A Nation of Nations
At first glance, China seems really homogenous. Everyone on the street looks to be the same race, and members of our group stand out a lot. In fact, random Chinese people often approach us and ask to take a picture with us. We usually say yes, and the people are often extremely excited. Most likely, these people are visiting Beijing from the countryside, where they aren’t exposed to people of different races very often. It’s hard for me, as an American, to imagine growing up this way.
Official records say that most people in China are from the Han ethnic group (about 96%). But did you know that there are 56 ethnic minorities in China? In fact, there are many “races” in China and it’s much more diverse than people think. These groups are small in numbers, but important to the rich history of China.
Yesterday, I visited the Ethnic Minorities Park, which ironically, I heard used to have a big sign in front of it that said “Racist Park.” This was a very sad and incorrect translation, which got corrected before the 2008 Olympics. In fact, the goal of the park is to prevent racism by exposing people to each of China’s ethnic minorities to help build appreciation for the diversity in China. The park is set up a bit like Epcot in Disney World, with simulations of various villages from around China. So, if a foreigner is visiting China and doesn’t have time to see the whole country, they can see bits of pieces of everything in Beijing! I was amazed to see all the different types of homes and lifestyles. If you look at the pictures below, I think you’ll also be surprised at how diverse it is. We all need to learn to appreciate our differences — because you might be surprised at how beautiful they turn out to be.