The Qiang live across five counties in mountainous northwest Sichuan Province, China. The speakers of the Qiang language live in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau in the northwest part of Sichuan Province, China (roughly 103 to 104 degrees longitude east and 31 to 32 degrees north). The entire prefecture covers 4046.35 square kilometers.
The Qiang people mainly live along the Min River and in tributaries in the counties of Mao, Wenchuan, Heishui, Songpan and Beichuan, all contiguous areas in the southeast of Aba Prefecture. A small number of Qiang people live in Danba County of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, to the west of Aba Prefecture, and in Shiqian and Jiangkou of the Tongren area in Guizhou province, to the east of Aba Prefecture. The entire area is very mountainous, with many mountains 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) high.
The Qiang build their villages on the top or side of the mountains, with generally one village (often thirty-odd families or less) per mountain side. In many cases there are no roads to the village, and as the villages are often 2,500-3,500 meters up the mountain, the only way to get to the village is to climb a steep path. The weather is generally cold in the winter and cool in the summer. It is usually dry and windy and the temperature varies greatly between day and night. Weather conditions also vary greatly between the mountains and the valleys; in the springtime, there is still snow up in the mountains, but flowers are already blooming down in the valley. The weather in different valleys also varies. In those below 2,500 meters the weather is relatively warm, with very little rain. In those valleys above 2,500, the weather is cold all year round, with an average temperature of five degrees Celsius. Above 4000 meters it is very cold all year, often with snow ten months of the year. The typography and varied weather conditions contribute to the stunning beauty of the landscape.
The geographic features, weather conditions and soil composition also contribute to the abundance and peculiarities of the natural flora and fauna of the area. The mountains are heavily wooded. Gingko, camphor, Chinese hemlock, and Chinese little leaf box trees grow wild in the valleys, as do 189 types of grasses and bushes, including some rare medical herbs such as Cordyceps sinensisia, Fritillaria thunbergii (unibract fritilary bulb; “chuan bei”, a popular sore throat remedy), and gastrodia elata. The Qiang will pick these for their own use and to sell. Forty-one types of wild animal, among them endangered species such as the giant panda, the small panda, the golden monkey, the wild donkey, and the musk deer, can be found in the area.