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Loss of traditions threatens the She ethnic group

Source: cultural-China.com  [2009-02-23 16:40:40]

It is reported that the language, traditional clothes, folk songs and drama of the She ethnic group are on the edge of falling into oblivion. Under the new circumstances in modern times, the She culture is affected by a good many factors and falls into the crisis of extinction.

Recently, it is found in a She village in the Fenghuang Mountain of Chaozhou that the traditional She culture is confronted with a severe test - the local people are unable to speak the She Language.

The Fenghuang Mountain of Chaozhou is regarded as the birthplace of more than 700, 000 She people in China since ancient times. However, the population there has decreased a lot with only more than 2,000 left due to a variety of reasons. Ligongkeng Village, located at the foot of the Fenghuang Mountain bordering on Fujian Province with a population of over 300 people, is the most densely populated residence of She people in the Fenghuang Mountain areas.

The visit to Ligongkeng Village impressed us that the She culture is falling into oblivion day by day. In the interviews with local villagers, it is found that a majority of them are unable to sing folk songs. They are not dressed in clothes of the ethnic group and speak Chaozhou-Shantou dialect. They look the same as people of other ethnic groups in terms of appearance. 

The She ethnic group is one of the minorities in China with a small population. The word "She" dates back to the very ancient times. It can be found in the The Book of Songs, Book of Changes and other classic works. In the last years of the Southern Song Dynasty, an ethnic group named "She People" and "Quan People" appeared in historical records. "She" means slash and burn cultivation. The She people mainly live by agricultural production with hunting as supplementary.

As early as 7 AD, the forefathers of the She people worked with great pains to explore the mountainous areas in the bordering place of Fujian, Guangdong and Jiangxi Provinces. Their agricultural production at that time was mainly relying on the fire field farming, namely, the slash and burn cultivation on the dry land in the mountainous areas short of water sources. Because of the extensive form of farming, the productivity was low and the output of the crops was small. Besides, since the She people were living for ages in the remote mountains and forests where the wild animals frequented, the minority was developed in hunting economy. Their production in the early stage was featured by farming and hunting.  
 
Why the local culture is on the verge of extinction? A villager told us that with the construction of highways, the originally out-of-the-way She village began to communicate with the outside world and their means of livelihood, lifestyle, customs and living environment has been constantly changing. Some have gone out of the village for school study, while some are for employment. The traditional She culture in the village is under severe test.

He added that She people in Fenghuang Mountain area now look the same as other local people from other ethnic groups with little difference in daily life, let alone the kids. Even the bottom drawers for girls now are modernized.

In the past, folk songs were considered as the essential of She people's daily life. However, with the social development, the folk songs have slowly ebbed away. "The She people have no written language of their own. Their history has been recorded with songs for centuries to pass down from generation to generation. But a majority of young people moving into the urban areas today are unable to speak the She language, let alone the folk songs." He reveals that now there is only an old man in the Ligongkeng Village who is able to compose and sing folk songs of the ethnic group across the whole Fenghuang Mountain area. Few young people can sing even a few lines of folk songs.


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