Identification. The Yi are one of the largest minority groups in China. They are uplands farmers and pastoralists. Most live in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, in the areas of the Greater and Lesser Liangshan mountain ranges, at elevations ranging from 2,000 meters to 3,000 or 3,500 meters above sea level. The main areas of settlement lie south of the Dadu River and along the Anning River. Altitude and access to water varies, making for differences in economic activities in various areas.
Demography. There are about 1,300,000 Yi in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan. Another 3,000,000 live in Yunnan Province, with large populations in the Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture and in a number of autonomous counties and townships in both northern and southern Yunnan. Another 560,000 live in Guizhou Province, and some 4,600 have located as far east as the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The 1985 estimate of the total population was 5.45 million or more, and the 1990 census estimate is 6,572,173.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Yi languages belong to the Tibeto-Burman Branch of Sino-Tibetan. There are six distinct dialects. The Yi have a syllabic script developed in the thirteenth century or earlier, which has been replaced with a reformed writing system in recent times.