Giay, Nhang in China





Largest Religion

Main Language



In Vietnam, the 38,000 Giay are given official status by the government. In China, the Giay have been combined with many other related groups to make up the huge Zhuang nationality. The Giay, however, speak their own language and possess a distinct historical identity. The Giay are also often referred to as the Nhang, which is a name given to them by the Vietnamese.

According to one linguist, the Giay language is the same as Bouyei in China. The Giay in China use a different script from their counterparts in Vietnam.


The Giay who now live in Vietnam migrated there from China approximately 200 years ago, "perhaps during the Black and Yellow Flag Wars."


The traditional dress worn by Giay women included a knee-length skirt, but now the women have begun wearing normal Han Chinese clothing. Giay families are dominated by the males. Wives must obey their husbands, unmarried women must obey their fathers, and widows must obey their sons. Giay women prefer to give birth in a squatting position, in a room where an altar has been erected to ensure that the spirits oversee a favorable birth. The placenta is later buried beneath the woman's bed. When the baby is a month old the parents call for a ceremony to inform the ancestors of the birth and to name the baby. The Giay consult horoscopes to determine the fate of the child.


The Giay practice ancestor worship. Many are also animists, while some of the current generation of youth are nonreligious, having received an atheistic education under the Communist system. Each Giay village has a "forbidden forest" called a doong xia where the biggest tree is considered sacred. Twice a year, worship of the spirit of the village is celebrated at the foot of the tree. Whenever these rituals take place, outsiders and visitors are strictly forbidden to enter the village. Bamboo is cut down and placed at the entrance of the village to bar access to all strangers. Parts of sacrificed animals are then hung from the tree; ears of pigs or buffaloes, chickens' feet, and tufts of animal hair are commonly used.


Few Giay have heard that Jesus Christ died for them. They are trapped in superstition and a fear of evil spirits. There are no strong Christian communities near the Giay. The southern tip of China and northern Vietnam are two large unreached regions. A small number of Catholics do live among the Giay in China, and a few believers can be found among the Giay in Vietnam. They are one of a relatively small number of groups in China which possesses its own orthography.

Profile Source:   Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  

People Name General Giay (Zay)
People Name in Country Giay, Nhang
Population in China 339,000
World Population 406,000
Countries 3
Progress Scale 1.2
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Chi Chu, Chungcha, Dang, Dioi, Giai, Giang, Giáy, Glay, Nhang, Nyang, Pau Thin, Pu Nam, Sa Nhan, Xa Chung Cha, Yai, Zay
Affinity Bloc Southeast Asian Peoples
People Cluster Bouyei
People Name General Giay (Zay)
Ethnic Code MSY49z
People ID 13385
Country China
Region Northeast Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 29  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Approximately a quarter of a million Giay (pronounced "Zay") are located in eastern Yunnan and western Guangxi, along the southern Chinese border with Vietnam. The Giay in Vietnam inhabit three provinces of the Red River valley that borders China. Five thousand also live in northern Laos. A few Giay refugee communities have also sprung up in France and southern California..   Source:  Operation China, 2000
Languages & Dialects on file:  1  (up to 20 largest shown)
Bouyei (339,000)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Bouyei 339,000
For Primary Language: Bouyei

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions No
New Testament No
Complete Bible No
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Jesus Film: view in Bouyei Film / Video
My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime) Film / Video
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
The Hope Video Film / Video
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.18 %)
0.40 %
Ethnic Religions
94.50 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
5.10 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
45.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
55.0 %
Photo Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway   Copyrighted ©   Used with permission
Map Source: Joshua Project / Global Mapping International  
Profile Source: Operation China, Paul Hattaway  Copyrighted ©   Used with permission  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

Copyright © 2015 Joshua Project.  A ministry of Frontier Ventures.