Blog # 1: Jonathan Lipman, “Introduction” and “Frontier Ground and Peoples of Northwest China: James Millward and Peter C. Perdue, “Political and Cultural History of the Xinjiang Region through the Late Nineteenth Century”

Who are the people that you meet? How do you define them? Do you define them by their ethnicity, their religion, culture, race, or the clothes they wear? I think it’s a mixture of all of them. The interactions between the values of the society and individuals as wells as groups that they are in. Lipman, Millward and Perdue set the stage for the topics that will be discussed in this course. They focus on muslim chinese people living specifically in the Gansu and Xingjian . As I noted from these literary pieces, their identity has been shaped by the interplay between many interacting things such as cultures, languages, histories, and political interests to vary degrees.  Some of these interactions lead to conflicting images which can make the task of assigning identities, as Lipman has done, rather difficult, the outcome usually being their simplification.

History is often used as the basis for many of these assigned identities, however as this article showed, history is also subjective, and the way a historian writes one’s history is reflected in the identity that is assigned to them. The State of China seems to want to ignore the histories that make the group different and in doing this, the affected groups are always seen as lesser if they want to maintain their culture and heritage. It would be even hard for them to adapt to the “Chinese” ways or what the State defines them as, while keeping their own traditions alive. So although as Milward and Perdue have stated, coming up with complex identities is not only difficult to create but also to “categorize” and define. And we humans just can’t deal with things if they are not categorized!

Blog #2:   Michael Dillon, China’s Muslim Hui Community

This article was loaded with all kinds of interesting material. I enjoyed reading it much more than the previous blog’s. The most important and interesting note to me in this whole reading was that one’s identity is in some ways self-assigned. The Hui for example have a difficult history to track in terms of their lineage. Back in the days wanted to be considered Hans instead of Hui and they would minimize the ethnic and religious significance for fear of conflict. The story of identity then is about the conflict between one’s outer acculturation inner faith. This clash creates a complex, ever- changing concept of identity that one must keep maintaining in order to be.

Another aspect of self-assigned ethnicity is that the inheritors of a tradition are as much a part of the creation of that tradition as those from whom they inherit it (pg 7). This fact is often forgotten, because when a tradition is passed down, it is thought to have been passed down in its “pure” form. This however is incorrect because as one is living the tradition, that person is also adding and changing it as they pass it down.

Also, level of assimilation as Dillon discusses is important when talking about the Han, for they try to be more assimilated into Han ways than other Muslim communities of China. The thought of assimilation is common for any immigrant family. Where do you draw the line of being who you are versus who “they” are?

The section on the Establishment of Hui Communities during the Ming Dynasty was also very interesting. This was the period where the Hui acculturation began. The Hui were forced to marry non-Hui in order to mix into Chinese society but this backfired because it gave rise to an increase in Hui population because the children of those marriages would remain Muslim!  That was a very interesting point for me.