose curricula offer, among other things, classes on "national policy."

She Life

The She live primarily in scattered villages and hamlets, often protected by stockades. In the old days they resided in bamboo houses with thatched roofs. Now they live mostly in wood-framed houses with tile roofs and rammed earth walls. Over the years they have been forced to give up traditional slash and burn methods of farming and now often use irrigated fields. [Source: Jordan I. Pollack, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]



The She are widely scattered over five provinces and more than sixty counties. Communities range in size from as few as three or four households to as many as forty. Most settlements lie in river valleys, surrounded and outnumbered by Han Chinese towns and villages. While the She usually reside in ethnically homogeneous communities, some live intermixed with Han Chinese.

The She raise rice, wheat, sweet potatoes, rapeseed, peanuts, peaches and pears. They earn money from lumber, hunting, working in local mines and growing and producing Huiming tea, which is said to help the lungs and improve eyesight. Women trim their clothes with colorful silk embroidery with geometric patterns and plant and animal designs and make woven bamboo hats with cloud and star designs.

Since good agricultural land was in short supply in the mountainous zones where many She live the She have traditionally been forced to supplement their subsistence with foraging. Some built irrigated terraces into hillsides to expand their farming land. Hunting has long been important to the She. During January and February, when farming activity was minimal due to the weather, many She communities went hunting in groups. Women, children, and elders that were able accompanied the adult male hunters, cheering them on and applauding them when they made a kill. Those who made a kill had rights to the animal's head or legs, while everyone else got an an equal share of what was left.

She and Tea

The She are famous for producing tea.The Huiming tea of Zhejiang province, olong tea of Guangdong Province and Beiling tea of Fujian Province are all produced by members of the She nationality. Huiming tea was tribute item in the Ming and Qing dynasties and was awarded a gold medal at an international exhibition in Panama in 1915. Proximity to the East China Sea produces a warm, humid climate with ample rainfall and frequent fog. This along with fertile soil makes places where the She live idea for growing tea.

Dark green or black oolong teas are 30 to 70 percent oxidized. Most common in China, they are exposed to heat and light and crushed for less time than black tea. Their level of processing is about half way between green and black tea. They have a strong and sometime flowery fragrance and a fruity, mellow flavor.

Huiming tea (Huì Míng tea), called Jingning Huiming tea, is a kind of Chinese green tea native to the Jingning County of Zhejiang Province, which is known for its mountain area, lush forests, and fresh air. The tea bushes are found mainly in the middle and high mountains with an altitude of 300 meters to 700 meters. The picking time of Huiming tea is from March to October. According to the picking season, Huiming tea can be classified into spring tea (March, April, May), summer tea (June), and autumn tea (September, October). [Source: Chinesetealy.com]

According to Chinesetealy.com Dried Hui Ming tea is curled, green, and covered with white hairs. After brewing, the tea liquid looks clear and light green and has an orchid fragrance or fruit fragrance. Many people who have tasted Hui Ming tea praised it “the first cup is light, the second is fresh, the third is mellow, and the fourth is aftertaste”. The tea is named after a monk named Hui Ming who built a temple called Hui Ming Temple in 1861. He and some tea farmers planted tea trees around the temple. Later the tea became famous.

She Clothes and Phoenix Dress

She women wear clothes with flowers, birds and geometric embroidery. Often they wear bright-colored sashes or bamboo hats, decorated with pearls and trimmed with white or red silk lace. Lace is also used to trim clothing. In some areas, women wear shorts year-round. When they do so, they wrap their legs and wear colorful waist sashes and jackets with lace. They coil their hair on top of the heads and tie it with red wool thread. [Source: China.org]

She people like wearing green and blue and traditionally wore clothes made from home-woven flax. These days, the clothes worn by She men are the same with those of Han people, but in some parts of eastern Fujian and southern Zhejiang She women’s clothes and accessories have distinctive She qualities such as decorative borders on the collar, cuff and the right front. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

