Fortress Village - The Ethnic Minorities of Southwest China  

Yang Cheng-Zhi

Yang Cheng-Zhi was born in 1902 in Haifeng, Guangdong Province. In 1927, he graduated from Lingnan University with a degree in history. He taught at Sun Yat-Sen University, participated in research on folklore and ethnology, and helped form a folklore society. In 1928, Yang was assigned by the Department of Philology and History at Sun Yat-Sen University and the Institute of History and Philology at Academia Sinica to go to southwest China and study the local ethnic minorities. Originally, he was to go with Shirokogoroff and his wife, and Rong Zhao-Zu, but ended up going on his own (Yang 1988: cover page; Yang 1976:10-11). There were four main reasons for this trip:
  1. Academic research: The evolution of modern mankind and the progression of science were going at a rapid speed. Within the category of “ethnic minorities in southwest China,” there were a number of ethnic groups from various time periods, including the three periods in the “primitive period” and three periods in the “semi-primitive period,” which provided an abundant source for research subjects.
  2. Realization of nationalism: The status of ethnic groups in southwestern China is below that of the Han in every aspect. Although we cannot immediately boost their status to our level, what we can do first is to understand their languages, mentality, customs, and culture, which will help us in assisting them in improving their lives.
  3. Conducting field studies: Compared to foreigners, Chinese people no doubt know Chinese people better due to historical, societal, and linguistic factors.
  4. Cultural contributions: It is a shame that we have not been able to see much of China’s southwestern ethnic groups’ existing culture. If today’s scientists who are studying anthropology, philology, linguistics, history, archaeology, and folklore can devote more of their research to the various ethnic groups, I believe that in the future we will be able to see significant contributions to our country’s culture and the academic field (Yang 1976:4-5,29-30).
Yang believed that the Chinese nation can be divided into five major groups, namely the Han, the Manchus, the Mongolians, the Hui, and the Tibetans. In addition, the Chinese can also be categorized into seven different groups: Zhuxia, Dongyi, Bashu, Donghu, Minyue, Beidi, Diqiang, Xizang, and Miaoman. Yang believed that the ethnic minorities residing in southwestern China mainly belong to the Xizang-Miaoman group. Said Yang, “Although China has a long and extensive history of several thousand years, due to various differences in social practice, politics, religion, culture, and language, despite the fact that everyone is located within Chinese boundaries, it is as if there are hundreds of small independent countries. It has been like this throughout history. I thought that every person in this great old empire held the prejudice that we should “honor the Han and expel the savages,” but now that we see them as a member of the Chinese nation, we should assist them in becoming more civilized and cultured, so that they can progress day after day like the Han people. This is the current trend that we should be following” (Yang 1976:1,4). The “current trend” that Yang referred to is the series of national independence movements. Seeing that many foreign scholars were arriving in China to study China’s ethnic minorities, Yang himself also decided to actively pursue a career of research on ethnology and folklore, although very few Chinese scholars were doing so at the time. Yang wanted to undertake research on folklore because he felt that existing folklore and cultural practices were the survival of the currently civilized society, produced during the process of evolution (Yang 1942).

As the previous paragraphs indicate, Yang’s work regarding folklore and ethnological studies focused on understanding the evolutionary position of the ethnic minorities in China, whose customs are distinctly different from that of the Han people, and helping them obtain a status that is equal to the Han people’s in order to strengthen solidarity within the Chinese nation.

1942(1988) 民俗學之內容與分類,收錄於楊成志民俗學譯述與研究。北京:新華書店。
1976 雲南民族調查,國立北京大學中國民俗學會民俗叢書,專號二,民族篇一。臺北:東方文化。
1988 楊成志民俗學譯述與研究。北京:新華書店。
1943 人類科學論集。廣州:國立中山大學研究院文科研究所。
1974 雲南民族調查報告。臺北:東方文化。
1976 雲南羅羅族的巫師及其經典。臺北:東方文化。
1989 楊成志民俗學譯述與研究。北京:高等教育出版社。
楊成志, 鍾敬文同譯
1928 印歐民間故事型式表。廣州:國立中山大學語言歷史學研究所。
楊成志 譯
1928 民俗學問題格。廣州:中山大學語言歷史學研究所。
楊成志 編
1938 廣東北江傜人調查報告。廣州:國立中山大學研究院文科研究所。
1970 中山大學民俗專刊。臺北:東方文化。
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