Identity The Southern Dong speakers are counted as part of the official Dong nationality. The Southern Dong have retained more of their culture and ethnicity than the Northern Dong.
History During the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC-AD 220) there were numerous tribes scattered across southern China. At that time the ancestors of today's Dong were slaves. The slave society gradually eroded away during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). For countless centuries the Dong have lived alongside Miao and Zhuang people and have absorbed numerous aspects of their culture and language.
Customs The Dong love to stage bullfights. Every Dong village raises its own bull. "As the bulls lock horns and clash and strain to topple each other, the Dong cheer on their favourite beasts and toast them in fiery mao tai [whisky]." A Dong girl is usually taught to weave and embroider at the age of seven. By the age of 12, she starts working on her wedding dress. Marriage usually occurs at the age of 17 or 18. After marriage, a woman lives with her parents until after the birth of the first child. At that time, she is allowed to move into her husband's home.
Religion The Dong are a highly superstitious people who worship a host of demons and gods. They make annual offerings to the spirits of their village, homes, and crops. Ancestral altars are also found in the main room of most homes.
Christianity The China Inland Mission commenced work among the Dong around 1910. In the 1930s missionaries from Liuzhou in Guangxi traveled to northern Guangxi and won 80 Southern Dong to Christ near Fuluh Township. In 1998 one ministry led several of this group to Christ. They returned to their village and started a house fellowship of 40 people.
The Southern Dong are the larger of the two Dong language groups in China. Almost 1.5 million speakers of Southern Dong were counted in the 1990 language census, from a total of 2.5 million people in the Dong nationality. The Southern Dong live primarily in the Rongjiang, Jinping, Liping, Zhenyang, and Congjiang counties in Guizhou Province; Longsheng, Sanjiang, and Rongshui counties in northeastern Guangxi; and Tongdao County in Hunan Province. Two villages of Dong are also located in northern Vietnam, although only one individual in Vietnam is still able to speak Dong. (Source: Operation China, 2000)