Married women usually wear phoenix coronets, which are made by a stick of thin bamboo wrapped by red kerchief with a red cloth of about 30 centimeters long and 3 centimeters wide. Young, middle-aged and old men wear red, blue and black threads respectively in their hair. On the phoenix coronet, there is a round silver plate with three smaller silver plates. A silver hairpin is inserted on the coronet. She accessories include silver necklaces, silver bracelets, silver chains and silver earrings. \=/

She woman's clothing varies slightly in different areas, especially the kinds of embroideries on the coat. The woman's jackets in Fuding and Xiapu of Fujian Province feature collars, fronts, and cuffs are embroidered with patterns of birds and flowers, dragons and phoenixes. A She’s women's main clothes are known as her "phoenix dress". The clothes and aprons are embroidered with colorful patterns with bright red, pink, and pinkish yellow threads as well as gold and silver silk threads, signifying the neck, girth and feathers of a phoenix. The end of golden belt tied around the waist dangles behind, symbolizing phoenix's tail. Silver ornaments with jolly sounds are worn over the whole body, signifying the phoenix chirps. To top it off a She woman wears a long pigtail plaited with a red string and combed above the head, symbolizing the phoenix head. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities ~]

Married woman generally wear a “phoenix coronet." It is made of exquisitely thin bamboo wrapped with red handkerchiefs and hung with a piece of red damask silk, 30 centimeters long and three centimeters wide. On the coronet, there is a round silver medal attached to three little silver medals hanging before the forehead, called the "dragon coil", recalling the legend of the phoenix coronet worn by the "third princess. " ~

According to She legend, the ancestor of the She people—King Pinggua—helped defeat the enemies of Emperor Gaoxin and was rewarded for outstanding service by marrying the king’s third daughter (the third princess). On the wedding day, the queen put a phoenix coronet on her daughter's head and dressed her in phoenix clothing inlaid with the jewels, blessing her to bring luck and fortune to life like a phoenix. After the third princess had a daughter, she was also dressed her up like a phoenix. When her daughter got married, a phoenix carried a phoenix dress in its mouth from Phoenix Mountain in Guangdong province to be her marriage clothes. From then on, She women have worn the the phoenix dress for good luck. In some places, people call the bride "the phoenix". Because a bride has the lofty status as the third princess, she does not fall on her knees in front of the ancestor tablet at the bridegroom's home. ~

She Handcrafts

The She are known for their colored ribbons, embroidery and bamboo plaiting. The colored ribbon—actually a kind of belt that can serve as a handkerchief or towel—is also called a towel belt. Beginning at the ages of five or six years old, She girls learn to weave colored ribbons from their mothers. The exquisiteness of colored ribbon is an important measure of girl's skill and marriageability. When a girl is engaged, she presents a colored ribbon that she made herself ed to her husband to be. Colored ribbons are not only ornaments, they are used in daily life to wipe off sweat and brush off dust. They generally 1.3 meters long and 20 centimeters wide. The patterns are mainly divided into two types: 1) wicker lines and 2) printed and dyed white flower patterns with blue bottoms. Lucky blessings such as the " 13 rows"," 12 symbolic animals", " water hitting flowers", "copper cash band", and "five words belt" are often embroidered on the belt. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences ~]

The She inhabit an area that abounds with bamboo that has names such as China pink, mottled bamboo, gold bamboo, Thunder God bamboo. These provide rich raw materials for the bamboo plaiting handicrafts. The bamboo plaiting process involves a number of procedures, including selecting suitable materials, breaking bamboo, dyeing and spray painting. Products include screens, hanging curtains, pillows, mats and chair for daily use and beautiful and exquisite baskets used as decorations. In a goose-shaped basket, the goose's body is the container, the neck is the handle, and milky white thin bamboo strips serve as feathers. It is lifelike, beautiful and practical.

