Population and Distribution
The Chaoxian minority in China has a population of 1,923,842 (in 2000), mainly living in the Yanbian Chaoxian Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province. Some are widely distributed over Jilin, Heilongjiang, Liaoning Provinces and the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. A small number can be found in some provinces in the central plains.
The ancestors of the Chaoxian minority in China immigrated from the Korean Peninsula. The immigration began in the latter part of the 17th century, but did not occur in sizable numbers until the 19th century. They first move to avoid the oppressive feudal landlords in Korea, but later mainly to avoid the famine of 1869 and the warfare launched by the Japan in the early years of the 20th century. These people settled in Northeast China and gradually developed into one of the minorities in China.
They have their own spoken and written language and a fairly developed culture and education. Their language is thought to belong to the Altaic family. They also use Chinese language and characters.
The early Chaoxian people practiced totemism and ancestor worship. Now, there is no uniform religion for this minority. Among those people who believe in religion, most are Christians. A small numbers also believe in Buddhism or Confucianism.
The Chaoxian people are mainly engaged in agriculture. They are especially good at growing paddy rice in the frigid region where they live. The Yanbian area, where most of the Chaoxians live is the main production area of paddies in Northeast China.
This area also has abundant natural resources: animals, plants and minerals. The famous 'Three Treasures' of the Northeast, namely ginseng, marten fur, and pilose antler are also found here. The oxen bred in Yanbian is one of the fines breeds in the five big producing areas of China. This area is also one of China's major sources of timber. It is also a habitat for many wild animals, including tigers.
This area also has rich deposits of mineral resources such as copper, lead, zinc, gold, iron, antimony, phosphor, graphite, quartz, limestone and oil shale.
Rice is the staple food for the Chaoxian people. Rice is complemented with soup, catsup, pickles and kimchi. They also eat millet and corn.
Their cuisine is very spicy and includes kimchi (pickled vegetables), cold noodles, sticky rice cakes and dog meat.
Kimchi is a kind of pickled vegetables favored by Chaoxians. It is usually made in winter, and the main ingredients are cabbage and carrots which are spiced with garlic, capsicums, gingers, salt etc.
Cold-noodles are well known for their unique flavor. They are a traditional cooked wheaten food of the Chaoxian people. It is made of buckwheat, wheat-flour and amylum. Complemented with some beeves, chicken, capsicum and seasonings, the cold-noodles taste quite delicious.
The most popular meat, among the Chaoxian people is dog meat. They are quite famous for cooking dog-meat. Visitors are very interested in dishes made with dog-meat. Dog-meat soup is especially delicious. They often treat their guests to a 'Dog Meat Banquet'. However Killing and eating dog is forbidden during weddings, funerals or festival periods.
They have the reputation of 'the people in white' due to their special love of the color white - a symbol of simplicity and serenity since ancient times.
Chaoxian men often wear white short buttonless frocks with dark-colored sleeveless jackets outside. Their trousers are loose with the trouser legs fastened with two cloth-straps at the ankles. Nowadays most of the Chaoxian men wear western-style clothes and their traditional costume is worn only on special occasions such as festivals or weddings.
Women usually wear short buttonless jackets and long skirts. Their jackets, about 35 centimeters long, is tied with a red, blue or purple ribbon. Their silk skirts have many folds at the waist.
Young women often wear short skirts, which reach their knees, while the older women wear the longer skirts down to their instep. Various fashionable dresses are now popular with the young women.
Most of the Chaoxian villages are located near the mountains and rivers. Their houses are either, tile-roofed or straw-roofed houses with the door opening to the Southeast, South or Southwest. Chaoxian house usually have a wooden framework and a roof of four sloping planes covered with a thick layer of straw or tiles. Their house usually has three doors in the front side and four rooms: bedroom, reception room, kitchen and warehouse.
The most striking feature of the Chaoxian house is the flat heatable bed (known as kang) Built with bricks or thin stone slabs, the surface of the kang is covered with wooden boards or fiberboard which is decorated with yellow lacquer polish. A flue underneath heats the kang and keep it warm in the cold winter.
The Chaoxian people are especially good at singing and dancing. They sing and dance not only during the festivals, but also in the leisure time and during the breaks in work.
Their dances are graceful and elegant, a harmonious combination of strength and flexibility. The famous folk dances include the Tambourine Dance, Fan Dance, Carrying Water Dance, Sword Dance, Dance of Happy Farmers, etc. The songs sung by the Chaoxian people are beautiful, natural and full of inspiration and expressive force. The famous folk songs like balloonflower ballad, Alilang and Along Noduer River Side are widely known and sung by everyone. The Chaoxians value aesthetics, and educate their children to appreciate beauty.
The Koreas like athletic sports like football, wrestling, skating, springboard and playing swing. The women are fond of playing gangplank and swing. The men like completing in strength skills or wrestling. Football is especially popular among the Chaoxian men and Yanbian area has a reputation as of the 'land of football'.
Basically, the Chaoxian minority celebrate the same festival as the Han people which including the Spring Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Qingming Festival, etc. The Chaoxian people also have three famous household festivals, namely, a baby's first birthday, the Huajia Festival and the Huihun Festival.
To celebrate a baby's first birthday many guests would be invited to attend a dinner party. Huajia festival is the sixtieth birthday and the Huihun festival is the sixtieth wedding anniversary. On Huajia Festival, the old person whose birthday is being celebrated in his best clothes sits in the middle with the other old people sitting on both sides. His children, grandchildren and relatives kneel down in front, offering him wine one by one to show their respects and thanks.
The Huihun Festival, also named Guihun Festival, is the most ceremonial family festival. It is a great honor for a family to hold this festival and is often a communal affair for the whole village. On this special occasion, the couple will wear their wedding dress and attend the banquet held by their children and grandchild. All the guests will toast the couple and wish them a long life.