Population and Distribution
The Maonan ethnic minority lives mostly in Huanjiang County of Guangxi Province, especially in the three regions of Shangnan, Zhongnan, and Xianan. They have a relatively smaller population of 107,166 than many other ethnic groups in China.
The Maonan language belongs to Zhuang-Dong group, Sino-Tibetan phylum; nearly all of them can speak Chinese and the Zhuang language.
The Maonan people mainly live on agriculture. They utilize each inch of farming land to increase the yields and gradually they have rich experience of growing crops. Handicraft industries also play a considerable role in their economy. Maonan are proud of their beef cattle, which sells well in South China. The Maonan ethnic minority likes to build houses, tables, utensils with stone, as well as sculpture. The most famous may be the chiseled works on the tumulus groups. It is really amazing that dexterous stonecutters can create so many lively sculptures of flowers, birds, fish, insects, and people without drawing or drafting them first.
Many of them hold belief of Taoism and animism. They think that there are many gods who can control their life and they must sacrifice during festive days.
The staple materials of Maonan meals are rice and corn. Maonan dishes are very delicious and distinctive for flavor. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes are common and popular vegetables in summer and early autumn. They also like to eat beef in a hot pot.
The saying goes, 'Maonan people have three treasures – sweet potato, beef cattle and bamboo cap which are precious and delicate gifts for visitors.' The Maonan people like the colors of green and blue. Silver bracelets and necklaces add more their beauty.
The grandest festival is the Fenlong Festival after the Summer Solstice. On that day, the Maonan people steam glutinous rice, pick a willow twig home, and paste the rice onto it. This symbolizes fruitfulness and a good harvest. The Dragon Boat Festival has a different significance for the Maonan. While the Han worship the patriotic poet Qu Yuan on that day, the Maonan pick and boil medicinal herbs to get rid of disease. On those important days, they always pay homage to their ancestors and sing to each other which is the amusement they like most. When they start to sing, they usually do without pause.
There are some taboos of Maonan and when you visit their families, you are expected not to offend the warm hosts. For example, it is not allowed to speak vulgarity on the first day of New Year; if there is patient at home, other people are not welcomed to visit; etc.