‘YInheritance’= Embracing and Understanding Yi Cultural Heritage is the title of this digital scholarship project. It is, first, about Yi children’s ethnic and cultural heritage; then, more critical questions follow: Why ethnic and cultural inheritance? What is its effect on the positive developmental well-being of Yi children? Why should we care?
This website highlights the importance of ethnic and cultural awareness in minority children by showcasing the story of Yi children in rural Chinese school settings. In 2006, an education programme for Yi children in rural China was commenced. Fu Hui Education Foundation (Fu Hui), an international philanthropic organisation serving ethnic minority children in rural regions around the world, in collaboration with the local government of the Sichuan Liangshan Prefecture, initiated the programme and the two organisers have been overseeing the education program since then. Information shared on this website are the longitudinal information obtained from Yi children in rural China schools since 2007. We hope that the findings will help Fu Hui’s ministry and the local government by shedding some light on the mechanism of improving not only Yi children’s but other ethnic minority children’s developmental well-being.
Here, we first discuss the significance of ethnic and cultural celebrations among ethnic minority group and its association with children’s positive development. The term ethnic and cultural inheritance and ethnic and cultural awareness will be used interchangeably in this site. Then, the story of Yi children will be shared, followed by a case illustration of how ethnic and cultural uniqueness can be mobilised to promote the positive outcomes of Yi children as well as cohesiveness between the Yi and Han ethnic group in the broader Chinese society.
The significance of Ethnic and Cultural Inheritance, and its positive effect民族身份和文化傳承的價值及其正面影響
Our research team have noticed that a stronger sense of ethnic and cultural awareness contributes to better developmental well-being, based on existing theories and empirical evidence. According to the Organisation of Economic Development in 2010, developmental improvement in children has significant policy implications as it spurs productivity and economic gains, and thus benefits the community as a whole. For disadvantaged ethnic minorities, positive developmental well-being might be particularly important as it translates into broader positive public outcomes.
Here, we highlight the importance of ethnic and cultural awareness on the positive developmental well-being of ethnic minority youths. The following shows the notion of ethnic and cultural awareness as the vocal factor promoting various aspects of positive development.
According to the strength-based approach, professionals shall identify children’s positive aspects and mobilise these resources to promote their positive outcomes. In the case of ethnic minority children, we believe that their unique cultural customs and traditions are their strengths, and thus, can serve as a promoting factor for developmental wellbeing. More importantly, having a good understanding of own ethnicity in relation to other ethnic groups will lead to greater inter-cultural acceptances, thus, facilitate the overall cohesiveness of society.
How can we promote ethnic and cultural awareness? Theories and research suggest positive interactions with peers and family members of the same ethnicity can enhance their ethnic and cultural awareness in minority children. External social resources embedded in the lives of ethnic minority children can also be used to facilitate their exploration of own’s ethnicity, questioning of pre-existing ethnic attitudes and search of the role that their own ethnic groups play in the larger society. Further information can be found on the conceptual model page of this website.
The Story of Yi children: From Being at Risk to Blessed彝童的故事：由受威脅到受祝福
With a population of 8.7 million, the Yi people are the sixth largest ethnic minority group in China. For thousands of years, they live in the southwest. Today there are 4.7 million Yi people in Yunnan Province and 2.1 million in Sichuan Province. While they are a minority of the truest sense in these provinces, accounting for 11% of Yunnan's population, and 2.6% of Sichuan's, it is in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture that the Yi people are most significantly represented. 44.4% of Liangshan’s population are Yi people, 1.8 million strong.
Total Population: 1332.81 million
全國人口: 1332.81 百萬
|Ethnic Group (population > 5 million)||Population (million)|
Ethnic and Cultural Uniqueness of Yi. The Yi ethnic group contribute much beyond expanding museum collections and enriching postcards. Notable personalities of Yi ethnicity have been making a massive impact within and without China, shining across a wide range of domains from politics to pop culture. For instance, Zhang Chong (張沖) was appointed Vice-Chairman of the 5th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a second highest ranking state official position. Internationally, Jang Ri In (born 1989 in Chengdu, Sichuan) won number one hit and multiple awards in 2006 with her first album breaking into the K-Pop scene in South Korea.
The Yi ethnic group have numerous traditions and customs. For example, they celebrate ‘Yi’s New Year’, which differs from the Lunar New Year. Yi’s New Year is celebrated in the 10th lunar month, which is normally the time after harvest. During this festival, the Yi people give thanks to their ancestors and pray for another fruitful year. Besides, the Yi people celebrate a famous ‘Torch Festival’ every year on the 24th day of the 6th lunar month. In villages, large torches are bound on dried pine wood, and small torches are placed at every household's door. At night the Yi people light all the torches and dance around the bonfires. With other activities such as bull-fighting, wrestling, horse-racing, they celebrate this traditional festival.
