The "Green Hill vs. Brown Terrain" Model for the Changing Concept of Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Minority Nationalities of Yunnan and SW China

The “Green Hill vs. Brown Terrain” Model for the Changing Concept of Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Minority Nationalities of Yunnan and SW China

Jason Pan (MPRC)*
*(MPRC – Miaoli Ping Pu Research Centre, in Taiwan)
The ethnic minority peoples of China are known as “Shaoshu Minzu” (少数民族) in Chinese.  In official documents and international reports, the terms “minority nationalities” and “ethnic minority groups” are also used.  More than half of the 55 ethnic minority nationalities of China are found in Yunnan, and the neighbouring provinces of southwest China.  It is in this region that ethnic research and field work have developed a “Green Hill vs. Brown Terrain” model for the application of defining ethnic minority groups, and the evolving concept of “Indigenous Peoples” in the changing international conventions.

The ethnic minority groups of Yunnan (and SW China provinces) are shown to b ore compatible to the concept of “Indigenous Peoples” as applied in other countries of the world.  Generally they live in clan-related village communities and rural settlements in hilly and mountainous areas, river valleys, forests and woodlands.  Their traditional lifestyle is engaged in rotational farming and subsistent agriculture,  supplemented by small-scale hunting, fishing, gathering natural resources of the forest and mountains.  The ethnic nationality groups such as Naxi, Dai, Bai, Yi, Miao, Hani, may have a larger population in their own autonomous regions and prefectures.  However, groups such as Achang, Bulang, Dulong, Jingpo, Jino, Lisu, Lahu, Nu, Pumi, and Wa are minorities in comparing to the other populations.  With the support of the State and local goverments, they are working to preserve their their distinct culture, language, music, traditional customs, and belief.  In the wider geographic and historic context, these “Green Hill” oups of China are related culturally and linguistically to the “hill tribes” and upland-dwelling ethnic peoples of neighbouring Mekong Southeast Asia.

In the northern and western hinterlands of China, the other major ethnic groups can be found – Mongolians, Uighurs, and Tibetans.  These are termed the “Brown Terrain” ethnic groups – for the dominant environment of their traditional territory – semi-arid lands, steppes, dry grasslands, arid plains, deserts, upland plateaus, and frigid tundras.   They are ethnic minority nationalities of China vis-a-vis the Han Chinese majority of the nation.  Traditionally, their way of life depended on grazing of livestock and animal husbandry, including sheep, goats, horses, cattle, camels, or yaks (yielding meat and dairy products, supplemented by animal hide, fur, and wool production), with only minor engagement in agriculture and forest resources.  Historically, they are nomadic pastoralists (liv in a single family unit or a clan unit of a few related families) with seasonal migration over large land areas.  These three large ethnic groups are the majority in their own lands, and were once the dominant peoples in historic times with the founding of kingdoms and state domains, which had competed with the successive Han Chinese empires for sovereignty in these north and western frontier lands of China.  The environment has exerted a dominant and pervasive influence in shaping their way of life and their tradtional cultures.  For these “Brown Terrain” ethnic groups of China with nomadic pastoralist lifestyle, they do not fit in well with the current definitions and concept of “Indigenous Peoples” within the Chinese national context, and generally have not been considered as such in the international conventions.

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Questo inserimento è stato pubblicato in Kunming 2009, New Horizons in Naxi Study e il tag , , , . Metti un segnalibro su permalink. Inserisci un commento o lascia un trackback: Trackback URL.

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