Jiuzhaigou Culture

Jiuzhaigou Culture introduces Jiuzhaigou County Culture Tour information about People, Language, Costumes, Cuisine, Festivals, Song and Dance, Religion, Traditional Villages, Intangible Cultural Heritages, etc. Five hundred years ago, the ancestors of Jiuzhaigou migrated to here from "The Third Polar" - Ngari of Tibet. They have procreated from generation to generation, and created the unique culture of Kangba with local Qiang, Huis and Hans. In Jiuzhaigou, the villagers still maintain a strong and primitive Tibetan traditions in marriages and funeral arrangement, production modes and daily life. There are several folk customs in Jiuzhaigou, including resorting to God of mountain, fetching holy water, burning aromatic plants, etc. 

History of Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou County, formerly known as Nanping County, was called Yangdong(羊峒) in ancient times. It belonged to Diqiang from the Shang Dynasty to the Qin Dynasty. According to archaeological investigation, except for Caodi and Yonghe Township, Neolithic sites have been found in other towns, which can trace the history of Jiuzhaigou County back to 5000 years ago. More than 2000 years ago, Jiuzhaigou County and its surrounding ethnic minority areas were incorporated into the territory of the Han Dynasty. In the third year of Yongzheng (1725), the Qing government decided to set up Nanping Ying(南坪营) in Songpanting Ting(松潘厅). In 1982, the State Council approved Jiuzhaigou as a national scenic spot. On December 14, 1992, Jiuzhaigou was included in the world natural heritage list by unanimous vote of UNESCO General Conference. In June 1998, it was renamed Jiuzhaigou County.

More about the History of Jiuzhaigou.

People of Jiuzhaigou

By the end of 2018, Jiuzhaigou County had 22,583 registered households and 67,064 people, of whom 34,164 were men and 32,900 women. The urban population is 26,075, the rural population is 40,989, and the minority population is 26,669. Among the minority population, 21,838 are Tibetan, 3,401 are Hui, 1,170 are Qiang and 260 are other nationalities, accounting for 32.6%, 5.1%, 1.7% and 0.4% of the total population respectively. Ngawa Prefecture, where Jiuzhaigou scenic spot is located, is an autonomous prefecture of Tibetan and Qiang ethnic groups. To understand the folk culture here, you need to know about the Ando Tibetan and Qiang people in Ngawa.

Anduo Tibetan

The Tibetan in Aba County, Ruoergai County, Hongyuan County, Rangtang County, Songpan County and Jiuzhaigou County are basically Ando Tibetans. Due to its geographical relationship, Ando, which has always been located at the edge of the central Tibetan area, has been closely linked with the eastern Han culture and the northern Altai culture since ancient times. In history, this is also a place where many nationalities live in compact communities. The ancestors of Tubo, Hun, Tuyuhun, Mongolia, Tu, Hui, and Salar have merged and exchanged with each other in the changes of history and gradually formed today's unique Ando culture.

Qiang Ethnic People

Qiang is an ancient ethnic group in western China, mainly living in Maoxian county, Wenchuan county, Lixian county, Songpan, Heishui and Jiuzhaigou of Ngawa Prefecture. Today's Qiang people is just one of the ancient Qiang ethnic groups that retains the name of Qiang and part of traditional culture. It is a fraternal ethnic group with Han, Tibetan, Yi and Naxi ethnic groups, all of which have part of the blood lineage of the Yellow Emperor tribe. Qiang people have their own writing and are good at singing, dancing, embroidery and handicraft production.

Language of Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou residents usually speak Tibetan, but with the development of tourism for many years, most young and middle-aged people can communicate in Chinese and English.

Food Culture of Jiuzhaigou

Located in the Tibetan and Qiang autonomous region, Jiuzhaigou owns its food style related to the two ethnic groups. For the dining, the two ethnic groups have different cultures. The Tibetan mainly takes smoked and barbecued meat, accompanied by barley wine, butter tea, yoghurt and other drinks. While the Qiang people likes sour and spicy meat dishes and animal offal. The main featured flavor are lamb roast, hand-grab steak, dried beef, etc. Other specialties include yam tsamba, Jiuzhai persimmon, buckwheat flour cake, and pickled cabbage noodles. Jiuzhaigou has many special drinks and the vitamin that local food lacks is supplemented by elegant tea. 

Religion of Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou Tibetans believe in Bon religion, which is called "Benzo" in Tibetan. Originally a primitive religion popular in ancient Tibet, it is commonly known as Black (Benzo) religion and worships natural spirits such as Heaven, Earth, Mountain, Forest, etc. Later, influenced by Tibetan Buddhism-Lamaism, it created a new teaching doctrine and evolved a sect similar to Tibetan Buddhism, commonly known as White (Benzo), to show its difference from the mainstream sects of Tibetan Buddhism-Huangjiao (Gelu Sect) and Hongjiao (Nima Sect). Bon religion has great influence in Sichuan Tibetan areas.

