In the 1990 national census, about half of the Pingdi were included under the Yao nationality, while the other half were included under Han Chinese. It appears the Pingdi speakers are a complicated mixture of Yao people who became Sinicized and, on the other hand, Han Chinese people who became "minoritized."3 Although those Pingdi who have been counted as Yao speak a Chinese language, one study of the Yao states that even though "they have many branches, with different names, languages, customs, and economy, they preserve their common psychological quality which holds their ethnic group together."
The numerous Yao groups in China have splintered into their present divisions after centuries of forced migration. One historian notes, "The Yao were a very large component in the Man or Southern Barbarian tribes, pushed southwestwards over millennia by the Chinese. In fact the term Man is sometimes still used to refer to the Yao."
The Pingdi area is rarely visited by outsiders. As a result, they have minimal interaction with other people groups. The majority of Pingdi are simple farmers engaged in rice cultivation.
Many Yao groups have a legend of a great flood. "Because the flood overflowed up to the sky for seven days and seven nights, on earth there were no people left except for Fuxi and his younger sister. Begging a Chinese tree to be their go-between, they became husband and wife. They gave birth to a lump of flesh, which they cut into 360 pieces and scattered around. Those pieces scattered in the green mountains changed into the Yao, the others became the Chinese people."
In the ancient past the Yao had a legend of a Creator god. The Yao claim, "Ages ago ... before we crossed the sea, we worshipped someone called Tin Zay, who lives in heaven and is a holy god." For centuries the Pingdi have lived and died without any knowledge of Christ and without a strong church in their midst. Although there is a Yao New Testament available in the Iu Mien language, the Pingdi speak a different language from Iu Mien.