Steve on the Train, Minority Dress @ Wulingyuan

The shot of Steve snuggled into his hard-sleeper berth on the train wasn’t going to go on the blog. I was going to just send it to him. But since his time in the train station after we debarked from the boat, and his time on the train itself, was almost Steve’s only interaction with what I’ve come to think of the real China that I’ve come to know and love (loud, crowded, smelly, friendly, nosy, obnoxious, generous, efficient and many other adjectives all at once), I thought I’d put this up as a commemoration. The differences in how he and I reacted, for example, to the crowded train station told me a lot about how far removed I have become from the easy, “pre-packaged” life of America. Where Steve saw stress and horribleness, I just chalked up another experience and enjoyed chatting with all the folks crowding into our personal space…

The minority dress is Wulingyuan’s tackiness. Up at the highest point in the park, people crowd around to get pictures taken with these girls in “traditional minority” outfits. As the Chinese are always happy to point out, China has about 130 million residents who are not of the Han ethnicity; they are divided among dozens of not more than a hundred officially recognized ethnic minorities. Some of the biggest get their own autonomous region, such as the Zhuang, of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and the Uighurs, Tibetans, Mongols and Hui of Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Ningxia respectively. The smaller groups often get autonomous counties within a province, or such things. It seems to me that more and more, “traditional minority culture” is becoming in the mainland much as it was in Taiwan when I was there — a tourist curiosity, rather as Native American dress and culture became for White Americans during the 50s and 60s and on. These girls were chewing gum and chatting away with each other between shots with various tourists. Note the different shoes, and the haute traditional blue jeans beneath the dress of one of the ladies.

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