Apart from festivals, the Yi people have had a long tradition of singing and dancing. Based on their ways of living, they have developed different types of music and musical instruments, as well as dances. In recent years, there have been several bands formed by Yi natives performing traditional Yi folklores, and it has made Yi folksongs the most well-known amongst all.
Challenges Encountered by Yi Children. However, these success stories are perhaps the exceptions that prove the challenges that are encountered by the Yi people. This ethnic minority group are often worse off when compared to the majority of people in China, those large number living in the most remote parts would find life particularly challenging. Taking participation in post-secondary education as an example, 3.78% of Yi people had a post-secondary qualification, but their Han Chinese counterpart enjoys a higher figure of 9.74%, according to the 2010 census.
As mentioned above, the mountainous Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture is an important home of the Yi people. Taking a closer look into a specific part of the prefecture, namely the Butuo County where almost 94% of the total population is Yi, according to Sichuan Statistics Bureau in 2012, will give us a clearer picture of the challenges that this ethnic group are facing.
While the Yi has a rich history of culture and traditions, their geographical disadvantages of the arid climate and mountainous region result in poverty. The Butuo County is on the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development’s list of the 592 poorest counties in China. State level government officials pledge to improve the economic well-being of the Yi group by 2020. The children of the Yi ethnic minority in the Butuo County suffered from the double jeopardy of chronic poverty and parental loss: 43% of the young Yi people were orphaned because of parental illness, accidents and abandonment (Lai, Chui, Lo, Jordan & Chan, 2017). When the father of a Yi family died, the mother would be arranged to remarry an immediate family member of her late husband or into a new family. As a result, many Yi children became orphans, and most often they were adopted by their grandparents or extended families.
彝族縱然擁有深厚的文化歷史和豐富的傳統，但地理限制如乾旱的氣候及多山的環境卻使該民族陷入貧窮的困境。布拖縣和另外591個縣被國務院扶貧開發領導小組列入「貧困縣」的名單，而國家級官員亦承諾在2020年前改善彝族的經濟狀況。在布拖縣，彝族兒童要同時面對長期貧困和失去雙親的威脅，其中百份之43的彝族青少年因為父母患病、遇上意外或遭到遺棄而成為孤兒（Lai et al, 2017）。在一個彝族家庭裏，若父親去世，母親很有可能會被安排改嫁予一位夫家的男性親屬或外人，故此，很多兒童會成為孤兒，而他們普遍會被祖父母或家族收養。
Being Blessed with Schooling Opportunities. In 2006, Fu Hui Educational Foundation (Fu Hui), in collaboration with the local government, started sponsoring Yi children in Butuo County to attend local schools in their communities. In-house reports showed that the Yi children were breaking the cycle of poverty because of the support they received from Fu Hui and the local government. Research evidence also suggested that the Yi children in rural school settings were experiencing positive social skills development (Lai et al., 2017).
得到接受教育的機會：福慧教育基金會於2006年開始與當地政府合作，開始資助布拖縣的彝族兒童在當地的學校上課學習。內部報告指出這些兒童因為得到福慧和政府的支援而漸漸走出跨代貧窮，研究證據亦指出這些兒童的社交技巧在農村學校的環境中得以發展（Lai et al., 2017）。
Yinheritance: Embracing Ethnic Uniqueness for Successful Outcomes in the Larger Chinese Community「讓彝童識彝」：認識自己的民族特色，在社會作出更多貢獻
‘YInheritance’= Embracing and Understanding Yi Cultural Heritage.
Fu Hui’s education programme teaches the Yi children about practical knowledge and the Han language, at the same time, encourages them to understand and embrace their own Yi culture. Fu Hui emphasises the integration of art into the school curriculum, which increases the children’s exposure to traditional Yi arts and culture.
For instance, music is a culturally-rooted talent in the Yi people. In 2015, a group of sponsored Yi children won second and first prizes in art festivals in Liangshan county and Sichuan province. They were subsequently invited to perform in Shanghai and Beijing, where they were dressed in traditional Yi costumes and sang traditional Yi folklores. In the performance in Beijing, they even had the opportunity to sing in the same occasion with Dresdner Kreuzchor, a renowned German boys’ choir. Representing their ethnicity proudly in front of the larger Chinese as well as international audience and shining in such special events, these Yi children are more appreciative of themselves and more confident in their ethnicity and uniqueness. These reassuring outcomes are the very basis for positive personal developments; this is to say, if we could help them celebrate their ethnic uniqueness, they have a better chance to develop positively, break the cycle of poverty and contribute more actively to the broader Chinese community as a whole.
Lai, A.H.Y., Chui, C.H., Lo, P.H.Y., Jordan, L. & Chan. C. L. W. (2017). The buffering effect of child-caregiver relationships: Social skills development of ethnic minority children with maladaptive behaviors in rural China. Children and Youth Services Review ,79, 333-340. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.06.038 (SJR indicator: 0.81, Q1 journal ranking in Education and Social Work)