Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
Although they are considered part of the Tujia nationality, the Mozhihei speak a very different language from other Tujia people. Tujia is the historical Chinese name for this group. The Southern Tujia call themselves Mozhihei, while the Northern Tujia speakers use the autonym Bizika. The two Tujia groups have separate customs, names, and languages.
Han Chinese peasants migrated into western Hunan in the early twelfth century, bringing with them modern tools and farming expertise. Some Mozhihei youth joined the Communist Long March after it passed through their area in 1935. Some traveled all the way to northern China and fought against the Japanese.
The Mozhihei have a rich repertoire of traditional songs and dances. "The Hand Waving Dance, with its seventy ritual gestures that represent war, hunting, farming and other aspects of life, is popular at the New Year's festival." The Mozhihei grow a variety of crops including wet rice, wheat, maize, and sweet potatoes. Cash crops include beets, cotton, and tea. Mozhihei men are proficient hunters, trappers, and fishermen. From the time a Mozhihei girl is 10 or 11 years old, she begins practicing how to cry sufficiently for her future wedding, to show the wedding guests how much she will miss her parents. "How well she cries is considered a test of her abilities as well as her integrity. So, a girl who does not perform well enough in crying will probably be looked down upon."
The beliefs of the Mozhihei are a mixture of shamanism, Daoism, ancestral worship, and ancient beliefs involving ghosts and evil spirits. Many of the Mozhihei who have moved to urban areas for work or education now consider themselves atheists.
For centuries they have lived and died without any knowledge of the Savior of the world. Few missionaries have ever braved the remote mountains of western Hunan, leaving it one of the most unevangelized areas in China today. The nearest Christian community is probably the 2,000 believers, mainly Han, in Danjiang County in neighboring eastern Sichuan Province.