According to the 1990 census, 245,993 Shui live along the upper portions of the Long and Duliu rivers in southern Guizhou Province. The Shui language belongs to the Zhuang-Dong Branch of the Sino-Tibetan Family. At one time there was a writing system that used pictographs and characters, though now this system is used primarily in religious affairs. Many Shui now read and write Han. The Shui may be descendants of the Luoyues; they took the name "Shui" during the Ming dynasty.

Shui villages are compact. Their houses are either one or two stories; when they are two stories, the ground floor is reserved for livestock.

By the Ming dynasty (thirteenth and fourteenth centuries) many Shui had switched to wet-rice farming where feasible, though others continued dry-field swidden cultivation. They also produced cloth for a national market. The Shui grow rice, wheat, rape (for the seeds), ramie, and several types of fruits, including citrus. They derive timber from the forests and fish from the rivers. Rice and fish, along with corn, barley, and sweet potatoes, make up the mainstay of the Shui diet.

By the twentieth century, certainly, the Shui followed the Han marriage pattern, but in more traditional times marriages involved courtship and free choice. Elopements still occurred after Sinicization, as did delayed-transfer marriages, in which the bride did not join her husband's family until she bore her first child. Unlike the Chinese, the Shui allowed divorce and widow remarriage.

Though there are a few Catholics, by and large the Shui are polytheistic. They used shamans and sacrifices of animals to appease the spirits that they believed caused illness. Until the Communist Revolution, the Shui mounted complicated and lengthy funerals. Animal sacrifices would be made, and there would be singing, dancing, and operatic performances until an auspicious day to inter the dead was reached.


Ma Yin, ed. (1989). Chinas Minority Nationalities, 359-363. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

National Minorities Questions Editorial Panel (1985). Questions and Answers about China's Minority Nationalities. Beijing: New World Press.

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