The Qiang is one of China's oldest ethnic minorities, the character qiang appeared on jiaguwen (hieroglyphs inscribed on bone and tortoises shells) 3,000 years ago. The population of Qiang people today is about 320,000. They are mostly concentrated in Maoxian, Wenchuan and Lixian counties of Aba Qiang and Tibetan autonomous prefecture; also in Beichuan Qiang autonomous county of Mianyang city in Sichuan province.
The area is within the Tibetan-Yi Corridor, which has increasingly drawn international attention in recent years.
The jagged mountains and deep-cut valleys between Sichuan, Qinghai, Tibet and Yunnan are home to the Tibetan, Yi, Qiang, Nu, Dulong, Bai and Naxi minorities. But, the Qiang people were most seriously affected by the earthquake.
Ancient Qiang architecture and folk customs are preserved in Taoping village of Lixian county and Luobu village of Wenchuan county. Taoping was first founded in 111 BC of the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-AD24). No one in the village's 98 households families were hurt in the earthquake.
Luobu, also founded in the Western Han Dynasty, was the only Qiang village with complete earthen architecture, but the earthquake reduced most of its buildings to rubble.
Qiang people are adherents of the shamanistic Shibi religion, similar to the Dongba of the Naxi people and the Bimo of the Yi people. One aspect of their worship is the placing of five white stones, representing the deities of heaven, earth, trees, mountains and the wife of the mountain god, on the roofs of their homes.
At the State Ethnic Affairs Commission seminar held earlier this month, Feng Jicai, chairman of the China Folk Artists Association, and a dozen Chinese scholars, discussed how best to protect Qiang culture.
(China Daily July 17, 2008)