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Festivals of Jiuzhaigou

With most residents of Tibetan and Qiang ethnic groups, Jiuzhaigou features most traditional festivals of local Tibetan and Qiang people. There are Tibetan New Year, Mazi Fair, Huanglong Temple Fair, Lamp Festival, Qiang’s New Year, as well as tourist festival such as Ice-waterfall Tourism Festival.

Folk Customs of Jiuzhaigou

Resorting to God of Mountain

It is a highlight of the folk culture of Jiuzhaigou, which can be held during the day or night on the 15th day of the Tibetan New Year. The main prop is a strong wooden fork shaped "Y". After the activity, all the villagers will make a circle, singing and laughing all night long. In this traditional folk culture, circles represent reunion.

Fetching Holy Water

The Tibetan of Jiuzhaigou follows the traditional custom of fetching water from the “Haizi”(namely lakes, pools,rivers) on the eve of Tibetan New Year. On the moment of first cockcrow, all the villagers will rush to the lakes or pools to take the first holy water, then offer to the families for drinking after burning incense and water sprinkling.

Burning Aromatic Plants

Burning aromatic plants is one of the most common religious prayers of the Tibetan people, which has a history of more than 3,000 years. It is mostly used in the oath of alliance, with the meaning of being testified by God. Most of the folk burning are used for blessing family, friends, relatives or oneself.


  • Please consult and follow their customs if you are invited to have a drink with the local Tibetan.
  • Please drink the butter tea until the host pass it to you in both hands.
  • Please go clockwise around the temple or Buddhism pagodas when you pass by them.
  • Please don't step over any religious tool and brazier.
  • Please do not touch the Tibetan's head.
  • Please do not step on the threshold that will cause misfortune.

Music and Dance of Jiuzhaigou

Guozhuang Dance

For the Tibetan, dance and song are inseparable. Guozhuang is one of the three major Tibetan folk dances, together with "Xianzi" and "Reba". It is a kind of self-entertaining and group dance. People are singing and dancing in a circle around a campfire or stove during the festivals or the leisure time, which is seldom accompanied by musical instrument.

Tibetan Opera

Tibetan opera, the traditional opera of Tibet, has a wide variety of types, including songs, dances, storytelling, chants and drama to tell stories. Originated more than 600 years ago, it is more than 400 years earlier than Beijing opera, which is known as the "living fossil" of Tibetan culture.

Costumes of Jiuzhaigou

Tibetan Shirt

The main features of Tibetan shirt are designed with large left shoulder and small right shoulder, buttons on the right underarms, or ribbons made of colored cloth to tie with. Generally speaking, the man’s shirt is given priority to white color and high collar, while the woman’s is mostly made of with printed silk cloth and lapel collar, both with long sleeves.


In Jiuzhaigou, the villagers are very particular about the headdress, plastron, bracelet, waist adorn and the shoes on the feet. On every grand occasion, they will have Bazhu on their heads, silver coins on their braid, and big rings on their ears. No matter men or women, they all like hanging chains around their neck, bracelet and rings on their wrists and fingers. All kinds of metal coins and gems are hanging on women’s neck, and broadsword, snuff bottle, silver dollar are adorned on men’s waist.

Hat and Shoes

Tibetan men wear a lot of hats, and thin hat is the most common one. In the middle of the last century, western hats were introduced to Tibet, and soon the hat was accepted by Tibetan. In the appearance of the Tibetan shoes, they resemble the boots worn by civil servants in costume dramas on stage.

Intangible Cultural Heritages in Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou County has 80 intangible cultural heritages of various types, including 4 at the national level, 4 at the provincial level, 28 at the prefectural level and 44 at the county level. Jiuzhaigou County Intangible Cultural Heritage Exhibition Center is officially open to tourists free of charge, so that tourists can have a comprehensive understanding of Jiuzhaigou's history and culture, and also learn the skills of making Nanping pipa and dance masks in the Intangible Cultural Heritage Center.

National Cultural Heritages

  • Nanping Tunes南坪曲子
  • Western Sichuan Tibetan Mountain Songs川西藏族山歌
  • Tibetan Zhouwu Dance诌舞
  • Denggaganchu (Panda dance)登嘎甘㑇

Provincial Cultural Heritages

  • Building Techniques of Taban Houses踏板房建筑技艺
  • Making Techniques of Nanping Earth Pipa南坪土琵琶制作技艺
  • Inking Festival涂墨节
  • Tibetan New Year藏历年

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Edited by Hellen He/何琴