Imagine going to a wedding where the bride is in tears. ‘Wedding Tears’ is one of the traditions of the Tujia people, where the bride is expected to weep on her wedding day. During funerals, there is a ‘Funeral Dance’, where there is dancing and celebration rather than weeping. The Tujia people also had some rather strange taboos. Pregnant women and young girls were not allowed to sit on thresholds. Young women were not allowed to sit next to young men, even though young girls could.
Tujia is spoken by the Tujia people in south-central China. It is a member of the Tibeto Burman branch of languages however, it has not yet been classified. This is because the language has massive borrowings from other Tibeto-Burman languages. It has 2 major dialects: the northern and southern dialects. Tujia is a tonal language spoken by about 70,000 people. The native name for the Tujia language is Bizisa. Tujia literally means ‘native people’. This was the name that the Han Chinese had given to them when they lived in the Hunan-Hubei-Chongqing region. The Tujia people on the other hand, referred to the Han Chinese as Kejia, the ‘guest people’ since the Han Chinese arrived much later in the area.
Efforts have been made to try and preserve the Tujia language. This includes the publication of language instruction books and a Tujia dictionary is being worked on. Language classes have also been started. Tujia is one of the largest minority groups in China. There are about 6 million Tujia people, but only a small minority can actually speak the language. A lot of Tujias have been largely assimilated by other language groups such as the Hans, such that their language and customs are like that of the Hans. Most Tujias can speak Miao and Han languages. Young Tujias like to speak Chinese when talking amongst themselves. Even though most adults regularly use the language, they encourage the younger generation to learn Chinese. This means that children only have a passive know;edge of the language. Tujia is an unwritten language and no proper documentation of the language exists.