Identity The Shixing are one of many small groups in southern and central Sichuan who have been officially counted as part of the Tibetan nationality. The name Shixing means "iron people." The Chrame call their Shixing neighbors Xumi.
History The area inhabited by the Shixing has a long and rich history. Their villages are "guarded by watchtowers erected by powerful Naxi kings several hundred years ago." The Naxi's interest in the region may have been due to the abundance of gold once found in the Shou Chu River. The river was extensively mined by the great Naxi king, Mutien Wang.
Customs The Shixing live isolated lives farming rice and maize on thin strips of land leading down to the river. The Shixing villages are "peculiar conglomerations of huts built one against the other, with flat roofs, permitting one to step from house to house over the entire village."
Religion All Shixing are Tibetan Buddhists; they were converted centuries ago. Outside many of their homes one will find mani piles (pyramids of white stones) which are engraved with the sacred Tibetan prayer, Om mani padme hum - "Hail the Jewel of the Lotus." In the past the Shixing lived under the rule of the Chrame king in Muli, along with his powerful religious rulers.
Christianity The Muli region in southwest Sichuan Province is one of the most gospel-neglected places on earth. No missionaries are known to have worked there in the past. There has never been a known believer or Christian fellowship among the Shixing people. The nearest believers to the Shixing are the Lisu in northwest Yunnan, but they are still a considerable distance away over some of the most remote terrain in the world.
A 1983 report listed 2,000 speakers of the Shixing language 'living along the fast-flowing Shuilo River and its downstream tributary, the Chongtian River, in the First District of Muli County in southern Sichuan Province'. Mountain trails leading to the Shixing villages rise to an altitude of 4,680 meters (15,000 ft.). One visitor to the Shixing described the remarkable variation in terrain: 'We found the stifling heat in the gorges of the Shou Chu next to unbearable, especially as we passed from cool forest regions to a temperature of over 100° Fahrenheit within a couple of hours. The region is a botanist's paradise. We found wild flowers, anemones, blue poppies, and many primroses of all colors, forming a veritable carpet of exquisite designs.' (Source: Operation China, 2000)