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The Chinese Nung

[IMAGE] The peoples of China represent an amazing blend of cultures and languages. In the southeastern provinces, most inhabitants are Chinese Nung, part of the Han Chinese majority of China. While they were not the first inhabitants of this area, the Chinese Nung (also known as the Cantonese) arrived many centuries ago. Now there are 54 million Chinese Nung occupying the areas of Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces, including the important city of Canton. While they make up only 4.5% of the overall Chinese population, they are the third largest ethnic group in The People's Republic of China.

Because the Chinese Nung have been economically tied to nearby Hong Kong in recent years, China's reclamation of Hong Kong brings many unknown issues to their economic and social development. The Chinese Nung speak Guanghua, also known as Cantonese or Yueh. Guanghua is part of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. It preserves more features of ancient Chinese than do the other Chinese languages.

What Are Their Lives Like
Most Chinese Nung live in rural areas and are involved in agriculture, the backbone of the Chinese economy. Only 20% of the available land is under cultivation, but Chinese Nung farmers have developed methods of intensive cultivation. Much of the area experiences tropical and subtropical temperatures, so farmers are able to plant and harvest a number of crops of rice each year. Other important crops include tropical fruits, barley, sweet potatoes, and peanuts.

About one-fifth of the population lives in urban areas—quite high in comparison to other Chinese provinces. One chief reason for the move to the cities is industrial development that includes fishing, shipbuilding, hydroelectricity, textiles, and electronics. In 1979, the Cantonese area was given permission by the Chinese government to establish special economic zones. These privileges have enabled southern China to develop trade and investment ties with other nations and have caused their export industries to explode.

The Chinese Nung are famous for their distinctive forms of folk art and for the Yueh opera in the major city of Canton. Cantonese food is widely recognized as among the best in China. Living in coastal provinces, the people are particularly fond of seafood. In winter, the "big-headed fish" (tench) is often served raw in a fish salad—a departure from habitual Chinese culinary practice. Some other food habits, such as the eating of newborn rats, monkey's brain, and fried snake, are regarded as revolting by most Chinese in other provinces.

Although the Chinese Nung follow essentially the same annual festivals as people in other provinces of China, many of their celebrations have unique characteristics. During the Chinese New Year, the lion dance is especially popular; and at the Dragon Boat Festival in early summer, dragon boat races are held on rivers and lakes.

What Are Their Belief?
Chinese folk religions form the primary belief system for most of the Chinese Nung. While they are important to all Chinese, ancestry and family lineage are greatly emphasized in the Chinese Nung culture. This may explain why ancestor worship (praying to the dead for blessings and guidance) is the most pervasive folk religion among them. Other folk religions include the worship of the goddess of fishing and navigation. Most Chinese Nung believe in many gods and visit temples and priests of other religions as occasions demand. Another 20% of the Chinese Nung are Buddhist, and an almost equal number identify themselves as "non-religious."

What Are Their Needs?
While the Bible and the Jesus film are available to the Chinese Nung, only about 3% are believers. Conformity to traditional society and resistance to "foreign" thinking have prevented an openness to the Gospel. Future economic success among the Chinese Nung may go further than communism in secularizing their society. Christian businessmen may have the best opportunities to share the life of Jesus with these precious people.

Prayer Points
  • Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to live and work in the Chinese Nung business community.
  • Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are targeting the Chinese Nung.
  • Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among the Chinese Nung.
  • Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
  • Pray that the doors of China will soon open to missionaries.
  • Pray that God will open the hearts of China's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities that have kept the Chinese Nung bound for many generations.
  • Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Chinese Nung church for the glory of His name!

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Chinese Nung
  • Country: China
  • Their language: Guanghua
  • Population: (1990) 51,118,900
    (1995) 54,040,000
    (2000) 56,845,500
  • Largest religion: Chinese folk-religionist 60%
    Buddhist (Mahayana) 20%
    Nonreligious 16.6%
  • Christian: 3.4%
  • Church members: 1,837,358
  • Scriptures in their own language: Bible
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 16
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 33,720,900 (63%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 5,079,800 (9.5%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 28,641,100 (53.5%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 20,319,100 (37%)
  • Country: China
  • Population: (1990) 1,135,043,400
    (1995) 1,199,901,200
    (2000) 1,262,195,800
  • Major peoples in size order: Han Chinese (Mandarin) 67.7%
    Han Chinese (Wu) 7.5%
    Han Chinese (Cantonese) 4.5%
  • Major religions: Nonreligious 55%
    Chinese folk-religionist 17%
    Atheist 12.7%
  • Number of denominations: 42

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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