Gin people

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Gin people
京族服 4068.jpg
Total population
Regions with significant populations
China (Wutou, Wanwei and Shanxin islands off the coast of Dongxing city, Guangxi)
Vietnamese (writing in chữ Nôm and chữ Hán)
Cantonese, Mandarin
Vietnamese folk religion · Mahayana Buddhism · Taoism
Related ethnic groups
Vietnamese people, Muong, Chứt, Thổ
Gin people
Chinese name
Vietnamese name
VietnameseKinh tộc

The Gin[1] or Jing people[2] (Chinese: 京族; pinyin: Jīngzú; Yale: Gīng juhk; Vietnamese: Kinh tộc or người Kinh) are a Southeast Asian ethnic group native to southeastern China, who are descendants of ethnic Kinh people in Vietnam.

Prior to 1958, the Việt were labelled as Yue with the Cantonese groups (Chinese: 越族; pinyin: Yuèzú; Vietnamese: Việt tộc), before the name "Kinh", "Gin" or "Jing" was used to classify Vietnamese ethnic group separately.[3] They mainly live on the three islands (Jing Islands) off the coast of Dongxing, Fangchenggang, in the Chinese autonomous region of Guangxi. These territories were administered by the Nguyễn dynasty, but were later ceded by the French to the Qing dynasty.

The Gin population was estimated to be just over 28,000 as of 2010. This number does not include the 36,205 Vietnamese nationals studying or working in Mainland China recorded by the 2010 national population census.[4]


In Vietnamese, Kinh and Việt are used interchangeably to refer Vietnamese people, with Kinh used more in more official contexts; the Chinese characters for the ethnic group, 京 and 越, are the same as in Sino-Vietnamese. Kinh (京), meaning "capital city", evolved to refer to people living in the lowlands, to distinguish them from people living in the highlands. Việt (越) is a reference to the Baiyue, a collection of non-Han peoples who lived in southern China since ancient times.


The ancestors of the Gin people immigrated to southern China from Vietnam during the 16th century and established communities on the three originally uninhabited islands of Wutou, Wanwei and Shanxin.[5]


The people of this very small ethnic minority have lived for about 500 years on the three islands of Wanwei, Wutou and Shanxin off the coast of Guangxi, China, about 8 km east of the border with Vietnam. In the 1960s, the islands were connected to the mainland by a land reclamation project.[6] The islands are administered as part of Dongxing county within Fangchenggang prefecture. A minority also live in nearby counties and towns with predominately Han Chinese or Zhuang populations.[5]

The Gin live in a subtropical area with plenty of rainfall and rich mineral resources. The Gulf of Tonkin to its south is an ideal fishing ground. Of the more than 700 species of fish found there, over 200 are of great economic value and high yields. Pearls, sea horses and sea otters which grow in abundance are prized for their medicinal value. Seawater from the Gulf of Tonkin is good for salt making. The main crops there are rice, sweet potato, peanut, taro and millet, and sub-tropical fruits like papaya, banana, and longan are also plentiful. Mineral deposits include iron, monazite, titanium, magnetite and silica. The large tracts of mangroves growing in marshy land along the coast are a rich source of tannin, an essential raw material for the tanning industry.


The language of the Gin people is a Vietnamese dialect.[2] Basically, they can communicate verbally with Kinh people, but cannot read and understand the Latin-script's chữ Quốc ngữ. Standard Cantonese is also spoken by many in the community as well as Mandarin Chinese. A survey in 1980 indicated that one third of Gin people had lost their native language and can only speak Cantonese or Mandarin, and another third who are bilingual in the Gin language and Han Chinese languages. The survey suggested a decline in the use of the Gin language, but in the 2000s, there appeared to be a revival in the use of the language.[7]

About the main script of writing system, diffenrent with the Kinh in Vietnam, the Gin are still using chữ Hán (Chinese characters) and chữ Nôm in Vietnamese (also pronounced as "Zinan" in Mandarin), which is similar to the Zhuang old script, because they were not affected by the policy of removing chữ Hán and chữ Nôm and replacing it with Vietnamese Latin alphabet by the French colonial government during the French colonial period.[2][7] Created on the basis of the script of the Han people towards the end of the 13th century, it is found in old song books and religious scriptures.[8]


Gin people like antiphonal songs which are melodious and lyrical. Their traditional instruments include the two-stringed fiddle, flute, drum, gong and the single-stringed fiddle, a unique musical instrument of the ethnic group. Folk stories and legends abound. Their favorite dances feature lanterns, fancy colored sticks, embroidery and dragons.

Gin costume is simple and practical. Traditionally, women wear tight-fitting, collarless short blouses buttoned in front plus a diamond-shaped top apron and broad black or brown trousers. When going out, they would put on a light colored gown with narrow sleeves. They also like earrings. Men wear long jackets reaching down to the knees and girdles. Now most people dress themselves like their Han neighbors though a few elderly women retain their tradition and a few young women coil their hair and dye their teeth black.

Many Gin are believers of Buddhism or Taoism, with a few followers of Catholicism. They also celebrate the Lunar New Year, the Pure Brightness Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival like the Han.

Fish sauce is a favorite condiment of the Gin people for cooking, and a cake prepared with glutinous rice mixed with sesame is a great delicacy for them. There used to be some taboos, such as stepping over a fishing net placed on the beach.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Names of nationalities of China in romanization with codes". 中国民族报. Archived from the original on 1 November 2009.
  2. ^ a b c James Stuart Olson (28 February 1998). An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China. Greenwood Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0313288531.
  3. ^ "京 族". Communist Party of China. Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  4. ^ "Major Figures on Residents from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and Foreigners Covered by 2010 Population Census". National Bureau of Statistics of China. April 29, 2011. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Jing (in French)
  6. ^ Legerton, Colin; Rawson, Jacob (2009). Invisible China: A Journey Through Ethnic Borderlands. Chicago Review Press. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-569-76263-9.
  7. ^ a b Linda Tsung (23 October 2014). Language Power and Hierarchy: Multilingual Education in China. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 188. ISBN 978-1441142351.
  8. ^ Friedrich, Paul; Diamond, Norma (1994). Russia and Eurasia, China. Hall. p. 454. ISBN 0-8161-1810-8. Retrieved 2011-01-11.

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