The 56 Ethnic Groups in China


Chen Haiwen, a photographer, recently lead a team of 14 photographers to create a book entitled, “Harmonious China: A Sketch of China’s 56 Ethnicities.” The team spent one year travelling all over China to complete the project. They ended up taking over 5.7 million photographs.

~ Adapted from original post in ‘ChinaHush’

Although slightly flamboyant in presentation and somehow reminds me of exhibits in a wax museum, this family portrait collection gives a very interesting account of the 56 different ethnic groups residing within the Chinese borders.  The non-Han minority groups altogether only account for roughly 10% of the population in China, but with a total population of 1.3 billion people out there, 10% is actually a massive number of people in absolute terms.

Of course, the ethnic groupings (especially the naming of ‘China Taiwan’)  may lead to some historical and political controversies, after all, this is a sole Mainland Chinese production.  But let’s put aside these issues for a moment and appreciate these photos and the faces portrayed within from a purely cultural and aesthetic perspective.   Amazing how diverse people can be within such close geographical proximity.  Cultures were without borders in the first place, different peoples used to be able to roam and migrate freely around the region, until borders were fixated by power-seeking authorities, separating families and clans.

I’ve been lucky enough to have met and interacted with people from quite a few of these ethnic groups during my travels, but wow, to fully explore all these cultures can take me another year at least!