A She bamboo hat has a top layer made of 220 to 240 bamboo strips, as thin as human hair. There are two types of outer fringe: two fringes and three fringes. On the top of the bamboo hat, different patterns are made such as swallows, roofs, four cases, three eaves, cloud heads, swallow mouthes, tiger teeth and stars. The best hats have nine layers of thin strips in five colors and are light and watertight. She women like figured bamboo hats adorned with bright pink silk ribbons and a variety of pearls.

She embroidering art has also been praised. Women like to embroider figures and patterns onto their collars, cuffs, clothes fronts and aprons. Common images include plum blossoms, tree peony, lotus flowers, peach blossoms, chrysanthemums, bamboo flowers, orchids, magpies and phoenixes. There are also distorted geometric lines known as Suotong and Wanzi, cloud heads, cloud crosses, floating dragons and hilltops. Among the articles for daily use decorated with embroidered patterns are pillowcases, drapery, bonnets, shoes, belts, five-cereals packs and cigarette bags.

She Love Songs

The She like to sing. They sing in the fields as well as on special festival occasions, and every year She participate in several singing festivals. They socialize by exchanging songs and sing at festivals and events such as weddings and funerals. There are specific songs for specific occasions: feasting, flirting, working, relaxing, welcoming and entertaining guests. At bride-retrieval feasts before weddings, the groom arrives at the bride house and stands before an empty table and has to sing for his wine and food, item by item. Songs have also played a key role in passing down histories and folk tales from one generation to the next. [Source: "Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China", edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company, 1994)]

Shes like to sing duets, but they sing alone as well. The She have a rich literature and folk lore that describes their migration and explorations. Folk songs sung in the She language are an important ingredient of She literature and way oral traditions are passed on. She literature is mainly oral. The number of the folk songs that have been passed down exceeds more than 1000 with forty to fifty lines. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

The main characteristic of the She marriage and dating process is its songs. In various steps that lead to marriage, songs play am important role. Before the wedding, the bride must join a singing competition in her maternal uncle's village; the bridegroom must do the same in the bride's village. The same day as the wedding party, the couple pretends that nothing is ready and the bridegroom sings different songs: asking for chopsticks, wine, food and other things, making each thing appear before him. At the end of the party, he sings songs the other way around until the table is cleared. Then the couple says good-bye, also singing, to the bride's relatives, and to their ancestors. They go away singing under two parasols to the bridegroom's parents' house. When they arrive there, the bride must sing a song.[Source: Ethnic China *]

Singing gatherings serve as an escape valve for a society where most marriages have traditionally been arranged by parents. Sometimes people don’t love the person they are married to. During these singing gatherings people can met whom they really love. Sometimes these gatherings end up in the forest or the mountain, far from the prying eyes of a person’s village mates. Sexual relations before marriage are very common. Throughout the year there are several musical meetings: the 1st day of the sixth lunar month, the 7th day of the seventh lunar month, the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, the 9th day of the ninth lunar month. During these meetings, hundred of young She meet outdoors and sing during the whole night. *\

While courting, a She man typically sings something like: "Go down the mountain after cutting fire woods, and wait for the pretty girl at a junction of three roads. Can I ask you if the golden pheasant can match the phoenix? " The woman answers: "In my village there is a Goddess of Mercy Hall, you can come to worship Buddha and burn joss sticks; Ask a matchmaker to come for an early engagement, and the lovers can definitely be a match. " [Source: Records of She Custom by Shi Lianzhu, Central Institute of Nationalities Publishing House, 1989 |~|]

In their first love, the man sings: "I am cutting firewood on the hilltop, hoping that the younger sister can sing a song to relieve my worries in the past days." The woman answers: "The little bird flies for the first time, afraid of the cold wind; the younger sister finds it difficult to open her mouth to express her love; It is not because of a mute throat, but worries the dear brother won't appreciate her love." |~|

When exchanging keepsakes to pledge their love, the woman gives a colored belt to the man, singing, "A belt is three meters long; I bring it for my virtuous darling; out true love is everlasting and unchanging just like a pair of mandarin ducks." The man gives the girl a towel, singing: "Both ends of the towel are blue and green; in the middle is my heart; we are face to face when you are wiping the sweat, heart to heart when you hide it in your bosom. " |~|

