Yunnanin vähemmistöt: zang eli tiibetiläiset

No nyt on hylätty vanha, risa tietokone ja ostettu uusi tilalle, joten voi taas kirjoittaakin. Ennen näitä tietokoneongelmia kirjoittelin Yunnanin vähemmistöistä, joten jatketaan siitä, mihin jäätiin: vuorossa 13. suurin vähemmistö eli tiibetiläiset.

Joukossa myös yksi suomalainen. Kuva Anne-Marita Laukkanen.


Tiibetiläisiä Yunnanissa on n. 111 300 ja koko Kiinassa 5,4 miljoonaa. Koko maan mittakaavassa he ovat 10. suurin vähemmistöryhmä. Tiibetiläset puhuvat tiibetiä, joka kuuluu sino-tiibetiläiseen kielikuntaan. Tiibetin kieli koostuu useista keskenään ei-ymmärrettävistä murteista. Esim. täällä Yunnanissa puhuttu murre eroaa Lhasa-tiibetistä niin paljon, etteivät puhujat ymmärrä toisiaan. Yhteinen kieli onkin usein kiina.


Suurin osa tiibetiläisistä harjoittaa Tiibetin buddhalaisuutta, jota vanhemmassa kirjallisuudessa on myös kutsuttu lamaismiksi. Kuten hui-vähemmistökirjoituksesta ehkä muistanettekin, osa etnisistä tiibetiläisistä on muslimeja, jolloin heidät luetaan huiksi. Myös vanhan animistisen bön-uskonnon harjoittajia on yhä. Lisäksi löytyy tiibetiläisiä kristittyjä (täälläpäin mm. Cizhongista, jossa sijaitsee katolinen kirkko).

Olen kirjoittanut tiibetläisisä sen verran paljon, etten oikein tiedä, mitä tähän laittaisin. Mielenkiintoinen pointti on, että kiinalaisia syytetään vähemmistöjen eksotisoinnista ja erotisoinnista. Vähemmistöjä edustaa aina kaunis perinteisesti pukeutunut nuori nainen. Tiibetiläiset ovat tästä poikkeus. Ben Hillman onkin tituleerannut heidät macho-vähemmistöksi. Toki kuvastosta löytyy kauniita naisiakin, mutta useimmiten tiibetiläisiä kuvissa edustaa komeat, villit, pitkähiuksiset nuoret miehet (ellei sitten munkit). Siksi olen myös minä valinnut tähän vaihteeksi kuvia komeista miehistä.

Koska aiemin postasia katkelman gradustani, joka käsitteli länsimaalaisten mielikuvia tiibetiläisistä, laitetaan nyt tähän sitten katkelma kiinalaisten mielikuvista.

Kuva minun


Also Dru Gladney (1994) uses the sexual metaphor. He argues that in China “the minority is to the majority as female is to male, as ‘third’ world is to ‘first’, and as subjectivized is to objectivized identity (Gladney 1994: 93).” As we saw the imagery of sexual relations also appeared in Western perceptions but they were in the form of violation and rape. But according to Barnett (2001) the Chinese imagery involves “marriage rather than violation, and the innocence is male, a result not of moral purity but a lack of sophistication or modernity – in other words, an excess of barbarity. In this view, the newcomer in the liaison is not a male violator but a nonviolent female who brings knowledge and advanced culture (Barnett 2001: 274.)” In think this view is interesting especially in the light of what is happening at the local level. Maybe the Han girls marrying their Tibetan boyfriends actually see themselves like this; as the bringers of knowledge and culture to the poor, uneducated, though handsome boys. So, marriage is a metaphor for China’s civilizing mission toward backward people and its modernization project in Tibet.

The Han are also often accused of exoticizing and even eroticizing the minorities (for example Gladney 1994, Heberer 2001). Gladney (1994) uses the ‘Yunnan School’ (Yunnan huapai云南画派) of modern Chinese painting as an example of this. The paintings portray nude minority women. So, again the minorities are seen as female. But in the case of Tibetans, the exotic and erotic is mostly male. Gladney mentions the reported presence of ‘sex tours’ to Yunnan and in our minds eye we can see Han men flocking to Xishuangbanna to see bathing Dai women or Lugu Lake to wonder the walking marriage of the Mosuo people. But in Tibetan areas it is mainly Han girls looking for holiday romance with a Tibetan man.

“It is exactly this exoticism that appears to characterize the official public image of ‘minorities’ in China. Most depictions show colorfully dressed minorities dancing, singing, and laughing in palm groves, on mountain tops, or in downright bizarre landscapes. They dance wildly, fires blaze, and mythic images are created that send a shiver down the spine of the Han-Chinese who view them. In facial structure, figure, and movement these depictions correspond to Han ideals of beauty. The official cultural policy also adapts minorities’ music, song, and dance according to Chinese forms, since the ‘backward’ originals do not meet the Han standards of taste and must be elevated. The other is thus counterfeit (Heberer 2001: 123-124).”

