Preserving Minority Cultures?

Get real. It’s all a show and all about money, money and more money.

Winston takes us off the tourist 景点 and shows us some of the realities of life as a minority in China. You can be forgiven for being fooled by all that colourful glitz and glamour because even Chinese nationals themselves are fooled.

To be fair, there are significant numbers of Chinese nationals from minority groups who do make it big in China. But the truth is, they have to forgo their identities and get “Hanified”汉化。An old man from a minority group in Yunnan once lamented that some of the youngsters in his community have “become Han”, seeing money as the solution to all problems. Those who fail to integrate just get left behind. Sadly, the only value in the traditional culture lies in the myth, the fantasy and the illusion presented before uninitiated visitors that they are proud of their culture and happy with regime.

Some time ago, I saw some interesting comments on a video in which the vlogger travelling overland to Tibet had a very unpleasant encounter with a belligerent Tibetan guy. The commenters remarked that Westerners are so sympathetic of the “free Tibet” movement because they have a rosy picture of Tibet as a land of milk, honey and everything nice before the Chinese took over. I know the history. Tibet was no Shangrila. It was a medieval feudal state with slavery, violence and many immoral and unBuddhist practices. The Han folks witnessing bad behaviour among Tibetans today justify the repression of the region as a necessary measure to tame the savages.

To be fair, I’ve had my fair share of unpleasant encounters with rowdy and aggressive Tibetan and Uyghur people on my travels through China. But I have also interacted with many Tibetan people in India and Nepal and I find them to be some of the kindest and nicest people in the world – which is why they get so much sympathy from Western Buddhists. If the Han folks who think that these minorities are savages who need to be tamed, then why are they not savages when they reside outside China? Could it have something to do with the way they have been treated in China?