1See Pratt 1991; Tsing 1993; Ortner 1999; Mueggler 2001.
2See Hannerz 1992, 265. See also Korom 1994; Spitzer 2003.
1. SETTING FOOT IN THE QUEEN’S LAND
1As has been pointed out by Janet Gyatso in “Down with the Demoness: Reflections on a Feminine Ground in Tibet,” Tibet Journal 12(4): 38–53, some Western scholars have also identified the existence of probably two women’s countries in an area bordering Tibet, based on both Chinese and Indian sources. See, for example, William Woodville Rockhill, The Land of the Lamas (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1891); Giuseppe Tucci, Preliminary Report on Two Scientific Expeditions in Nepal (Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1956); Frederick William Thomas, Ancient Folk-Literature from North-Eastern Tibet (Berlin: Abhandlungen der Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, 1957); and Rolf Alfred Stein, Tibetan Civilization (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1972). Erik Haarh, The Yar-Lun Dynasty (Copenhagen: GEC Gad’s Forlag, 1969), and Thomas, Ancient Folk-Literature from North-Eastern Tibet, suggest that there were certain significant elements of women’s lineage and even political dominance in ancient Tibet.
2The Book of Sui, compiled in the seventh century, is the official history of the Sui dynasty (581–618). The History of Northern Dynasties, also compiled in the seventh century, covers the period 386–618. The Old Tang History, completed in the tenth century, is the earliest existing systematic historical record of the Tang dynasty (618–907). The New Tang History, compiled in the eleventh century, is a revised version of the Old Tang History.
3See Xueniu 2003; Lin Junhua 2006a; Ma Chengfu 2006; Wang Huailin 2006.
4Gyarong extends to Hongyuan County (T: Khyung Mchu or Rka Khog Rdzong) in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (T: Rnga Ba Bod Rigs Dang Chang Rigs Rang Skyong Khul) to the north; Rangtang County (T: ‘Dzam Thang Rdzong) in Aba prefecture and Seda County (T: Gser Rta Rdzong) in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (T: Dkar Mdzes Bod Rigs Rang Skyong Khul) to the northwest; Luhuo County (T: Brag Mgo Rdzong) and Yajiang County (T: Nyag Chu Kha Rdzong) in Ganzi prefecture to the west; Mianning County in Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture to the south; Shimian County, Tianquan County, and Baoxing County of Ya’an City to the southeast; and Wenchuan County in Aba prefecture and Dujiangyan (City) of Chengdu City to the east.
5The Gyarong region does not have a clearly defined border. The map shows a “broad” Gyarong or Gyarong in its historical context. Today, what people refer to as “Gyarong” is much smaller in size, and thus many places that may be part of Gyarong historically are no longer recognized as Gyarong by either local residents or the “authentic” Gyarongwa. As mentioned, the majority of the Gyarong region lies in today’s Aba prefecture.
6The tusi system was an administrative tactic applied to minority regions in northwestern, southwestern, and southern China. It started in the Mongols’ Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), flourished in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), and declined in the Manchus’ Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Through conferring the tusi title upon the local chiefs, the imperial court ruled these regions indirectly through these officially recognized posts. At the same time, the tusi were obliged to pay tribute to the court, fulfilling certain political, economic, and military duties. According to Jia Xiaofeng (2007), in all Tibetan regions including Gyarong, there were 849 tusi, of whom 795, or roughly 94 percent, were Tibetans.
7According to Quedan (1995), the total population of the Gyarongwa by 1995 was 370,000. This number is questionable, since he seemed to count other Zangzu populations in this region as the Gyarongwa, too. So it suggests that in practice, the category of “Gyarongwa” is often ambiguous.
8For instance, when the Gyarongwa meet with Tibetans in other regions and are asked about their origin, some Gyarongwa mention only the names of bigger places like Aba and Ganzi prefectures, since the popular impression of many Tibetans outside these two prefectures is that Aba prefecture is dominated by Amdo Tibetans and Ganzi prefecture by Khampa.