I am not denying the existence of this exotic-erotic image of minorities but what I am arguing is that it is too simplistic. Everything is always seen as ‘done to’ the minorities, forced upon them by the Han. I think that Heberer’s (2001) is a pretty good description of Tibetan music videos, but rather than sending the shivers down the spine of the Han Chinese, I would see the Tibetans themselves shivering. The greatest consumers of Tibetan dance and music videos are Tibetans themselves. For example, many evenings we turn the TV on Lhasa channel as it broadcasts Tibetan singing and dancing programs, and if nothing good is on, we might watch it from DVD instead. And, like I argued in discussion of the mediascapes, this imagery is also how they would like to see themselves. Yes, traditional Tibetan songs are being converted into pop songs with disco beat but I would call this Westernization rather than Sinicization. Tibetan pop is also sometimes sung in Putonghua (普通话) but if the artists desire to have a bigger audience it is better to have the lyrics in a language that more people can understand. No one is criticizing artists singing in English. And it has worked. Tibetan pop is very popular all over Yunnan. I have seen Bai women in Dali performing ‘traditional’ Bai dances danced in Tibetan pop. So, many times the Other is counterfeit but it is not something that is forced upon them. And why would Sinicization be so much more capable of erasing Tibetanness than Westernization or ‘Bollywoodication’, for that matter? Like Shakya (2008) states:

“Tibetans inside Tibet are comfortable with Chinese pop, while Tibetans in India prefer Bollywood. When Dadon, Tibet’s biggest pop star at the time, defected from Lhasa to India in 1995, she was shattered to find that there was no audience for her music. She was virtually unknown and the exiles accused her of singing Chinese style songs. (Shakya 2008: 22.)”

But as Barnett (2006) writes: “‘Tibetanizing’ practices in themselves have no inherent purity of purpose or origin, and it is easy to find examples of economically driven and government-mandated fabrications of the celebration of Tibetan identity (Barnett 2006: 39).” Because tourists will pay a lot of money for a Tibetan-style products, Chinese and foreign entrepreneurs as well as Tibetans, have been quick to cash in on this trend. He also notes that it could actually be said that Chinese culture is so addicted to demonstrating its tolerance of and admiration for its minority nationalities that it is almost impossible to find examples of Chinese pop videos, television programs, books, paintings, music, and costume that do not include Tibetan or other nationality features (Barnett 2006: 39-40). So it could be said that it is all a matter of a point of view. Instead of denigration there might be fascination in the majority’s enthusiasm with the minorities. It could also be argued that the Chinese attitude towards its minorities it not that exceptional. A leaflet promoting eco-tourism to villages in Luang Namtha, Laos, for example, advertise:

“This trip is focused on four ethnic tribes (Hmong, Lantan, Akha and Khmmuand) living in five villages. The villages make a living from collecting the natural products, working on rubber tree orchards and promoting their culture (customs and music) for eco-tourism. All the tribes are very happy to show tourists their handicraft weaving, embroideries, cotton spinning-wheel, rice pounding, blacksmiths as well as their local music instruments and their traditional songs. (Luang Namtha Travel –leaflet.)”

But, as we have seen, in many ways the models presented by Chinese and Western political texts are very similar as Robert Barnett (2001) argues: the phrase “Tibet’s unique natural environment,” for example, is standard in Chinese official texts. What is the difference between the two views is that, for example, when the Chinese official conception sees the uniqueness as backwardness that needs to be advanced or educated through the process of social evolution, the Western conception sees it as something quaint or special that needs to be preserved or returned to earlier condition. At a basic level the differences between the Western and Chinese political representations are small. (Barnett 2001: 277.) According to Adams (1996) the potency and popularity of the ‘Western position’ in relation to the ‘Chinese position’ can be seen in the fact that whenever Western discursive positions are not used in accounts of modern Tibet, the Western author is often accused of subscribing to the ‘Chinese version’ of Tibet and Tibetans. Even the understandings of the people themselves can be seen as false if it does not support Western image of ‘reality’. I overheard a conversation once in Zhongdian where two Westerners were discussing their conversation with a local Tibetan about the Tibetan history. I do not know what was said in the original conversation but in the end the two foreigners agreed that the Tibetan person had a right to his/her views but those views were uninformed, that us-Westerners know things better. At this point I just had to take part in the conversation and I asked if they know, for example, about the Great Game and the events that took place during that period. No, they did not. This part of history had somehow escaped the attention of these know-it-alls.

