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Totem Admiration in China's Ethnic Groups
2005-3-1 21:14:17
A book entitled "Wolf, The Totem" was one of the best sellers in China last year. This novel describes how and why the Mongolian people in north China worship the wolf and tells some of the many stories of encounters between Mongolian herdsmen and wolves on the grasslands. To learn more about totem admiration among many of China's ethnic minorities, join us at China Horizons.

For example, Manchu people, who live in northeast China use the swan and magpie as their totems; while reindeer serve as the totem for the Ewenke(空梁針) ethnic group, who live in the deep forest of Daxinganling Mountain.
People have almost forgot totem admiration over time. A lot of young people don't understand why people would revere a certain kind of animal. But the popularity of the novel "Wolf, The Totem" has re-ignited people's interest in totem.
Mr. Zhang Ming is a 100 percent Han Chinese working with a design company in central China's Henan Province. Zhang Ming tells us how the book made him realize the relationship between totems and the development of ethnic minorities in China.
Wolf, The Totem' is a good book which I have rarely see in recent years. I got a lot of inspiration from the conflict between the wolf and humans the book describes. The book makes me rethink our relationship with animals. In my understanding, the wolf is a cruel animal; I used to misunderstand wolf-admiration among Mongolians. Now I know that it's the wolf in the grassland, which makes Mongolians what they are today.
Experts say that in a modern age when science and technology prevail, totem admiration still arouse people's interest, this indicates that this culture still has its unique influence and charm even today. It also shows that with the more frequent cultural exchange between different ethnic people, different culture and customs are being understood and respected.

You are listening to China Horizons on CRI. In the tableland of northwest China's Qinghai province there is a beautiful place called Xunhua , which is surrounded by green-carpeted mountains with the Yellow River running through eastwards. Originating from the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the river water in this area isn't actually yellow as the name suggests, but very clear, with the sunshine glittering on its surface. This beautiful and peaceful place is home to the Salar people, one of the 55 ethnic minorities in China. So next in our program Yan Yinan will take us on a visit to Xunhua to take a look at the lives and folk customs of the Salar people.
The Salar ethnic group has a population of 90 thousand. They live mainly in the Xunhua Salar Autonomous County in eastern Qinghai province. The county covers an area of 2,100 square kilometers with an average elevation of 2,000 meters. It has been the home to the Salar people for hundreds of years.
The Salars are all devout believers of Islam. It's said that their ancestors originally lived in a place called Samarkand in central Asia. Legend says in the 13th century, they left their homeland with a white camel because they couldn't bear the oppression of the local rulers. They also carried a copy of Islam's holy book the Koran, and migrated eastwards in search of a place of happiness and freedom.
The legend goes that one day after they arrived in what is today known as the Xunhua area on the banks of the Yellow River, the while camel wandered off in the night. In the morning of the next day, people found that the camel had turned into a stone in a clear spring. Thus, the Salar people decided to settle down in the place and named the spring Camel Spring. Since then the Salars have lived a peaceful life in Xunhua and formed a unique life-style and folk culture. As if to prove the legend, today visitors can still see the Camel Spring flowing through the county with a petrified camel lying inside.
60-year-old Han Zhanxiang from the Salar ethnic group has dedicated himself to researching the history of the Salar people for decades.
The Salar ethnic group has its own language but no writing system, so it has a rich legacy of oral literature and art. The Salar language belongs to the Turkic branch of the Altaic language family. But it contains a large number of words taken from the Chinese and Tibetan languages as a result of long years of mutual communications. The Salar people formed their religious belief before their settlement in China, and today they still strictly follow the teachings of the Muslim scriptures.

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