China hunting tribe struggles to preserve culture

GMT 10:38 2015 Monday ,06 July

Arab Today, arab today China hunting tribe struggles to preserve culture

Chinas last falcon hunting tribe Jilin
Hohhot - XINHUA

Bai Li steps off stage and flashes a big smile, her traditional costume sparkling under the sun as she takes a break from her dance routine.

"It is very difficult to sing in my ethnic language and to dance in these clothes, but it's worth it because the audience has embraced my culture," Bai, an Orogen minority told Xinhua after a performance organized by the Morigen Troupe for the Performing Arts of Orogen.

The troupe is part of ongoing efforts to save the distinctive culture of the Oroqen ethnic minority in north and northwestern China, dubbed "China's last hunting ethnic minority", as younger generations shift away from tradition.

On Sunday, officials with the Orogen Autonomous Banner in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region announced they will introduce measures to save the Orogen culture by developing cartoons in their language and resuming local ethnic shooting teams.

"We will also organize local Orogen people to manufacture ethnic handicrafts," said He Xueguang, deputy head of the autonomous banner.

It's a race against time, as the minority's culture is already facing extinction. Government statistics show that only 300-odd people within the banner can fluently speak the Orogen language, which has no written characters.

"These days, almost all young Orogen people speak Chinese, and many of them cannot understand the Orogen language spoken by the older generation," Nei Shumei said, sighing with helplessness. The 71-year-old Orogen woman worries that as the situation becomes worse, the language of her people might fade into history.

He Liangang, an Orogen man in Inner Mongolia, blames evolving life for the gradual loss of culture.

"We no longer live like our hunting ancestors, so there is no need to communicate or dress like they did," He, who wears jeans and a T-shirt, said in eloquent Chinese.

To contain the trend of extinction, Inner Mogolia's Guli Township formed the Morigen Troupe for the Performing Arts of Orogen in April last year, with Bai Li as the head. The troupe incorporates the traditional Orogen songs and dance numbers, as well as presenting ethnic clothes when members perform in various venues.

"So far our troupe has recruited more than 20 members, the oldest being 68 and the youngest 12," said Bai, who doubles as the township head. Bai said the troupe staged 20 performances in the latter half of 2014, with each member earning more than 4,000 yuan (644 U.S. dollars). But she said her troupe is not about making money, rather its about passing on the culture of the Orogen people.

"Orogen culture is very unique," Bai said. "As a part of the ethnic group, it is our responsibility to bring it back to life."

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