An interesting approach to the Tibet Question is taken by Robert Barnett (2001) who treats the different political representations as texts. According to him treating these representations of political status or nationhood as texts of the imagination does not mean that they have no power or validity. But they can be seen as constituting the collective imagining by a great number of people forming a description of their identity and relations. This imagining is organized around a selected principle or idea to which they ascribe the certainty of fact. This also means that these texts are authored: They exist because people produce them, not because there is some ‘reality’ that allows only a single interpretation. The discussion of Tibet has been characterized by the collection of facts of different kinds in order to ascribe certainty to one or another of these organizing ideas or imaginary representations. If we view the Tibet Question the way Barnett suggests, the debate between China and Western promoters of Tibetan independence is not really a debate. “It is more the presentation by each side of a strongly held collective imagining that is persuasive only to those who already share that imagining (Barnett 2001: 271).” In the Chinese case, it is the image of China as an integrated nation-state with its borders delineated in some ancient historical past. In the case of the foreign supporters of the Tibetan case, the image is based on a notion that is held to be preexistent or overriding such as, for example, the right of a nation to independence or the right of a people to cultural or religious freedom (human rights). These rights are seen to be violated. “In both cases primordiality is the driving force of the argument: On the one hand, China has existed as a unified state including Tibet for centuries, and on the other, Tibetan culture, identity, or society has existed independently for millennia (Barnett 2001: 271).”

But, according to Barnett (2001), if we judge these representations by the political message they are intended to convey, and by the benefits they offer to those who buy into their imagery instead of some moral principles, the difficulty with the Western representations of Tibet as a victim is that if these promises were ever actualized, the offer they hold for their adherents is the restoration of pride and support for a nationalist ideal. But since these are essentially symbolic or psychological conditions, the sustainers of these representations do not have the power to enforce or actualize their texts. The offer implicit in China’s representation of Tibet is that China will provide the material  and financing for what it defines as civilization or modernity, a promise that it has the ability to carry out and to some extent it has already done so. (Barnett 2001: 277-278.) So instead of all the talk about free Tibet it would be better to concentrate on something more realistic and attainable which might also be more beneficial to the people, like more real autonomy and greater rights. Who actually believes that free independent Tibet can be attained through non-violent demonstrations in the Western world?


Adams, Vincanne. 1996. “Karaoke as Modern Lhasa, Tibet: Western Encounters with Cultural Politics.” Cultural Anthropology, Vol.11, No. 4, (Nov., 1996), pp. 510-546.

Barnett, Robert. 2001. “’Violated Specialness’: Western Political Representations of Tibet.” In Imagining Tibet. Eds. Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, pp. 269-316. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Barnett, Robert. 2006. “Beyond the Collaborator – Martyr Model: Strategies of Compliance, Opportunism, and Opposition within Tibet.” In Contemporary Tibet: Politics, Development, and Society in a Disputed Region. Eds. Barry Sautman & June Teufel Dreyer, pp. 25-66. New York and London: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

Gladney, Dru C. 1994. “Representing Nationality in China: Refiguring Majority / Minority Identities.” The Journal of Asian Studies 53, No. 1 (Feb., 1994), pp. 92-123.

Heberer, Thomas. 2001. “Old Tibet a Hell on Earth? The Myth of Tibet and Tibetans in Chinese Art and Propaganda.” In Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections and Fantasies. Eds. Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, pp. 111-150. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Luang Namtha Travel –leaflet.

Shakya, Tsering. 2008. “Interview: Tibetan Questions.” New Left Review, Vol. 51 (May, June 2008), pp. 5-26.

Kuva minun

Ps. suurimmat pahoitteluni kuvaajille, joille en ole antanut kunniaa heidän upeista kuvistaan. Jostain syystä nettini antaa kuvahaulla vaan yhden sivun kuvia. Koska olen tallentanut nämä kuvat jo aiemmin, en nyt pysty löytämään sivuja, joilta kuvat tallensin. Jos joku löytää kuvien sivustot, voisitteko kertoa minullekin, jotta kunnia menee sille kelle kuulukin.

9 vastausta artikkeliin ”Yunnanin vähemmistöt: zang eli tiibetiläiset

  1. Haluaisin kysyä sinulta erästä asiaa.

    Olen miettinyt kummilapsen hankkimista ja blogisi kautta Tiibet on tullut yhdeksi vaihtoehdoksi. Onko sinulla tietoa, mitä kautta kannattaisi asiaa lähteä selvittämään ja mikä olisi luotettavin tapa saada apu perille?

  2. On toisaalta ymmärrettävää, jos alat panostaa niille paremmille englanninkielisille sivuille. Vaikkakin oma kielitaito siltä osin on minimaalinen, joten sitte joutuu enemmän vain katselemaan kuvia. Mutta kuvistahan mie tykkään!
    Sen sivuston osoitehan löytyy tuolta oikeasta yläkulmasta, vai?


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