Towards a People’s Anthropology – Chapter four

Towards a People’s Anthropology – Chapter four


Book title:  Towards a People’s Anthropology
Author: Fei Xiaotong
Book series name and number:  Understanding China and the World series Vol. 1, No. 1
Book series editors: ZHENG Hangsheng and Xiangqun Chang
Numbers of page: 200
Publishers: London: Global China Press; Beijing: New World Press
Publishing date: November 2018
Language: English
Product Dimensions: 244x170mm
ISBN 978-1-913522-00-1 (paperback, English)
Price: £25.99
ISBN 978-1-913522-01-8 (hardback, English)
Price: £51.99
Price: £10.00

This article was first published in the March 1980 issue of Social Sciences in China quarterly.

At the end it says “Language is an important measure in ethnic identification, but not the only one. And even apparent similarities or differences between two languages cannot determine whether they belong to the same family. Classification of languages should be based mainly on historical analysis. Unfortunately this is an area where Chinese scholarship is rather weak, particularly with respect to minority languages. We still have a long way to go to meet the country’s needs in the study of the nationalities.”

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Chapter Four

Ethnic identification in China

HOW MANy nationalities are there in China?

When Dr. Sun yat-sen founded the Republic of China in 1912, he defined it as a “Republic of Five Nationalities,” meaning the Hans, the Manchus, the Mongolians, the Huis and the Tibetans. The declaration was disavowed by the Chiang Kai-shek government, which asserted that all minorities were but offshoots of the Hans. Ethnologists thought otherwise, but no ethnic identification was possible under the circumstances.

The People’s Republic of China, founded in 1949, committed itself to ethnic equality as a basic tenet. But the principle would have been meaningless without proper recognition of existing nationalities. For how could a People’s Congress allocate its seats to deputies from different nationalities without knowing what nationalities there were? And how could the nation effect regional autonomy for the nationalities without a clear idea of their geographical distribution?