A Brief History of the Guizhou Minority Populations
Until the late 18th century most of southwestern Guizhou's inhabitants were non-Chinese, primarily Miao, ethnic groups. As in many parts of Guizhou, these ethnic groups came under increasing pressure from Han Chinese immigration in the 18th century. Because of its important trade routes, the Xingyi area was a particular target for Han settlement. The ethnic balance in the Xingyi area began to swing in favor of the Han Chinese following the harsh suppression of a major Miao rebellion in the late 1790s. By that time the empire had relocated so many eastern Chinese colonists to this unforgiving land that the province's population had soared from 65 million to 150 million. A series of rebellions was dealt with mercilessly by succeeding generations of Tunpuren, or Han military colonists. Eighteen thousand Miao were killed in 1732, with almost the same number executed and a similar number enslaved. More than 100 years later the scenario was repeated. The governor of Guizhou wrote that the province had lost nine-tenths of its entire population in just two decades, either massacred or exiled to the hills of northern Laos, Burma, and Thailand. A closer look at the map reveals how these proud, defiant peoples, as different from the Han Chinese as the Native Americans are from the 21st-century descendants of their European conquerors, have been dominated and humiliated by Chinese colonists. Name after name stand out like marker flags on a campaign plan: Anshun (Peace and Submission); Liping (Pacification of the Li); Zhenyuan (Pacification of the Distant Tribes); Guiding (Pacification of Guizhou); Luodian (Extension of Imperial Power); and Kaili (Village of the Victory Song). As Miao and other ethnic groups involved in the rebellion in southwestern Guizhou were pushed into more remote areas, a new wave of Han immigration flowed into the Xingyi area. By the mid-19th century, Han Chinese guest people (kemin) were estimated to make up 70% to 80% of Xingyi county's 40,000 inhabitants.