A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHINA'S ETHNIC MINORITIES
Approximately 92% of China's population are Han in ethnicity. Thus, regional differences aside, the majority population shares common beliefs, history, and ancestry of the Han culture.
The remaining population consists of a number of smaller groups now known as the Ethnic Minorities. Each group has its own distinct ancestry, culture, language and customs. Many of these minority groups have lived in China for thousands of years. Their histories are stories of repeated wars and migrations. Many sought the safety of living in the more remote areas of China. Thus, as much as possible, they stayed separate and apart from the mainstream Han population. The stability of the Chinese Han Culture prevailed. Unless the minor groups inhabited useful land, little interest or attention was paid to those outside the mainstream culture.
For centuries, the Han only distinguished the diverse groups by direction of the compass, the Di, lived in the northern areas of China; the Rong, in the west; the Yi, in the east; and the Man lived to the south.
In 1911, the last Imperial Dynasty, (Qing), was unseated by the Nationalist Party of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Though many of the Nationalists denied the concept of China as an ethnically diverse nation, Dr Sun saw China as a "Republic of Five Nationalities". The 5 stars on the Chinese Flag represented the Han, the Di, the Rong, the Yi and the Man groups.
In 1949, the communist party came into power. Using the idea of the "Peoples Republic" as a "unitary, multi-national socialist state" they initiated an effort to investigate and to categorize the diverse groups within China's borders. An invitation was extended for each group to register with the government for official status as an "ethnic minority". Political and economic advantages were offered as incentives for the groups to register. As a show of goodwill, the government made it illegal to use the term "tribe" which in Chinese is pseudonymous with the term "dog" when referring to these groups. "Nationality" was the official term. 300 groups responded. After several years of detailed studies and field research investigating the claims of the different groups, the government recognized 55 ethnic minority groups as independent nationalities. Of course, some groups disagree with their official classifications...i.e. The "Miao" of Ge Jia claim they are not Miao but claim themselves to be a separate minority group.
More to come
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