The ancestors of the Yi people were already settled in Yunnan over 2,000 years ago. In the eighth century, the ancestors of the Yi and Bai nationalities founded the Kingdom of Nanzhao in the same area. Today, the Yi are the largest minority nationality in southwest China. Most of them live in Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi. The Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan is the largest Yi
Most of the Yi engage in farming in the humid subtropical zone, but some raise domestic animals in woodland or grass-land areas.
The Yi language exists in six dialects, written in an ancient syllabic script.