China has long been a unified multi-national state. The Chinese nation is composed of 56 different nationalities. The majority of the Chinese are the Hans, who make up about 92 per cent of China’s total population. The name Han originated over two thousand years ago during the Han Dynasty.The minority nationalities – so called because of their relatively smaller populations – differ greatly in size. The Zhuangs are the most numerous, totaling over 15 million, and live mostly in Guangxi, which has been designated as the Zhuang Autonomous Region.
There are 12 other nationalities which number more than one million each, including the Mongolians, Huis, Tibetans, Uygurs, Miaos, Koreans and Manchus.
Nine comprise less than 10,000 people, with the Russians and Hoches both less than one thousand people.
The minority people live mainly in western China, and a small number live in the north and northeast and on islands off the southeastern coast, including Taiwan and Hainan Province.
The most important festival in China is the Spring Festival. Since all the traditional festivals in China are based on the Chinese lunar calendar. The Spring Festival marks the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
At this festival, people bring out their bounty from hunting, fishing and the field to thank the gods and ancestors for the blessings.
The recreational activities during the Spring Festival are various and colorful. The traditional performances are the Dragon Dance and Lion Dance. On New Year’s Eve firecrackers are ubiquitous.
Chinese ancestors believed that the seventh, eighth, and ninth lunar months belong to autumn. So the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.
Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations date back more than 2,000 years. In feudal times, Chinese emperors prayed to Heaven for a prosperous year.
Because the full moon is round and symbolizes reunion in Chinese culture, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the festival of reunion. People will eat moon-cakes at this festival for cakes shaped like the moon. So don’t forget to taste all the delicious moon-cakes at the Mid-Autumn Festival!
The Yuanxiao Festival is on the 15th of the first lunar month. That night there is a full moon, and every household is decorated with colorful lanterns and prepares yuanxiao, a kind of round dumpling made of glutinous rice flour with sweet or salted fillings, which is boiled or fried. When night falls, people go into the street, where exquisite lanterns of diverse designs are hung. Some are pasted with riddles for the passers-by to solve.
Laba and the Eight-Treasure Porridge
Laba is celebrated on the eighth day of the 12th lunar month, because La in Chinese means the 12th lunar month and Ba means eight. The eighth day of that month was considered a day for sacrifice to the gods and ancestors to ensure a peaceful life and a good harvest for the next year.
The eight-treasure porridge was first introduced to China in the Song Dynasty about 900 years ago. According to written records, large Buddhist temples would offer it to the poor to show their faith to Buddha. In the Ming Dynasty about 500 years ago, it became such a holy food that emperors would offer it to their officials during festivals. As it gained favor in the feudal upper class, it quickly became popular throughout the country.