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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.

In the center of Xunhua county is located the Great Mosque where the Salar people come to do regular services. Built in the 14th century, it's one of the most important mosques in Qinghai province. Inside is housed a copy of the Koran, which is said to be the one brought to China by the Salars' ancestors from their original home of Samarkand.
Like many other Moslems in China, the Salar men usually wear white flat-topped brimless hats. The women, however, often wear veils. Married women wear a black or white veil, while unmarried women wear green veils.
Influenced by their religious belief, the Salar people always pay great attention to sanitation and hygiene. Enter any of the Salar households and you'll generally find they are impeccably clean. The Salar people also have a profound love for gardening. Each family has a garden and all the Salar people are adept at horticulture. They are fond of planting flowers and fruit trees in and around their courtyards. In spring and summer, the air is pleasantly filled with the fragrance of blooming flowers, and in autumn, the trees are loaded with glistening fruits.
Han Zhanxiang's home is located in the center of the county. The courtyard is not very big, but clean and beautiful. It's surrounded with fruit trees, with a flower bed in the centre.
"It's a long tradition for us to grow trees and flowers at home because the Salar people always have an intimate feeling with nature. You can find that flowers and fruit trees are grown in every household. We don't plant them for making money, but as a means of decorating our homes and getting closer to mother nature."
In the past, the Salar people lived mainly on crop farming and animal husbandry. As Xunhua county is blessed with a mild climate, fertile land and sufficient sunshine, agriculture had been the mainstay of the local economy. But in recent years, the tide of the country's reform drive has also swept to this tranquil place and gradually changed the live styles of the Salar people.
Today many of the local people are actively involved in all kinds of business activities. The Xunhua Jiayi Ethnic Products Company is one of the enterprises founded and run by the Salar people. Han Xiaofeng is head of the company. He says that the development of the second and tertiary industries have brought more employment opportunities and considerable economic benefits to the Salar people.

"In the past, the Salar women suffered a lot under religious strictures and feudal ethics. Unmarried women were confined to their home and were not allowed to appear in public, while married women had to hide their faces in front of strange men. But nowadays, the Salar people have gradually changed their traditional way of thinking. More and more women have stepped out of home to do business or take on jobs in enterprises."
Han Juyu from the Salar ethnic group is one of the dozens of female workers in the company.
"Working here has opened my eyes and helped me master much knowledge and technical skills. I have learned how to operate a computer and communicate in simple English. My income from the company is three fold that from farming at home. So I enjoy my current job very much."
Over the past few years, the beautiful and idyllic landscape of Xunhua county and the unique ethnic flavor of the Salar people have promoted Xunhua to become an increasingly popular tourist destination. Many visitors come here to enjoy the enchanting highland scenery and the folklore of the Salar ethnic group. The rising tourism industry has now become another important source of income for the local people. Some families with houses in the typical Salar architectural style have turned their homes into family hotels to accommodate visitors and treat them with authentic Salar food, music and folk customs.
Lan Tian , an official from the Xunhua county tourism bureau, is confident of the development of the local tourism industry.
"Xunhua is endowed with favorable conditions for developing tourism. It boasts magnificent plateau landscape, the Yellow River scenery, ancient forests and beautiful grasslands. And more importantly, it's the only concentration for the Salar people in the country. So there's great potential for us to promote the tourism industry. We have planned to build some new scenic spots featuring the Yellow River culture and the Salar folk customs to further enrich the local tourism resources. With more forceful efforts to develop tourism, I believe our homeland will become increasingly beautiful and prosperous."

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