9The consensus among historians is that ancient records on Gyarong in both Chinese and Tibetan are seriously lacking, so it is tremendously hard, if not impossible, to delineate a clear historical landscape of Gyarong.
10 See, e.g., Ma Changshou 1944; Li Shaoming 1980; Deng 1986; Gele 1988; Shi 2001; Guo Shengbo 2002; Yang and Yang 2004; Zeng 2004.
11 See Wang Yao 1987; Li Xingyou 1995; Btsan Lha 1999, 2004.
12 See Sun Hongkai 1983; Jackson Sun 2000; Jacques 2008.
13 Tea, yak butter, and tsampa often serve as the marker that defines essential Tibetanness. In my interactions with Tibetans all over the Tibetan regions, many emphasize that this food constitutes the essence of Tibetan identity. A popular belief is that other peoples—particularly Han—cannot get used to yak butter and tsampa. Therefore, sometimes Tibetan youth who don’t consume much yak butter and tsampa are accused of being Sinicized. This is not the self-image only of “traditional” Tibetans, however; the Han and other peoples tend to associate this food with Tibetanness, too.
14 Wuhouci is a district with the largest number of Tibetan stores and restaurants in Chengdu City, which also has a large Tibetan population that is composed mainly of businessmen, salespeople, migrant workers, monks, college students, and other Tibetan visitors and tourists.
15 Since the late eighteenth century, more and more Han have immigrated to Gyarong. Today, the Gyarongwa and the Han live next to each other in many villages. The Gyarongwa have adopted substantial Han cultural elements such as various festivals. Han influence is now much more pronounced in language, food, education, popular culture, and everyday aspects of life. In terms of religious belief, some Gyarongwa also resort to Han Daoist priests due largely to the lack of great Tibetan priests and lamas. This has had a certain effect on Gyarongwa’s religious and/or Tibetan identity. The place of the Han in Gyarong will be discussed in more detail in chapter 4 of this volume.
16 Some reincarnate lamas have a number of Han and Western followers, who have donated a great deal to these projects.
17 The following cases illustrate the influence a well-reputed lama can exert on a local community. In the first, a friend of mine who is a very learned Gelugpa lama returned to his hometown several years ago with the prestigious geshe degree. Since his return, his influence in this region has been significant. For instance, he admonished locals not to accumulate bad karma by killing wild animals, and this activity has almost disappeared. I launched an opera revival project and a Tibetan-language training program through him because I knew that the villagers listen to him and would devote themselves to both if their beloved lama directed them to do so. No other lama from the local monastery has had such influence. All the other monks were trained in the same monastery, but on the whole they haven’t acquired the same advanced knowledge of scripture and Buddhist philosophy. Another example is that locals in Suopo greatly respect a learned Bon lama for his sophisticated training in Bon and Tibetan medicine as well as his compassion for others. Sometimes the locals refer to him as the “reincarnate lama,” although he is not formally recognized as such by any temple. According to one Suopo villager, this lama was a “real lama,” different from most other monks who “don’t know much.” His kindness and compassion are also unparalleled in Suopo. This villager thus concluded, “If Suopowa don’t want to do certain things, the township cadres cannot do anything about it. Even if the county head came, nothing would change. [However,] if he [this lama] says we should do it, then all of us will listen.”
18 Samten Karmay (1996) also points out that the relatively harmonious relationship between Bon and Buddhism in Danba and Gyarong is rarely seen in Tibetan regions (1996).
19 UNESCO’s World Heritage website describes the architecture as follows:
The shapes of old Diaolou Buildings in Danba are diversified, with quadrangular, pentagonal, octagonal and tridecanal towers. The majority of them are quadrangular Diaolou Buildings. . . .
