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Imagined Genealogy: Behind the Cultural Formation of Huishui’s Buyi Nationality

  • Chih-yu Shih

Abstract

There has been a common understanding in literature about the nature of the Chinese nation, that is, the nation is a “cultural formation” as opposed to being a genealogy.1 Therefore, any ethnic group can become Chinese as long it subscribes to the Chinese mainstream culture, especially Confucianism. The cultural argument has had a long history beginning during Confucius’ time. Confucius was widely quoted as one who used the code of dressing to distinguish the Chinese from the barbarians. In fact, in the Chinese political narrative, “under-heaven” is a more popular metaphor than the territorial “state” when talking about the proper domain of the emperor. Under-heaven refers to a morally superior emperor reigning over those like-minded subjects, while the state is at most an extension of the emperors genealogy. The early reference to “hua-xia”—whereby “hua” denotes being Chinese and “xia,” the first recorded dynasty, as the representation of the Chinese civilization—further stresses the importance of culture, as opposed to genealogy, in the Chinese identity.

Keywords

Ethnic Identity Qing Dynasty Chinese Nation Ethnic Culture Cultural Program 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Some argue that this is because the Chinese culture is all-embracing; see Zhou Xing, New Theses on Ethnology [minzuxue xin lun] (Xian: Shanxi People’s Press, 1992), 28. Others argue that this is because the Chinese culture is close to the outside world;Google Scholar
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  3. 2.
    In fact, in the Western literature, a nation is likewise a modern invention; see Liah Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), Introduction.Google Scholar
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    Fei Xiaotong described the Chinese nation as “multiplicity into unity” [duoyuan yiti], which witnesses the process of mix as Fei says, “you come then I go; I come then you go; I have you in me and you have me in you.” See Fei Xiaotong, “The Structure of Multiplicity into Unity of the Chinese Nation” [“zhonghua minzu de duoyuan yiti geju”], Beijing Daxue Xuebao 4 (1989): 1, 11.Google Scholar
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    Fei actually had a theory of anomaly, which was rarely attended. He specifically argued that there were two forces in the process of national building—centripetal and centrifugal. Fei believed that this was why a nation could rise or fall and form or split. He encouraged newcomers to study this subject. See Fei Xiaotong, “A Brief Review and Recollection of My Ethnological Studies” [“jian shu wode minzu yanjiu jingli he sikao”], Beijing Daxue Xuebao 2 (1997), 1–4.Google Scholar
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    See the discussion in Ross Terrill, The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United States (New York: Basic Books, 2003);Google Scholar
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    The famous mortuary drama of Yellow River condemns the Chinese culture and calls for an “ocean-oriented” or “blue” renovation. The text was later published and reprinted again and again by a Taiwanese press. See Su Xiaokang and Wang Ruxiang, Death Song of the River [he shang] (Taipei: Fenyun Shidai, 1988).Google Scholar
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    The major task is to refute the theory that the Chinese originally come from Egypt, India or Babylonia. See Wang Ling, Wei Kaizhao and Wang Caimei, Yellow River, Yellow Soil and the Children of Emperors Yan and Huang [huang he, huang tudi, yan huang zisun] (Beijing: China Bookstore, 1991), 3–12.Google Scholar
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    Genealogy is the indicator of diasporic community. Children of early immigrants remain diasporas because of genealogy. The genealogy argument is the basis for discussion of model minority or model immigrant. See the discussion of Ruth in Old Testimony in Bonnie Honig, “Ruth, the Model émigré: Mourning and the Symbolic Politics of Immigration,” in Moral Spaces: Rethinking Ethics and World Politics, ed. D. Campbell and M. J. Shapiro, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 184–210.Google Scholar
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    For more discussion, see Suo Xiaoxia, Amorphous Links: Succession and Modernization of Ethnic Minorities’ Culture in Guizhou [wuxing de lianjie: guizhou shaoshu minzu wenhua de chuancheng yu xiandaihua] (Guiyang: Guizhou Nationality Press, 2000), 187–200.Google Scholar

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© Chih-yu Shih 2007

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  • Chih-yu Shih

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