Lessons in Being Chinese: Minority Education and Ethnic Identity in Southwest China

Hardcover | July 21, 2015

byMette Halskov Hansen

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Two very different ethnic minority communities—the Naxi of the Lijiang area in northern Yunnan and the Tai (Dai) of Sipsong Panna (Xishuangbanna), along Yunnan’s border with Burma and Laos—are featured in this comparative study of the implementation and reception of state minority education policy in the People’s Republic of China. Based on field research and historical sources, Lessons in Being Chinese argues that state policy, which is intended to be applied uniformly across all minority regions, in fact is much more successful in some than in others.

In Lijiang, elite members of the Naxi ethnic group (minzu) have a centuries-old connection with Chinese state educational systems as avenues to social mobility, and have continued this tradition under Communist rule. They participate enthusiastically in the present system, using education to gain official and professional positions. In contrast to the Lijiang area, Sipsong Panna functioned in many ways as a separate kingdom until 1950, with its own script and a separate educational system centered in Theravada Buddhist monasteries. Today, many Tai in that area still prefer monastic education for their sons, and most parents are indifferent to state education.

This study finds that standardized, homogenizing state education is in itself incapable of instilling in students an identification with the Chinese state, ironically often increasing ethnic identity. Lessons in Being Chinese enhances our understanding of how state policy toward minorities works in many areas of life, and its conclusions can be extended well beyond the sphere of education. It will be of interest to both anthropologists and educators.

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From the Publisher

Two very different ethnic minority communities—the Naxi of the Lijiang area in northern Yunnan and the Tai (Dai) of Sipsong Panna (Xishuangbanna), along Yunnan’s border with Burma and Laos—are featured in this comparative study of the implementation and reception of state minority education policy in the People’s Republic of China. Bas...

Format:HardcoverDimensions:248 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:July 21, 2015Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295996587

ISBN - 13:9780295996585

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsMap 1: Yunnan ProvinceMap 2: Sipsong Panna Tai (Dai) Autonomous PrefectureIntroductionEducation and Chinese Minority PolicyHistory of Chinese Education among the Naxi in LijiangEducation and Ethnic Identity in Lijiang since 1980History of Chinese Education in sipsong PannaEducation and Ethnic Identity is Sipsong Panna since 1980ConclusionChinese Character GlossaryBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

This book is especially relevant in these times when assimiliationist educational projects in minority communities are debated as human-rights issues in countries as different as Canada and Taiwan. [Hansen] provides much-needed discussion and empirical data on these issues in a fascinating province of the People's Republic of China.

- China Review International