The old watchtower takes up an area of 25~120 m2, with a height varying from 10 to 60 m. Mountain rocks and slates, yellow mud and timber are adopted as the main building materials. With a relatively bigger base, the Diaolou Buildings narrow upward to the top. The towers were built with rocks and slates of various sizes. As many walls were built with rocks weighing over several hundred kilos, the walls prove firm, thick and solid. They are built with well-leveled surfaces and pointed corners, making the tower stand straight and upright. The function of the old Diaolou Buildings varies, combining military and residential purposes. They fall mainly into two categories: folk towers and residential towers. By its own particular function, they can be further labeled as war flame tower, strategic pass tower, official village tower, boundary tower, scripture tower, and tower in houses, etc. The old Diaolou Buildings in Danba have survived wars, weather, and earthquakes. With a long history, they rise straight from the land, towering loftily, solid and strong as usual. Some of them stand as bows, forming quite marvelous spectacle, making one amazed at its refined and intricate arts of building. In 2006, the old Diaolou Buildings in Danba were enlisted as the Cultural Relics of National Importance by the State Department.
From “Diaolou Buildings and Villages for Tibetan and Qiang Ethnic Groups,” UNESCO, . Accessed 2009.
2. MASCULINE AND FEMININE INTERNAL OTHERS IN CHINA
1See, e.g., Stoler 1989; Sinha 1995; Young 1995; Cooper and Stoler 1997; Catherine Hall 2000; Nagel 2003.
2See Spence 1981; Kinkley 1987; Oakes 2007.
3See Ding Chunlian 2002; Li and Huang 2004; Han 2007; Wang Haiying 2007; Wu Wenyu 2008.
4See Tobin, Wu, and Davidson 1989; Wang Xianhua 2003; Liang, Li, and Huang 2006.
5However, the popular conception often makes a distinction between urban and rural boys. Usually urban boys are said to be much softer than rural ones, since the country boys, especially those from poverty-stricken or mountainous regions, are able to “eat bitterness” (chiku), meaning they develop the capacity to endure difficulties, thereby engendering strong and virile personalities.
6This phrase is often used to identify bookish and effete male students and scholars who become “pallid-faced” because of the lack of outdoor physical exercise.
7Sinha 1995; Clancy-Smith and Gouda 1998; Catherine Hall 2000; Nagel 2003; Ghosh 2004; Teng 2004; Ballantyne and Burton 2005.
8For instance, Western-educated, middle-class Bengali Hindu males were depicted as the opposite of manly and chivalrous Englishmen and were believed to be “effeminate, bookish, over-serious, languorous, lustful and lacking in self-discipline” (John MacKenzie, quoted in Sinha 1995, vii). Its ultimate purpose was to spotlight the exclusive privilege of the Britons in India: “the charge of ‘effeminacy’ to isolate certain native groups checkmated the demand to extend political rights to Indians; and the ‘unnaturalness’ in the claims for political and legal equality of these groups extended the rationale for continued Anglo-Indian racial domination” (Sinha 1995, 63). As a result, British prerogatives and “inalienable” rights as the chosen people were legitimized and fortified as being for the Indians’ good. In other words, the damned status of Indians was determined by their own incompetency and effeminacy, which necessitated the colonial rule of the powerful and benevolent British Empire, which “took great troubles” to “take care of” them.
9See Gladney 1991; Litzinger 2000; Schein 2000; Harrell 1995, 2001.
10 The rulers of the last Chinese dynastic empire, the Qing, were Manchu, but they spared no effort in promoting Confucian ideals and modeled themselves after the court system, ruling practices, and political doctrines of the Han-based Ming dynasty. From the very beginning, the Qing rulers looked up to the Han culture and adopted assimilation policies by and for themselves, thus legitimizing their claim to being the true holders and defenders of Chinese culture. Toward the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, Manchu rulers were very much Sinicized. So together with the Han, in some ways the Manchus were also civilizers who occupied the center of the “central kingdom” and carried out the “civilizing project” to moralize or “humanize” other minorities. Like the Manchus, some other peoples, such as the Naxi and the Bai, were on the list of the most “civilized” and Sinicized minorities.
