Two American students of Asian cultures and languages chronicle their extensive travel through diverse, multiethnic regions of China.
According to the Communist government, note debut authors Legerton and Rawson, China has 55 recognized ethnic minorities outside of the majority Han group, which makes up 90 percent of the total population. The remaining minority still incorporates 120 million people, organized into “autonomous areas” across China’s vast landmass. The authors concentrate on these autonomous regions of the northeast, southwest and northwest, focusing on a dozen ethnic groups, their culture, way of life and language. Since Legerton and Rawson speak Mandarin, Uyghur and Korean, their conversations with locals seemed to glide along easily. They learned that the government allows the autonomous regions some advantages, such as exemption from the one-child policy; however, the ethnic residents are often denied passports and freedom to practice religious celebrations. The authors visited areas and peoples far and wide, including the ancestral forested hunting grounds of the northern Daur, Ewenki, Oroqen and Hezhen, where the residents are now prohibited from hunting; the thriving pockets of Koreans around White Head Mountain; the harsh terrain of the Inner Mongolians; the Kinh fishermen of the Gulf of Tonkin; the Wa people located near the Myanmar border; the self-profiting Naxis in the old-town architectural gem of Lijiang; the matrilineal society of the Mosuo on the shores of Lugu Lake; the Tibetans Buddhists; the Muslim Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in the arid northwest. Legerton and Rawson even scouted out a legendary, nearly extinct group of Jews in Kaifeng. Their youthful discoveries reveal a marvelous tapestry of vibrant history and culture.
An earnest, revealing travelogue.