An inevitable quantity of inhabitants
Asia is such a large continent and with such a large mass of land comes an inevitable quantity of inhabitants. Where there is human cohabitation, you will also find the human instinct known as an opinion. Our opinions are what separate us from the next person; our opinion can be the foundation of our existence. China, which is a country within Asia has a sum just over 1.3 billion people (1,330,044,605 as of mid-2008), China is the world’s largest and most populous country. As the world’s population is approximately 6.7 billion, China represents a full 20% of the world’s population so one in every five people on the planet is a resident of China.
From the hinterlands of the north, to the lush jungles in the south, from the mountains of Taiwan in the east, to the top of the world in the west, China serves as home to 56 official ethnic groups. The largest group, the Han, make up over 92% of China’s vast population, and it is the elements of Han civilization that world considers “Chinese culture.” Yet, the 55 ethnic minorities, nestled away on China’s vast frontiers, maintain their own rich traditions and customs, and all are part of Chinese culture. How can you become recognized as a nationality? “Stalin said or meant to say by his criteria of common language, territory, economy, and psychological characteristics or sentiments” (Diamond (1995) p.92)
This paper focuses on the Uygur minorities from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China and the peoples of the Zhuang ethnic group who mostly live in the Guangxi Autonomous Region in southern China, in comparison to the immense Han culture. I chose the Uygur culture and the Zhuang culture mostly because they are two of the larger recognized nationalities. I figured to have such a large population will follow a greater foundation of support. These two groups hail from two different locations in China and I am determined to show you just how different they are from each other, including the differences from the much more popular Han culture. The most import idea is to understand each cultures ethnic mark.
一卷历史，一切都有开始-A wrap of history, everything has a beginning.
The Uygur are a Turkic people who ran a major empire on what is now Mongolia from 744 to 840. The Uygur converted to Islam over several centuries. The history of the Uygur can be traced back as far as the Huihe of the Tang dynasty. Though the ethnic designation “Uygur” for this people group came into modern usage in the early 20th century, their beginnings reach back to the founding of a Uygur Empire on the Mongolian steppe in the 8th century. This empire was centered at Karabalghasun on the Orkhon River and lasted until 840 A.D. when the Kirghiz conquered it. The majority of Uygurs migrated westward where they settled in scattered oases surrounding the Tarim Basin. Between the tenth and eighteenth centuries, the Chaghatai Mongols ruled the Xinjiang area and many Uygurs became administrators and scribes. In 1754 the Qing Dynasty forces defeated the Mongol overlords and in 1884 Xinjiang was declared a province of China. After the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1910 a Uighur republic of East Turkestan was briefly set up around the Ili area. This was crushed by the Communist forces in 1949 and led to the present state of Xinjiang’s incorporation into the People’s Republic of China.
The Zhuang are of Tai origin, a people who migrated south from central China roughly 5000 years ago. The Zhuang settled in what is now Guangxi, while other Tai peoples continued to migrate South to create the Lao, Thai and Shan peoples of Indochina. It is suggested the Tai peoples migrated for food purposes, as the culture developed a unique irrigation system which was useful for growing Rice. As the soil was terrible for this purpose in Central China, the Tai sought out more fertile plains.
The Zhuang failed to record their history until the Tung (Eastern) Chou dynasty (475-221 bc) of China. The Han Chinese referred to the area as Pai-Yueh (the Hundred Yueh – referring to the aborigines of southern China). Eastern Guangxi was conquered by the Han people under the Ch’in Dynasty in 214 bc. The Hans, to reform the area, built the Ling Canal to link the Hsiang and Kuei rivers and form a North-South waterway. An independent state known as Nan Yueh (Southern Yueh) around Canton, China|Canton was created by General Chao T’o when the Ch’in Dynasty collapsed. This Kingdom was supported by the Zhuang until its collapse in 111 bc. The Han Dynasty (206 bc-220 ad) thought the Zhuang culture unproductive, so they reduced local authority and consolidated their authority with Military posts at Kuei-lin, Wu-chou, and Yu-lin.
The Han Chinese are the majority ethnic group in China, making up an estimated 92% of the population. They are the largest single ethnic group in the world. The Han name derives from the Han Dynasty, during which many different tribes in China began joining along commonalities. It was the model for all future dynasties. The empire expanded considerably to the point that it rivaled the Roman Empire. Allegations of Han chauvinism are also common among China’s Minority groups. Some Han resent the ethnic minorities of China, who are seen as having special privileges due to their race.
独特的方法-Ways of being unique
These groups are protected under China’s constitution, guaranteed equal rights, and entitled to special privileges intended to help promote economic and cultural development. Some of these privileges include exemption from the One Child Policy, expanded rights to govern in “ethnic autonomous areas,” economic aid, and special consideration when applying for certain jobs and to certain universities. China officially guarantees minorities the freedom of religion. However, the realities of this freedom are the subject of intense debate, both within China and internationally. The exact definitions of the 55 groups are also controversial. In addition to the estimated 730,000 people in “undistinguished ethnic groups,” groups that have not yet been officially recognized, there are many who have been include in existing groups who deny their classification.