11 The term “strange barbarians” refers to those whose cultural practices are still very “primitive” and distant from the Han civilization, while “familiar barbarians” describes peoples who are much more Sinicized and thus more “civilized.” The same minority group may be subdivided into “strange” and “familiar” as well, depending on how much they were integrated into the Chinese culture. For instance, Miao in southern and southwestern China were classified as either “familiar” or “strange”: “familiar Miao” lived closer to Han settlements in sedentary communities where they were under some kind of governance, paid taxes, did corvée labor, and manifested a modicum of Chinese cultural influence; “strange Miao” were unruled, paid no taxes, were not required to perform service, and lived in terrain that, from the Han point of view, was more rugged and isolated (Schein 2000, 7).
12 At first, more than four hundred groups self-registered as independent ethnic groups, but only fifty-six ethnic groups including the Han were recognized. The criteria for identification were based on Stalin’s four “golden rules”—“a common language, a common territory, a common economic life, and a common psychological make-up manifested in common specific features of national culture” (Gladney 1991, 66).
13 According to Chuan-Kang Shih, toward the end of the Cultural Revolution, a dramatic campaign against “primitive” walking marriage, the One-Wife-One-Husband Movement, was launched to force sexual partners to get married. As a result, 424 couples in the Yongning area were forced into registered marriages (Shih 2010, 4).
14 See Wagner 1975; MacCannell 1976; Hanson 1989; Linnekin 1990; Dietler 1994; Hobsbawm 1994; Lindholm 2008.
15 See, e.g., Louie 2002; Khan 1996; Hillman and Henfry 2006.
16 The search for romantic encounters has become a significant component of ethnic tourism in many parts of the world and has engendered a number of internationally acclaimed ethnosexual tourism destinations such as Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Belize, Jamaica, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, and Kenya (see, e.g., Graburn 1983; Truong 1990; C. M. Hall 1994; Pruitt and LaFont 1995; Ryan and Kinder 1996; Enloe 2000; Ryan and Hall 2001). Male and female sex workers use their ethnic bodies to satisfy the tourists’ desires for authentic sexual experiences, which may be scarce back home.
17 The Mosuo have a population of about forty thousand, live on the southeastern fringe of the Tibetan Plateau, and speak a Tibeto-Burman language. Mosuo territory straddles the border of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces and includes Ninglang, Muli, Yanyuan, and Yanbian Counties. One of its primary geographical features is Lugu Lake. Promoted as the cultural center of Mosuo territory, Lugu Lake has become a major tourist attraction in northwestern Yunnan. The Chinese government does not recognize the Mosuo as an ethnic group; instead, it officially classifies the Mosuo in Yunnan as a subgroup of the Naxizu and those in Sichuan as Mongolian. In the late 1980s, the Mosuo’s attempts to gain state recognition won them the right to call themselves “Mosuo people” (Mosuo ren). The Mosuo practice Bon and Tibetan Buddhism as well as dabaism, their own form of shamanism. Before 1956, the tusi, or local chiefs or kings, had controlled the area for more than six hundred years (Walsh 2005, 451–52).
18 Many female tourists are eager to find out what is going on there. Some are drawn by the appeal of Mosuo men, who are also romanticized as “great lovers.”
19 However, as Eileen Rose Walsh points out, many of these popular representations of the Mosuo are not true. According to her, in the rural villages of Yongning Township, Ninglang County, Yunnan, almost one-third of households are headed by males, and even in the households with women as heads, major decisions concerning property are often made by the senior or most economically productive man (Walsh 2005, 453). In love relations, control by women is exaggerated. Both women and men exercise autonomy in their mutual relations. Men can choose to stay or terminate their relationships, as can women. Moreover, the relative autonomy of both women and men in selecting partners is not equal to free love, which has the connotation of promiscuity, a concept imposed by ethnocentric outsiders. Locals have their own principles and rules for this kind of relationship (see Cai Hua 2001, 231–32, 251–52), and furthermore, other modalities of sexual life, such as cohabitation and marriage, do exist in this society. As for the enviable familial harmony, discord and disputes among family members do occur, as in other societies, and thus sometimes separation is unavoidable (see, e.g., ibid, 160–64). With the increase in tourism, tensions among villagers, between different villages, and between villagers and the government have become common due to competition, asymmetrical wealth distribution, and different agendas for tourism development, as will be seen in the parallel cases of Suopo and Danba.
