The Tushu are not the same ethnic group as the Tusu, even though both are officially included under the Yi nationality in China. The Tushu, who speak an Eastern Yi language, live a considerable distance apart from the Western Yispeaking Tusu.
Although many people presume the various Yi groups were the original inhabitants of the Weining area, the Yi themselves claim that when they first entered the region "they found a people already in possession of the land, whom they call the P'u, and whom the Chinese today speak of as the Yao-ren. ... The Nosu [Yi] say the Yaoren moved to Szechuan [Sichuan]."
Because of the poor quality of the soil, the Tushu cannot grow rice or most vegetables. Instead, the main crops in the area are corn and potatoes. In many places they also brew their own liquor, which is central to their culture.
Polytheism is the main religion of the Tushu. Spirit priests, or shamans, were once prevalent in their villages but are now rarely seen. Missionary Samuel Pollard, who worked in the area extensively in the early 1900s, noted in his diary: "Had a visit from a Nosu Wizard. He believes that chanting sacred books is expiation for the sins of dead people. In olden times, he told me, they had a book of chanting by which Wind and Rain could be called. But during the Mohammedan Rebellion the book was lost and has never been found again. They believe that all people go to Hades and that there is no Heaven. People saved by chanting come back again."
There are at least 400 Tushu Christians today, especially in the Weining area. In 1907 Pollard started to see the first fruits of large-scale turning to Christ among the Yi of Guizhou. Not only the slaves but the landowners themselves were being saved. He wrote,"A blind Nosu [Yi] here who has become a Christian has released all his slaves and burnt the papers that bound them to him. He told them that they could remain as tenants. He has persuaded his nephew to do the same and other families have followed suit. Some he has persuaded to destroy their idols."