Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The Gouzou are part of the official Yi nationality in China. They are not the same as the Guopu people group who inhabit the same area. The various Yi groups in Guizhou Province were considered endangered in the early 1900s. One writer noted, "The unsanitary conditions in which they live - the water they drink is often drawn from stagnant pools fouled by sheep and cattle - and their riotous indulgence in whisky, opium, and other vices, sufficiently account for this. ... They are burdened with the thought that their doom as a race is sealed."
Guizhou may have been the original homeland of all Yi. The Nosu in Sichuan say their two ancestors, Gu Mmu and Cho Li, came from a town called Zzupu in Guizhou. "Even now when a Nosu person dies the relatives chant so that the dead person's spirit will be able to walk back the same way to the original family home in Guizhou." The history of the Yi in Guizhou is one of war and conflict, including numerous clashes with the Hui Muslims.
Before the introduction of modern medicine, whole Gouzou communities were wiped out by a fever called Nomatsi. "No person will stay by the sick-bed to nurse the unfortunate patient. Food and water are placed by the bedside, the sick one is covered with a quilt and left at the mercy of the disease. Since the patient will perspire as the fever progresses, heavy stones are placed upon the quilt that it may not be thrown off. Many have died from suffocation."
The polytheistic Gouzou have a flood legend: "A certain man had three sons. He received warning that a flood was about to come upon the earth, and the family discussed how they should save themselves when this calamity came upon them. One suggested an iron cupboard, another a stone one, but the suggestion that they should make a cupboard of wood and store it with food was acted upon." Ancestor worship is also prevalent among the Gouzou. Since the early 1900s, Christianity has made an appearance among them also.
Today there is a small church among the Gouzou. One official publication states that as many as half of the overall total of 85,000 Yi people in Weining County follow Christ. The majority of the believers are female and over 30 years old.