The official classification of the Yanghuang is a complicated matter. In the 1982 census they were included in a list of Undetermined Minorities. By the time of the 1990 census, however, they had been reclassified as part of the Maonan nationality. The Yanghuang are a combination of two distinct ethnic groups, although they speak the same language. Consequently, the Yanghuang have two different ethnic names for themselves: Ten and Rao. It may be that the Ten have been counted as Maonan and the Rao as Shui. Yanghuang is the Chinese name for them and is the name all people in the region identify this group by.
The Yanghuang language is "very closely related to Shui." It may be the same language as Mo, although the speakers of Mo have a different ethnic identity. Most Yanghuang are bilingual in the local dialect of Chinese, and some can also speak Bouyei as a third language. The Yanghuang language does not have an orthography.
The origins of the Yanghuang are uncertain. Their language suggests a close historic affiliation with the Shui. They appear to have been two clans of Shui who migrated to the Bouyei areas in the past. After many generations of separation from the main bulk of Shui farther to the north and northeast, the Yanghuang gradually developed their own language and customs. Little was known of the southern part of Guizhou until the Japanese invaded China in the 1930s and the Kuomintang armies were forced to the south and southwestern parts of the country. There they constructed roads and railway lines through remote regions, which for centuries had been the unexplored domain of dozens of non-Han minority groups.
The Yanghuang lead peaceful lives among the verdant hills of southern Guizhou. The region was one of the most poverty-stricken in the country, but China's recent economic boom has helped the Yanghuang.
The Yanghuang are polytheists and animists. They believe their lives are controlled by a complex hierarchy of demons and gods who must be continually placated to ensure success and peace for the community.
The majority of Yanghuang people are without any knowledge of the name of Jesus Christ. The few Christian missionaries who have visited them in recent years have reported a complete lack of any presence of Christianity among the Yanghuang. There has recently been a small breakthrough among the related Mo people in Libo County, who now have the first Christian church ever established among their people. It is hoped that the new Mo believers will be motivated and equipped to take the gospel to the linguistically related Yanghuang.