When the Chinese sent their teams of experts throughout China to determine the official nationalities, they could not decide which minority group the Changpao were related to. In the 1982 census they were placed in a list of Undetermined Minorities. In 1985, possibly at their own insistence, they were reclassified as part of the Yao nationality. The name Changpao is Chinese in origin. It is not known what this group calls itself. There is little doubt, however, that from a mission-significant viewpoint the Changpao should be considered a distinct group.
The history of the classification of the Changpao began in 1953 when they applied for recognition as a distinct minority group. They appeared on a list as one of 80 groups in Guizhou that remained unclassified. After research, the list of 80 was reduced to only 23 "actual" groups, which included the Changpao. Although they have now been named as part of the Yao, the bureaucratic struggle of the Changpao is indicative of their struggle as a people group to survive against all odds. Poor soil, wars, and famine have combined to keep the Changpao population low over the centuries.
Culturally, the Changpao share many similarities with the Yao of Guangxi. They may be related to the various Bunu groups, who are linguistically Miao but culturally Yao after countless generations of living near Yao communities.
Throughout the course of the year, Changpao families observe several ceremonies dedicated to spirit worship and ancestor worship. Daoist priests are also consulted about many important festivities and rituals over which they then preside.
Because the location of the Changpao has yet to be specified, nothing is known of the status of Christianity among them. There are no more than a handful of known Yao believers in the whole province, so it is likely that the Changpao are an unreached and largely unevangelized people group. Protestant missionary activity in Guizhou, which commenced when C. H. Judd and J. F. Braumton of the China Inland Mission arrived in 1877, experienced great success among the A-Hmao and Gha-Mu. Few other areas of the province have received a gospel witness.