20 Tami Blumenfield (2010) delineates a very nuanced picture of how Mosuo people and practices are represented in the media, not only from the outside but also from within by locals themselves.
3. FROM THE VALLEY OF BEAUTIES TO THE EASTERN QUEENDOM
1Of all the Zangzu regions, Danba has the finest weather, and it produces various kinds of fruits, among which guava is the most common. As a result, the guava flower is often referred to as the County Flower.
2After the Xixia Kingdom established by Dangxiang Qiang in northwest China was destroyed, the Mongol court didn’t order the compilation of Xixia history, and most of Xixia’s historical documents were either destroyed in the war or disappeared. Consequently, Xixia’s history is full of ambiguity. One mystery is the whereabouts of Xixia descendants. A celebrated scholar on Xixia, Li Fanwen, has found linguistic similarities between Ergong, one of the dialects in Danba and neighboring towns, and the dead Xixia language. Extrapolating from Li’s findings, the media suggest that the concubines of the king and nobles fled to Danba and produced offspring there.
3After the national policy of nine years of obligatory education was implemented in Danba, girls receive much more education than they did ten years ago. An increasing number of young women go to other places in Tibetan and Han regions for various jobs and contribute to their families’ incomes equally or even more than their male siblings do. Some women in Moluo also get involved in tourism as tour guides, peddlers, and hostesses. However, the effect of these changes on local gender relations and the political status of women remains to be seen.
4See Nandy 1988; Sinha 1995; Clancy-Smith and Gouda 1998; Glenn 1998; Catherine Hall 2000; Nagel 2003; Ghosh 2004; Ballantyne and Burton 2005.
4. THE QUEENDOM AND GRASSROOTS POLITICS
1See Wasserstrom and Perry 1992; Bianco 2001; O’Brien 2002, 2008; Perry 2002, 2007; Unger 2002; Bernstein and Lü 2003; O’Brien and Li 2006.
2When asked how they knew these principles, they identified several major sources: TV reports, township and village cadres, other villagers, their literate family members or children. In my observations, however, most villagers don’t really understand policies very well. Some of them pointed out that the county and township officials didn’t “come down to the village” that much, and even when they came, they would not interact directly with common villagers, nor did they have any intention of propagandizing and explaining the policies. This had to do with the “attitude” issue in the sense that cadres were believed by some villagers not to care much about the peasants’ welfare. Older villagers compare present cadres with older ones, and according to them, cadres before the 1980s would spare no effort in propagandizing policies, which kept villagers updated about what was going on at different levels of the state. The lack of connection is also due to language. Most cadres are either Han or Zangzu from other regions who speak different dialects, which makes it difficult for them to convey their ideas to the villagers.
3The rapid development of Danba County and the province of Sichuan proper has much to do with the Western Development Project initiated by the Chinese government at the turn of the twenty-first century. As a Zangzu region with strategic importance, Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, of which Danba is a part, has received more and more investment in its construction of facilities as well as its economic, and educational development.
4Suopo Township is composed of three parts or segments: Suopo and Dazhai, both of which are located on the eastern side of the Dadu River, and Pujiaoding on the western side.
5The old Suopo Bridge has been blocked against automobile and tractor use because of damage from floods in 2004. The county and township governments promised villagers that a new bridge would soon be constructed, but the project did not start until 2008. Construction was slow, and most villagers grew very unhappy about the protracted delay. A rumor spread that the county government had transferred the money for the bridge elsewhere and thus was just performing a show for the villagers because it was concerned about the possibility of “extreme actions.”