She Sports

The She people have always attached importance to sports activities, which includes Kung fu, mountaineering, "Chi hitting Cun", "Pushing the stones", "Riding 'sea horse'" and "Sports in bamboo woods." She wushu is most famous for its boxing and cudgel play. Founded more than 300 years ago by Thunder Dark Dragon, respectfully called "Mr. Dark Dragon,” it features assaulting, wresting, goring, kicking and jumping as its main movements. When attacking, the fists and elbows are frequently used; on defense, the forearm and palms are often applied. The fighting style emphasizes protecting the ribs with the elbows, steady paces, compact movements, and flexible transition between advancing and retreating. The movements have the following characteristic: "the lower part is like the iron nails, the top part like the wheel, the hands like the revolving plates, the eyes like copper bells." [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities ~]

She boxing focuses on hitting vital points. A victim of such a blow in unable to move. In Bajing village of Luoyuan County in Fujian Province, the hometown of She boxing, more than half of the villagers are good at boxing. School children to old men in their seventies share an interest in boxing. There are several dozens of school of She boxing. Some employ unusual training methods. For example, before practicing the boxing of Iron Ore Palm, a student should cut a thick bamboo tube and put a poisonous snake inside. After the snake has decayed the student puts his hands into the thick bamboo tube. The snake venom makes the hands unbearably itchy and painful. The hands are inserted into rice bran, grain, sand and iron sand is rubbed on them. Gradually, the skin and flesh on the hands turn hard. ~

She kung fu employs everyday tools such as "post canes", hoes and shoulder poles as weapons. The "firewood rod" is featured in one kind of cudgel fighting. The rods are different in size, with the longest one about 3.6 meters and the shortest one 2.3 meters or so. Its movements include seven steps, nine steps, monkey turning over, two-head mallet, four and half steps, three-step jumping, and observing the sky and earth. ~

She mountaineering activities are usually held in festivals in the spring and summer. Men and women, old and young all participate. Every one selects his or her own way, and whoever reaches the peak first is the winner. Among the bamboo woods sports, climbing bamboo poles and archery are the most popular ones. A lot of people climb bamboo poles using only their hands. Some even climb them in an upside down position. In She archery contests, people try to shoot down flying doves, something that is quite difficult to do. ~

To play "chi hitting cun": a man stands in a circle with a diameter of two meters, with of 30-to-40-centimeter-long stick ("chi") in his right hand and a bamboo strip of a chopstick length ("cun") in his left hand. He hits the "cun" outside the circle with the "chi". A group of people outside the circle tries to catch it before it falls to the ground, and then throw it back into the circle. The man in the circle may directly hit the "cun" out again with the "chi" or just catch it with his hand. Whoever makes the "cun" fall to the ground is the loser. It is said that this activity originates from the heroic deeds of catching shot arrows bare-handedly during the She people uprising in the Tang Dynasty.

"Pushing the stones" is a trial of strength between two group of people. The stone is round in shape and has a smooth bottom. The big stones may weigh above one hundred Jin, while small ones vary from several Jin to dozens of Jin. The competition venue is generally a road paved with stones. One man on each team stands on the stone and two or three other group members push or draw the man standing on the stone, to make the stone hit the rival's one. If one group's stone slips to the roadside after bumping, that group loses the contest.

"Riding sea horse" refers to moving at full speed on a sea beach while on a smooth board called the "sea horse". Originally, the "sea horse" was a tool. During the reign of Jiajing Reign in the Ming Dynasty, Qi Jiguang taught his soldiers to resist Japanese invaders by chasing them on "sea horses". The tactic worked. Today, She relax after working by riding their "sea horses" and competing on the basis of speed, movement innovation and load carrying.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: 1) "Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China", edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K. Hall & Company; 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~; 3) Ethnic China *\; 4) Chinatravel.com \=/; 5) China.org, the Chinese government news site china.org | New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated October 2022


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