China's 56 Ethnic Groups

The vast majority (>90%) of Chinese are Han Chinese.  The remainder are distributed among 55 other ethnic groups.  This diversity was awkwardly displayed during the opening ceremonies of the last Olympic games, when a parade of 56 children representing those groups was later revealed to have been comprised of 56 Han Chinese children wearing the ethnic clothing of the other groups.

Now there is a photoessay which appears to correct that gaffe.  All of the ethnic groups are portrayed in professionally composed group portraits, with the subjects wearing traditional dress and often carrying traditional instruments or tools.  Pictured above as an example are the ethnic Kazak; the others are at the link.  It's an impressive photo gallery.


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The only fault I find with this is the photo for the Han Chinese group. What are they wearing? It appears to be an amalgation of clothing from other ethnicities. There is no sense of unity. The photographer should have used authentic Han Chinese clothing (the kind worn before the Manchu invasion of 1644) in order to represent this group correctly.
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I heard a lecture on this subject at my university the other day. The gist of the history I heard was.. when the Maoists were making inroads in China, they promised the approximately 450 ethnic groups that existed at the time that they would be granted autonomy if they supported the communists. So they did, but weren't granted autonomy.. then the groups were permitted to apply to be recognized as 'official' ethnic groups. About 300 applied but only 12 or so were approved. Eventually over the years more were added, with the last added in the 1970s I think.

So there are many groups that continue to fight for recognition but are bunched in with other groups that they do not share dialect or other forms of culture with..

No one has the corner on oppression though. We can all be oppressors or those oppressed. For example people forget that before being a Buddhist nation, Tibet was a culture of warlords that devastated other nations. I agree with secret asian guy, guilt is an easy emotion that feeds our inflated sense of our own importance in the world.
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And then we'd have to go back even further to the conquering of all the Chinese tribes and the advent of the Qin dynasty...thus the word China.

Not all are ethnically "Chinese though." Clearly the Russians, Uzbeks, Koreans, etc are representative of immigrant groups which are prevalent in China.

Very cool though!
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