6For instance, one villager I know well is famous in Suopo because he has defied local authority, including village heads. He is a fearsome person to many villagers, including elites, because he will not hesitate to take revenge if his interests are threatened. As another example, one village head was a common villager like most others and was elected to this position due to extended kinship ties and his personality: he is patient with and kind to all villagers even though many think he is incompetent. One informant commented, “He is elected . . . he doesn’t offend anyone, smiling at everyone all the time . . . villagers feel ashamed if they don’t vote for him.”
7For instance, when Magic Discovery, a Sichuan TV station program, came to film the relics of the queendom, they designed the scenario of a “big” discovery of the palace remains, presenting it as a chance find by a local herdsman who was looking for his lost livestock, yet all the locals know that the site used to be the queen’s palace. This scene became a laughingstock among locals, and the Suopo native who played the role of the herdsman on TV was ridiculed.
8As is shown here, the Danba case is not unique in China. In other Tibetan areas, conflicts have intensified as well, though sometimes in a subtler and more inconspicuous way. The tension between many Tibetans, especially monks, and the state has to do with the latter’s tightening control over religious and political affairs. The 2008 Tibetan riots were not an accident but were embedded in accumulated enmity and distrust on both sides.
9See, e.g., Bianco 2001; Perry 2010; O’Brien 2002; Bernstein and Lü 2003.
10 Like Zangzu villagers, the Donfengwa have the right to use or simply “own” their land as a result of the household contract responsibility system, a significant reform of land ownership and use rights initiated in the early 1980s in rural China. In spite of this, the Donfengwa’s Zangzu neighbors argue that the Donfengwa are plowing the Zangzu’s land instead. As one Zangzu villager asserted, “The Donfengwa are from outside. Where do they get the land?” meaning that the Donfengwa don’t have a historical connection with the land in Suopo and thus their ownership of the land is questionable and unjustifiable.
11 This system refers to the yearly earning distribution principle based on the amount of labor contributed to the collective during the 1950s to the 1970s.
12 The head of one household is a Zangzu cadre in the commune who married a woman from the Han Gang. As a commune cadre, he had a certain amount of influence so that his family was able to stay. The head of another household was running a mill, which Moluo badly needed, and was also allowed to stay with his family.
13 Dongfeng villagers came to the township, threatening to appeal to the county government if the township didn’t resolve this issue. The Party secretary answered, “If you want to go, just go. It is none of my business.” This angered the villagers, who chased him, intending to beat him. While he was trying to run away, he fell into the river. Many villagers believed that he didn’t slip accidentally and that he had no choice but to jump into the river to escape the villagers. Fortunately, he was not injured.
5. THE MOLUO TOURISM ASSOCIATION
1See, e.g., Perry 1994; Forges 1997; Weller 1999, 2005.
2See White 1993; Weller 1999, 2005; Yijiang Ding 2002; Zheng and Fewsmith 2008.
3Although Uncle Pema played a major role in building the tourism association, he didn’t want to be part of the association directly. According to him, villagers were difficult to deal with, so it was better for him to keep his distance. Moreover, because this association was a “popular association” (minjian shetuan) in name, he, as a township cadre, was not supposed to become affiliated.
4On behalf of the township Party secretary, Uncle Pema gathered the fourteen seniors and two village heads for a discussion of the issues involved in founding a tourism association in Moluo, including membership. According to him, seniors were respected in local culture and also had more public spirit, meaning concern for the welfare of the village. Therefore, they were able to represent the whole village. However, not all seniors were called for the meeting. The fourteen participants were supposedly more keen on village affairs than their peers, most of whom were women.
