Many, if not all, of China’s 55 recognized ethnic minority groups have found their way to Beijing in one form or another. Some have long histories in the city, while others arrived recently in search of better lives; some have neighborhoods to maintain, while others hold on quietly to identities that they consider barely different from those around them. Beijing may still be about 96 percent Han, but look closely and it’s not quite as homogenous as it first seems.
For this month’s cover story we sought out individuals from the city’s three largest non-Han groups: Manchu, Hui and Mongol, which between them make up more than four-fifths of Beijing’s ethnic minority population. This week we'll be publishing the three-part series.
In the Minority: Huis Facing Mecca from Beijing, by Oscar Holland
In the Minority: Manchus, The Last Emperors, by Dominique Wong
In the Minority: Mongols' Original Organic Lifestyle, by Noelle Mateer
Their histories and cultures are vastly different and, perhaps more interestingly, all three groups have unique ways of protecting and reconciling their identities in a rapidly changing city.
Life can be difficult for minorities in Beijing. Despite the development of affirmative action (including bonus gaokao points, tax breaks and exemption from the one-child policy before it was abolished), many from minority groups will face some type of discrimination in their lives. Currently, only 20 percent of Beijing’s minority population earns more than the city’s average salary.
Yet, those we speak to rarely complain. Instead, most express muted optimism about how their identity fits into the wider context of life in the capital. The challenges they face are often ones shared by people of all ethnicities in the country – it seems modernity can pose as much of a threat to preserving identities in today’s China as being outnumbered does.