As a multi-ethnic state, China is comprised of fifty-six officially recognized ethnic groups. The Han ethnic group (Hanzu) is the majority group, comprising over 91 percent of the population. The fifty-five ethnic minority groups (shaoshu minzu) live mostly in China’s vast borderlands, an arc stretching from northeast to southwest, traversing ecosystems that range from birch and evergreen forest to steppe, to broken uplands, to jungle. In recent decades individuals and communities from many of these ethnic groups have increasingly interfaced with modern urban culture via political programs and economic development. As China has opened and globalized, traditional cultures across the land have been impacted and dynamically transformed. Resource extraction, floating populations of young workers, new technologies, and localized phenomena like ethnic tourism and “intangible cultural heritage” projects are all part of the complex nature of ethnic minority communities today. Since the 1980s the vibrant voices of literally thousands of ethnic minority writers and poets have been heard from all over the country. Among the most exciting voices are those of poets who, in this era of great change, often express uncertainty and ambivalence over the rapidity and nature of the change taking place before their very eyes.
For the full feature, click on the image above.