Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Tujia are both valley and mountain-terrace farmers. Wet rice is an important staple, along with wheat, maize, and sweet potatoes. They grow a variety of additional food crops, including potatoes, greens, eggplants, peppers, turnips, sesame and sunflowers (for the seeds), and oranges. Cash crops include beets, cotton, ramie, tea, and tung trees. Tung oil, wine, and tea were traditional Tujia commodities. Pigs and chickens are raised for market and also provide the main source of protein. Some hunting, trapping, and fishing continue. Some farmers have draft animals.
Industrial Arts. Full-time specialists and workers in new industries are more likely to be found in the towns and cities. Tujia are now involved in coal mining and light industry. Most villages include people who are skilled weavers and embroiderers, tailors, cabinet makers, house carpenters, and masons. Weaving and embroidery are of high quality, and the patterned quilts and bags are especially beautiful. Tujia gunny cloth is sought after for its durability.
Trade. Tujia have always participated actively in the local marketing system, which has revived since 1979. Towns and cities have daily markets, and in the rural areas markets are held once every three, five, or ten days at the township government centers, attracting thousands or even tens of thousands of people from the area and farther afield. Frequency of the market depends on population density. Everything from grain and vegetables to livestock, herbal medicines, forest products, commercial items, cloth, items for daily use, and handicrafts appears in the market.
Division of Labor. There is a gender division of labor, with weaving, embroidery, and certain handicrafts being the responsibility of women. But Tujia men share in household chores, and women work together with men in agricultural tasks. In the towns, Tujia women are freer to pursue professional work than women of the other ethnic groups in the area. People who are literate, or recognized as skilled herbalists or shamans, or able to perform and improvise songs enjoy considerable prestige.
Land Tenure. At present, state ownership of lands and forest resources is a widely accepted practice. However, since the breakup of the collectives in the early 1980s, the village communities hold the right to allot land among residents who are registered as farmers or potential farmers. Prior to 1949, tenancy was widespread, as a result of large landholdings by both officials and merchants and local Tujia landlords.