Ethnic minorities struggle to preserve culture
With rapid modernisation, many minority groups are finding it a struggle to keep their ethnic traditions alive, including the ethic Li – one of the largest minority groups in China’s southern island of Hainan.
The ethnic Li were one of the earliest settlers on Hainan island some 3,000 years ago. For centuries, they were mainly farmers, fishermen and merchants.
One distinctive feature of ethnic Li women is the tattoos on their legs and faces. However, the practice has since been outlawed, due to the pain and cruelty.
"Right now there are only about 3,000 women with tattoos on their bodies. They are the last generation to be tattooed. In another 20 to 30 years you won’t see such women anymore," said Mr Chen Guodong, ethnic Li expert.
Another distinctive feature of the ethnic Li minority is their elaborate cotton and linen textiles and embroidery.
Intricate but time consuming to produce, they are fast becoming a disappearing art.
"During the Han dynasty, the embroidered items were used as tributary gifts to the imperial courts," said Mr Chen.
"In many areas in Hainan, we’re trying to preserve the tradition. The young aren’t interested in it anymore. Middle-aged women need to be literally holding the hands of the young to impart the skills to them."
"In the past, the embroidery were for their own use. Now, we help them to promote and sell their products. The provincial government also purchased these products to be used as gifts to visitors," said Ms Sun Su, Hainan Sanya CPC standing committee member.
With a population of 1.4 million people, the ethnic Li minority is the largest minority group on the island.
However, like other ethnic minorities elsewhere in the country, their economic development and advancement have fallen behind that of the Han majority.
In a bid to improve their livelihoods, many have moved to urban areas in search of jobs.
They have either settled down elsewhere, or have assimilated with Han communities.
Even though efforts are underway to preserve the ethnic Li culture and traditions, there are concerns that it might be too little, too late.

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