Not until the end of this semester that I realize I forgot one of the most interesting topic about China— the diverse ethnic groups. Guess what? We have 56 different ethnic groups in China! The ethnic groups I mean here are not the same as races. The difference is not as a white man to a black man, but more like a German man to a British man. Some of these ethnicities are of tribe descents (like native tribes in America); some are from completely different cultures in countries that over time were taken over and finally united as a whole—China.
How to tell a difference between these ethnic groups? Mostly by regions and different habits and costumers. However, nowadays, when China is modernized and intergrades Western ideas, it is hard to tell a person’s ethnicity if you see someone walk in the street, because we all wear modern outfits; eat a variety of food, and live an ordinary life. The ethnical traditions and costumes can only be found in very rural areas now.
The map shows the ethno-linguistic distributions in China. Northern, Central, and Southeastern areas are mostly shaded in Blue, representing Han. Han people occupied the most developed area in China. Five other large ethnic groups from the map are Turkic, who believe Muslim; Tibetans, who believe Buddhism; Mongolians, who believe Shamanism or Buddhism; Burmic, who are related to Burma; and Bai, who believe Taoism or Baism. The southern China is occupied by many other small ethnic groups with various cultures. It is the most wonderful place in China!! I have visited there and was fascinated by the different culture, customs, and well-preserved relics.
I am one of the person with Han ethnicity which accounts about 92% of the Chinese population. It is the most common ethnicity and is commonly assumed as the descents of the Han dynasty that existed about 2,000 years ago. Most Han believe Confucius, Taoism, Buddhism, or Atheism. The Chinese language is invented by the Han. Traditional customs look like this, although people don’t wear them anymore.
Bai people, who live in southern China, have a long tradition of tea-picking and tea trade for living. Yes they wear the colorful hat daily while working!
Dong is one of my favorite. Also located in southern China, it has developed sophisticate culture with beautiful customs and is famous by traditional songs. These outfits are decorated with hand-made silver decorations. The hat, made with only silver, is heavy to be about thirty ponds. Every Dong girl will have a set of this gorgeous custom and wear it on the wedding! Now these customs can also be used when performing a song like these girls do.
These minority ethnic groups in China have benefits from the government to preserve these precious relics. Because their population is so small compared to the Han, they also have some privileges. They are not affected by the one-child policy—can have many kids. Their children can have extra credits when taking tests like SATs here and have lower college admission requirements (Affirmative action?) And it may sound ridiculous, but they can kill two people and receive the same punishment as a Han who only kills one.
However, they also suffer in living because most of them live in undeveloped areas with little education. When China is modernizing, some areas are left behind and this makes it very hard for the minorities to have higher standards of lives.