The Qiang people are an ethnic group of China. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China, with a population of approximately 200,000, living mainly in northwestern part of Sichuan province. Nowadays, the Qiang are only a small segment of the Chinese population, but they are commonly believed to be an old, once strong and populous people whose history can be traced at least to the Shang Dynasty and whose offsprings include some portion of the modern Tibetans, some portion of the modern Han Chinese and many minority ethnic groups in Western China.
At present, the Qiang have a self-identity, referring to themselves as Qiang zu (羌族) and erma or rma (尔玛). There are about 200,000 Qiang people today in western Sichuan, predominantly in the five counties of Maoxian, Wenchuan, Lixian, Beichuan and Heishui, of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. On 12 May 2008, the Qiang people were heavily affected by the major earthquake, whose epicenter was in Wenchuan County.
In the regions inhabited by the Qiang people, primitive religion is still observed to this day. The spiritual beings worship with a variety of beliefs is very popular in the region, advocating that all creatures have their own magic powers. With embroidery, hand-stitching and weaving as the traditional handicrafts of Qiang people, the "Qiang Embroidery" with gorgeous and delicate designs and patterns is flamboyant and rough in color and fully embodies the exquisite handicraft of Qiang people. Besides, the Qiang flute with enchanting and soul-stirring sound, the age-old sheep-skin drum, the loud, clear and melodious folk songs, the compelling and impressive dances as well as the home-brewed vintage wines all display the uniqueness and originality of Qiang people. The 8.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Wenchuan in China's southwestern Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008 struck a serious blow at Qiang people and their culture. According to preliminary statistics, more than 30,000 of the 306,000 Qiang people lost their lives in the earthquake, and 5,000 Qiang people were killed in Beichuan County alone.
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