Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The Taoping Qiang are one of 11 Qiang language groups that make up the official Qiang nationality in China.
The Southern Qiang languages, including Taoping Qiang, contain between two and six tones, depending on the location. The Southern Qiang - located on the edge of Han Chinese civilization - are being assimilated. The farther north one travels the more culturally Tibetan the Qiang become.
For many centuries the Qiang have been sandwiched between the great Tibetan and Chinese empires. Numerous raiding armies and bandits have passed through the Qiang region, many leaving a violent mark on the pages of Qiang history.
The Qiang enjoy a tortilla-like bread called sanchuisanda. The term literally means "three blows, three hits." The bread is made of wheat flour and is "baked in hot ashes at the side of a fire. But since the loaf is covered with ashes, one needs to blow on it two or three times and pat it as well."
Most Qiang homes are two-story stone constructions. The ground floor is reserved for animals, while the family sleeps on the second floor. One room in every house is set aside by the Qiang to worship their ancestors. A shrine covered with red paper contains the family idols and ancestral tablets.
There are no known Christians among the Taoping Qiang today. It is hoped the Mianchi Qiang believers will share Christ with all Qiang groups in China. Protestant and Catholic missionaries had been active among other Qiang groups before the end of the nineteenth century. Several churches were established but were destroyed, and most of the church leaders were martyred by the Communists in 1935. Today, the main church building at Tongwenmai - at the entrance of Longqi Township - still lies in ruins. The Wenchuan government offices now stand on the site of the former CIM premises.5 In 1986 Thomas Torrance Jr. visited the Qiang for the first time since his family left China in the 1930s. Despite his long absence, he soon found his heart pounding for the people he had come to love more than 50 years before. Torrance wrote, "It was, I think, one of the most memorable days of my life. Apart from being in close contact with very lovely people I felt that I had been sent back by the Lord to help rekindle the flame of their Christian faith and start rebuilding the Church in their midst. I was deeply moved by the love and regard the Qiang people still retained for my father after more than half a century, and by the way they came to show their appreciation for what he was and had done for them in greeting and welcoming his son."