Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
The Yonzhi are a distinct ethnic group who live in a remote area that has changed little for hundreds of years. They are considered by some to be a part of the Golog, who in turn are officially counted as part of the Tibetan nationality in China.
For countless generations the Yonzhi have lived simple lives, unaffected by events in the rest of the world. Joseph Rock, the famous botanist and explorer, stumbled across the Yonzhi in 1929. He recalls, "The people were astonished at sight of our party. One asked, 'Why this array of arms and force when visiting our territory?' We continued up the valley to the very foot of Amnyi Druggu, the mountain god of the Yonzhi tribe. The last few tents we passed were cursed by some plague, the nomads said. The inmates lay dying outside, covered with yak-hair rugs."
The Yonzhi are nomadic, living in yak-hair tents and moving every few weeks to find new pastures for their yaks, sheep, and goats.
In addition to worshiping Amnyi Druggu, the Yonzhi's Mountain deity, the Yonzhi live in the vicinity of Anye Machen Mountain. They believe it contains a powerful god of the same name. He is often represented in pictures riding a white horse, with the sun and a rainbow to his right and the moon to his left. "All Tibetans worship Anye Machen; every monastery has either a picture or image of him. Anye means 'old man' and corresponds to our 'saint'. Ma means 'peacock' and chen 'great'."
The Yonzhi are one of the most unreachable people groups in China - if not all the world. Their region is snowbound for most of the year with temperatures plummeting to minus 40° Celsius (-40°F). The Yonzhi move around frequently, relocating their homes and herds to new pastures. Their communities are only accessible by foot or horseback. To the Yonzhi, the gospel remains untold. It is possible no Yonzhi has ever heard the name of Jesus Christ.