Geographical patterns of Chinese ethnic minority population composition and ethnic diversity

  • Zehao ShenEmail author
  • Peng Li
  • Hongkai Sun
  • Lihua Pang


Ethnicity is a carrier of language and culture. Spatial distribution of ethnic diversity is fundamental for identifying and reconstructing the migration patterns and evolution histories of cultures and languages. Utilizing the Chinese 4th National Census (1990) data, we investigated the specific time geographical patterns of population and diversity of Chinese ethnic minorities. As anticipated, results show that Chinese minorities are chiefly concentrated in distant plateaus and mountains in the southwest, northwest and northeast of China. Further, population density centers of the 10 major minorities are rather scattered, alternatively dominating at different parts of the country. This study provides a first comprehensive quantitative test on a prevailing notion of ‘six plates and three corridors’ on the empirical clustering patterns of Chinese ethnic minorities. There are more consistent evidences supporting this notion in the north of China, with the central and southern regions showing more complex patterns, potentially transformed by processes such as migration, fragmentation, and percolation. The results of this study suggest that a geographical approach can provide heuristic and complementary information for better understanding of historical social processes.


ethnic minority ethnic diversity geographical distribution classification 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agricultural Ecology, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, College of Urban & Environmental Sciences, the Key Lab of MOE for Earth Surface ProcessPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Ethnology & AnthropologyChinese Academy of Social SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Population ResearchPeking UniversityBeijingChina

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