Ethnic Minority People of China

News from China


            From my parents’ reports, our US news is full of an impending recession, Iraq and the upcoming 2008 Presidential elections. 

            In China, our news is full of  Olympic Game preparations. Drinkable tap water is to be available in Beijing’s main venue areas.  (In China, we don’t drink from the tap due to untreated water.)  The common Asian squat toilets are being replaced by the Western seated uprights.  Pollution is promised to be under control, most likely by banning private vehicle usage during the Games.   And the Olympic torch relay is already in the beginning journey of its run across China, eventually alighting in Beijing.

            What joy is present, however, is being somewhat quelled by the recent Tibetan protests.

            What many don’t know is that China boasts 56 ethnic minority nationalities (8% of the population).  92% of the population is the Han Chinese people.    Ethnic minorities would therefore be considered a lot like our Native Americans, those with their own language, traditions, customs, way of life and even features.  Many ethnic minority people don’t even look Chinese by western standards.  This would be much like the Tibetans.


Quality Information:  An Unbiased Report


            During the Lhasa uprisings on March 14, only one accredited foreign journalist was allowed to stay in the city during the days that followed.  James Miles, a reporter with The Economist, was recently interviewed by CNN about his experiences during those days of unrest.  He was criticized by many for presenting a view that was not anti-China but one that took on a more unbiased observation of what exactly happened during those days in Lhasa.  Anyone interested in glimpsing a well-informed picture should read his interview transcript.  It can be found at the following website:


 Connie’s Final Observations:  Tolerance and Understanding


          On our Luzhou college campus, we had a few Tibetan students among the 8,000 Han Chinese enrolled.   I once asked one of my English majors if he spoke to the Tibetans, got to know them better or asked questions about their culture.   “Never,” was his reply.  “They don’t want to talk to us (Han Chinese).  They don’t bathe very often and sometimes smell.  I know the boys drink a lot and get drunk.  Sometimes, they try to fight with other people.  We are afraid of them.”

            Perhaps if he had made a better effort to get to know the Tibetans, he’d understand the “Why?” behind their actions.  For example, many areas of China (such as Tibet) have limited water sources.  I read once that families are limited to 1 or 2 buckets a day.  Washing clothes and bathing are luxuries.  Clothes stay dirty and sponging off is more common.  Immersing oneself in a shower is unheard of.  In fact, there is a saying among some ethnic tribes that a person is only washed 3 times in life:  once at birth, once before marriage and once before burial.   This is the lifestyle in some water-deprived areas of China.  For a Tibetan at our college, adjustments to a new way of bathing might seem wasteful or unnecessary.   

            Of course, my student wouldn’t know that unless he asked “why?”.  But then again, it would take the Tibetan to be willing to give the answer.

            It seems from both sides, there’s a way to go before that bridge to understanding and tolerance can be created.  Don’t we all hope and pray for such a transformation to take place among everyone in the world holding hatred or distrust toward others. 

            I guess we all have a long way to go. 








About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
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