The Uygurs were originally animists. Before they migrated to the Tarim Basin they had come in contact with Manichaeans and adopted their faith. While in the Tarim Basin they encountered Buddhism and many of them adopted this religion-serves as an ethnic marker. Nestorian Christians had also established churches in this area by 631 A.D. and many Uygurs accepted this faith. Marco Polo reported in his travels through Kashgar in 1271 A.D. that several Nestorian churches still existed. The Uygurs of the western Tarim Basin oases began converting to Islam around 950 A.D. as a result of the Arab influences on the Turks around the Samarkand and Bukhara areas. It was not until the 15th century that the Uygurs of the eastern Tarim Basin (Turpan and Hami) converted wholeheartedly to Islam. On the other hand, the Zhuangs are polytheists, worshipping among other things giant rocks, old trees, high mountains, land, dragons, snakes, birds and ancestors. Taoism has also had a deep influence on the Zhuangs since the Tang Dynasty-serves as an ethnic marker. Confucianism is the main religion of the Han people. Many people also belong to various Christian denominations due to the influence of western culture.
Primarily, the Uygurs are identified by the language they speak and the area from which their ancestors came. The strong identity that the Uygurs have today is a relatively recent phenomenon. As pointed out, there was a time in their history when they adhered to several faiths, including Christianity. Up until the 1930s, the people of Xinjiang had been identified with the name of the town where they lived; the only over-arching ethnic designation used for them was “Turki” or “Turkistani.” The USSR revived the name “Uygur” to designate those emigrants from the Tarim Basin who did not fit under other catagories (e.g. Kazak, Kirgiz, and Uzbek).
The Zhuang language belongs to the Chinese-Tibetan language family. Ancient Zhuang characters appeared in the South Song Dynasty (1127-1279), but never got popularized. So, the Zhuangs wrote in the Han script until 1955, when the central government helped them create a writing system based on the Latin alphabet. The Romanized script has been used in books, magazines and newspapers. Many Zhuang are bi- or trilingual, speaking Zhuang and Mandarin or Cantonese or all three. To most Zhuang there are three languages “My” language, Chinese, and “Foreign Language”. Although education in school is supposed to be done in Mandarin the teachers in the Zhuang areas explain things in Zhuang, and since most Zhuang leave school during grade school, they forget the Mandarin they have if they don’t have frequent contact with those outside their village.
Several distinguishing factors have helped to solidify the common identity of those called Uygurs. These include their common Islamic heritage, their strong attachment to the land (as opposed to the nomadic Kazak and Kirgiz) and their Turkic features-specifically their Turkic dialect. The Uygurs of today are quick to identify themselves as Muslims-and to be Uygur, in general, is to be a Muslim. This religious tradition has become an integral part of the Uygur culture. An important part of this tradition is that they do not eat or cook anything related to pork.
The Uygurs of Xinjiang have kept a strong cultural tradition despite the many years of Han Chinese (and Soviet) influence. Most Uygurs will never eat in a Han Chinese restaurant or home because those homes have been contaminated with pork. For this reason, at schools where Uygurs and Han Chinese attend, there are separate cafeterias (and usually dormitories). Uygur literature, music and dance traditions remain strong as well as their traditional religious ceremonies and festivals such as circumcisions, weddings, funerals and holidays. Even though many of the northern Uygurs are nominal and break many of the religious observances (such as Ramadan and the alcohol prohibition), these cultural traditions serve to strongly unite them.
The Uygur language is classified along with Uzbek as belonging to the Karluk division of the Turkic branch of the Uralo-Altaic language family. Farsi has had a great influence on modern Uygur and it is estimated that 30 per cent of Uygur’s vocabulary comes directly from Farsi. Historically, there have been two dialects of Uygur: the northern and southern.
Since the 11th century Uygurs have used the Arabic script, though the Han Chinese unsuccessfully attempted to impose a Latin-based script. Beginning in 1980, the Han Chinese permitted Uygurs to use a modified Arabic script, which was even further modified in 1987 and is in widespread use today. There is, therefore, considerable difference between the Uygur script of the early 20th century and the one is use today. (Dillion Pp 27-28)
Conversely, the government has recognized a standard Zhuang dialect by taking a pool of words common to Zhuang living in Wuming, Liuzhou, and Baise. Since all of these cities are in the North of Guangxi, the Standard Zhuang cannot be understood by the 4 million Zhuang living in the South. The language was not written down until the government made an attempt in the early 1950’s, but they chose to use a Russian script and it was never accepted by the people. A new Latin script was devised in 1986 and the government through the Minorities Language Commission has encouraged Zhuang to learn this.
