Identification. The Tujia are one of largest minority groups in south-central China. They are an agricultural people who have lived in long association with Han and Miao but who have retained distinctive cultural traits. Their name suggests that they are the indigenous people of the areas they currently inhabit.
Location. The Tujia live in the Xiangxi Tujia-Miao Autonomous Prefecture of western Hunan and in parts of southwestern Hubei and eastern Sichuan provinces. Most of the population are in the Wuling Mountain range, south of the Yangtze, at elevations of 400 to 1,500 meters. The climate is mild, averaging 16° C, with lows of 4° C in January and highs of 28° C in July. The area is well forested, and the You, Feng, and Qing rivers intersect there. Annual rainfall varies from 120 to 140 centimeters, falling mainly between May and October.
Demography. According to the 1982 census, the total population was 2.83 million. Of that number, close to 950,000 lived in the Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture, with another 1.5 million in Hubei and 595,000 in Sichuan. The population figure reported in the 1990 census was 5,704,223, reflecting both high birth rates and recognition of additional communities and individuals as Tujia. At least 12 percent of the Tujia are urban residents. Population density in Tujia areas ranges from 130 to 150 persons per square kilometer.
Linguistic Affiliation. Many Tujia speak only local dialects of Han Chinese and some are Miao-language speakers. The original Tujia language is still spoken in some areas, particularly Longshan County in the Xiangsi Autonomous Prefecture. It is related to Yi (Loloish) and belongs to the Tibeto-Burman Branch of Sino-Tibetan. Written Chinese is in common use. No written script for Tujia has been found.