In China, there are 188,824 (in 2000) people who fall under the ethnic group category of Xibe. Most live in the fertile areas along the Ili River in northwestern Xinjiang, especially in the Ili Kazak autonomous prefecture's Qapqal Xibe autonomous county and the Huocheng and Gongliu counties along the Ili River. The rest are scattered over such areas as Shenyang, Kaiyuan and Yixian in northeastern China.
Originating from different geographical and historical backgrounds, the Xibe people in the northeast and northwest have developed vastly disparate lifestyles. Those in the northeast have become increasingly similar to the local Han and Manchu in cultural areas such as language, costumes, food and in their general style of living. On the other hand, those living in compact communities in Xinjiang have not strayed far from their own customs.
The Xibe people believe in religions known as Shamanism and Lamaism. They also have their own language and characters.
In early times, the Xibe people mainly engaged in hunting and fishing. With a developing economy, they also turned to agriculture and trade. The Xibe people depend on rice and wheat as their staple food, but also favor naicha (tea with milk), ghee, mutton and beef. Eating dogs is forbidden in their diet.
The traditional dress of the Xibe ethnic group is basically equivalent to that of Manchus. Men often wear long robes or short shirts and women wear cheongsam with laces mounted in the laps or cuffs. Today most Xibe people have adopted Han fashion and only some elders in Xinjiang maintain the traditional dress.
The Xibe people excel at singing and dancing. They are especially adept at playing their musical instruments, the Dongbuer and the Maken (harmonica). Xibe men are skilled archers. At festivals, sport activities such as wrestling, toxophily, horse racing, sheep-tossing and weight lifting are staged.
The traditional festival of the Xibe nationality is the April 18th Festival. On April 18th, 1764, ordered by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), 3,275 Xibe people were forced to relocate from Shenyang to far Xinjiang. They were relocated to the frontier in order to serve as reserve soldiers at a military outpost in the event that there was an invasion or unrest along the borderline. After a one and half year trek, they arrived at Xinjiang and began constructing their new homes.
In order to commemorate this historical event, Xibe people from near and far gather to hold various activities, hence the April 18th Festival.