The Uygurs are a colorful people. Men in most villages wear bright, embroidered skullcaps (doppa) and women wear brightly colored scarves and dresses, often made out of uniquely patterned silk material with as many as fifty colors and motifs. Though Muslim, most women do not wear veils and do not dress as conservatively as their Middle Eastern Muslim counterparts. In a big southern city like Kashgar, one will see women with veiled heads, though this veil is often lifted from their face. Most Uygurs wear clothes resembling Western dress though there has also been much Han Chinese influence. Uygurs are relatively tall (compared to Han Chinese and East Asians) and have Caucasian features: brown or black hair, hazel eyes, aquiline noses and light skin. Young men are clean-shaven; older men have moustaches and beards. Correspondingly, contemporary Zhuang clothing is in general close to the wear of the Han people. But traditional dresses remain in many places or are worn for special occasions.
Housing. Most Zhuangs now live in one-story houses the same as the Hans. But some have kept their traditional two-story structures with the upper story serving as the living quarters and the lower as stables and storerooms. The old housing style, they think, suits the mountainous terrain and the humid climate. “Han space, though marked by a single altar opposite the main door.” (Harrell Pp 205)
The Zhuang ethnic group’s ancient culture and art are not only rich and colorful but also outstanding with their indigenous characteristics. For example, 2,000-year-old frescoes have been found at more than 50 spots on the precipices hanging over the Zuojiang River running through southwest Guangxi. The best known of them is the Huashan fresco in Ningming County which is over 100 meters long and 40 meters wide, featuring 1,300 figures. Drawn in rugged and vigorous lines, it reflects the life of the Zhuangs’ ancestors.
Important Uygur celebrations include circumcisions and weddings. These call for elaborate parties with several hundreds of people invited. Snacks, drinks and a prepared meal is provided for each guest while traditional Uygur music is played live or blared over a sound system. Following any formal presentations or announcements, the dancing begins and continues on late into the night. Alcohol is generally consumed in great quantities throughout these festivities despite the Islamic prohibition. While sharing many festivals with the Hans, the Zhuangs have three red-letter days of their own: the Devil Festival (usually in August on the Gregorian calendar), the Cattle Soul Festival and the Feasting Festival. Festivals of Han Chinese are rich and colorful. The most important of these are the Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-autumn Festival.
A traditional Uyghur wedding features singing, dancing and feasting. After marriage, the couple has traditionally moved in with the groom’s parents, with the couple living a separate unit in the family courtyard house. Uyghur men have traditionally been kind of macho in a Middle Eastern way, many carry knives, and connected eye brows is regarded as a mark of beauty among Uyghur women. Uyghur families have included one husband, but multiple wives. This practice, which is gradually disappearing, is in conflict with the marriage law of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The marriage law also calls for a minimum age at marriage of 20 for men and 18 for women. Yet, because of the strong influence of Islam, Uyghur people consider males to be adults at age 12 and females at 9 years. Marrying at an early age continues to be common practice. There are also certain restrictions to marriage among Zhuang people. One cannot marry any one the same clan of his or hers and child of his or her mother’ brother’s or father’s sister’s; there are bans in the regulations of the same clan. In some remote mountain areas, marriage between the same clan is admitted, but they must be of the fifth generation of the same kin.
In the past, young people of Zhuang ethnic group had the freedom to pursue love, which often went along activities like the antiphonal singing in open-air, song contest as well as throwing an embroidered ball. There are usually three processes for a marriage in accordance with the numerous etiquettes of Zhuang nationality: requesting, engaging and wedding, which from a western perspective is the formal procedure. Han Chinese also follows the common formal system of marriage.
Uygurs, Zhuangs, and Hans have a few shared similarities, but one thing I recognize the most is the attempt of control and power the Han Chinese have tried to gain over these groups. Looking through the history all the way to the present, the Chinese have tried simple techniques like adaptive writing to conform these groups to the Han standard. In more ways than one, the Han culture has created some type of an impact on the Uygur and Zhuang minorities. The Uygur and Zhuang minorities have adopted some of the Han modern living systems; which include housing, daily dress attire, and even common celebrations. On a much larger scale these three groups claim there own practice of living. Each group has its own set of values. Theses values set the boundaries so that no ethnicity is to be confused with any other ethnic group.
Milhael Dillon (2004), Xinjiang: China’s Muslim far northwest, Pp 27-28. RoutledgeCurzon Press
Harrell, Stevan (2001), Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China. Pp 205. Seattle: University of Washington Press
Diamond, Norma (1995), Defining the Miao: Ming, Qing, and Contemporary Views. In Cultural Encounters on China’s Ethnic Frontiers. Stevan Harrell, ed. Pp. 92-116. Seattle: University of Washington Press
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