5It is said that “Gelindeya” is a name of a local household (in most Tibetan regions, people don’t have surnames, but in the rural areas, there is usually a specific name for each household). According to the TV report, “Gelindeya” literally means “be upright, fair, and amiable.” Surprisingly, however, not a single Jiaju local I met had heard of this household name or knew what it meant.
6In 2005, the Fifth Plenary Session of the Sixteenth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party pointed out that in the next five years (2006–10), the New Socialist Countryside Construction project would take on the Party’s most important task, enhancing rural reforms in China. This project has five goals: production development (shengchan fazhan), prosperous life (shenghuo fuyu), folk ethos and civility (xiangfeng wenmin), neat and clean village (cunrong zhengjie), and democratic management (guanli minzhu).
7See Perry 1985, 1994; Siu 1989; Kelliher 1992; Shu-Min Huang 1998; Weller 1999; Chan, Madsen, and Unger 2009.
8A great number of works have touched upon the implications of village elections for political participation of the peasants, grassroots democracy and China’s democracy as a whole, state-society relations, village power structures, peasant-cadre relationships, and the like (Burns 1988; Weixing Chen 1999; Yijiang Ding 2002; Xiaoqin Guo 2003; Saich 2004; O’Brien and Li 2006; Tan 2006; O’Brien and Han 2009).
9See Oakes 1998; Davis 2005; Notar 2006; Nyíri 2006; Kolas 2008.
10 I was often impressed with the villagers’ emphasis on the importance of guanxi. Many villagers are almost superstitious about the power of guanxi and argued that one could easily get just about whatever one desired when there was guanxi. This obsession with guanxi is not very different from the situation in other parts of China (see Mayfair Mei-Hui Yang 1994, Yan 1996).
11 Seniors associations are flourishing in every part of China, including in Danba. This phenomenon is the result of so-called democratic politics in China. On the one hand, it exhibits the increased openness of the Chinese Communist Party, but on the other hand, it shows that the Party favors such quasi–civil associations as seniors associations because of their apolitical nature.
12 This pagoda was said to have been built by Berotsana (Bai Ro Tsa Na), who was dispatched to the Gyarong region in the eighth century due to politico-religious strife at the Tibetan court between supporters of Bon, the indigenous Tibetan religion, and advocates of Buddhism, which was newly introduced from India. According to local legends, Berotsana arrived at Suopo to chase a most powerful but vicious demoness and was finally able to subdue her. As mentioned earlier, the Suopowa’s belief in Berotsana is puzzling in that he was a Buddhist monk who was persecuted by Bon supporters, yet most Suopowa believe in Bon.
13 This is in line with scholars’ stance on the hegemonic role of the Chinese state in shaping the agendas and overseeing the activities of civil associations (Weller 1999, 2005; Sujian Guo 2000; Saich 2004).
14 The dynamic relationship between state and society has been foregrounded by some China scholars (see, e.g., Weller 1999, 2005; Zheng and Fewsmith 2008; Perry 2010).
1I myself was a little surprised by their response. The Suopowa often have a strong Zangzu identity and tend to extol the “greatness” of “Our Zangzu” as opposed to the “hardheaded” Han or other “impure” Gyarongwa. However, when asked about the ethnicity of the township officials—the Party secretary, the township head, the Party vice-secretary, and three vice-heads—most Suopowa would say “I don’t know” or “I am not sure.” According to some of them, four of these six township officials might be Zangzu due to their local connections (natives of Danba County), but they look like the Han in terms of their behavior or appearance.
2A parallel example from South Africa is the landless urban San’s struggle for identification as indigenous people in order to gain the right to land and other resources. The majority of San who were displaced as a consequence of colonialism and apartheid do not satisfy international organizations’ criteria for being considered “authentic” indigenous people and so must adopt an essentialist discourse to “present themselves as largely uncorrupted by historical and political economic context” (Sylvain 2001, 1079) in order to win international and governmental support for their claims. Likewise, in the United States, some claim to be Native Americans in order to obtain certain compensations and benefits.