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Popularizing Putonghua and Protecting the Endangered Ethnic Minority Languages within the Framework of Scientific Planning and Overall Consideration

By LIU Dairong     ZONG Wei       PENG Yun

The Chinese nation has an unbroken history of more than 5,000 years of civilization. It has created a rich and profound culture and has made an unforgettable contribution to the progress of human civilization. Over the course of several thousand years, what have closely bound us together, the 56 ethnic groups of China’s 1.4 billion plus people are our indomitable struggles, the beautiful homeland we have built together and the national spirit we have nurtured together. Running through this history, most importantly, are the ideals and visions that we share and hold dear. The common ideals and beliefs are shown in the “five identities”, among which Chinese cultural identity is the key element”. Cultural identity is the deepest and most ever-lasting identity, the root of national unity and the soul of national harmony.

Han and other ethnic cultures are components of the Chinese culture, which is always the spiritual home for all ethnic people and is a bond that unites various ethnic groups. Ethnic cultures make up an inseparable part of the Chinese culture. The culture of each nationality is like a trickle, converging into the ever-surging river of Chinese culture. Chinese Tripitaka in versions of Mongolian, Tibetan, Manchu and Chinese languages vividly interpret the cultural exchanges and blending of various ethnic groups. Gesar of the Tibetans, Jianggar of the Mongolians, and Manas of the Kirgiz, are the three major epics of the ethnic minorities, which fill in the gap in the history of Chinese literature. The Dream of Red Mansions by the Manchu writer Cao Xueqin is an immortal monument in the history of Chinese literature. All ethnic cultures flourish, thus Chinese culture has deep and strong roots, which is the driving force for the continuous growth of the Chinese nation, the lifeblood of Chinese national identity and the spirit of the Chinese nation.

At present, there are some misinterpretations. Some people equate Han culture with Chinese culture but ignore the culture of ethnic minorities; some people of ethnic minorities put their own culture outside Chinese culture and lack of identification with Chinese culture; some people think that popularizing the national common spoken and written languages will lead to the weakness or even extinction of their own national culture, all of the above opinions are incorrect and are not conducive to our building a common spiritual home, which should be resolutely overcome. It is wrong not to allow a nation to identify with its own culture, and it is not contradictory to identify with Chinese culture and identify with its own ethnic cultures.

 

From the perspective of cultural anthropology, Mr. Fei Xiaotong advanced the concept of cultural self-knowledge course, perfecting each other, appreciating the beauty of others, and each being in its proper place. Chinese culture is broad and profound with a long history, and cultures of all ethnic groups continue to grow. One important reason is that all ethnic cultures are colorful and our nation has a moral pursuit and thread that have been carried on for generations. Mr. Qian Mu has his own unique views on nation and culture. He believes that “Culture is only the assembly of human collective life, and culture must have a subject, that is, the nation.” The inheritance of each national culture depends on its own spoken and written language. However, if we want to let other ethnic groups understand their own national culture, and then make the spread of their national culture longer and more lasting, we also need to rely on the national common spoken and written language. To make the world understand China, we need an international lingua franca. If we want other nations to know ourselves, we also need the help of the national lingua franca. Therefore, the promotion of the national common spoken and written languages can only be more conducive to the exchange and integration of our national culture and other national cultures, and then provide rich nourishment for the development of Chinese culture.

 

Since the Central Conference on Ethnic Affairs in 2014, China continues to increase funds in promoting socioeconomic development in areas inhibited by ethnic minorities, including major overall measures covering the entire ethnic minority areas, special policies tailored to ethnic minority areas, while continuing to promote the implementation of a number of opinions on the prosperity and development of ethnic minority cultural undertakings. The Program for Developing Ethnic Minority Areas and Ethnic Groups with Small Populations during the 13th Five-Year Plan Period issued by the State Council has a special section to strengthen the promotion of cultural prosperity and development. It’s stressed on the Central Conference on Ethnic Affairs that it is necessary to strengthen the protection, inheritance, and innovation of the cultures of all ethnic groups, promote the coordinated development of cultural undertakings and cultural industries, and promote the prosperity and development of Chinese culture as a whole. We should also strengthen the protection of the excellent cultural heritage of ethnic minorities, implement key cultural relics protection projects, focus on rescuing and protecting the intangible cultural heritage such as national traditional classics, folk literatures, folk cultures, folk music and dance, and do a good job in the protection, rescue, arrangement, publication and research of ethnic minority ancient books. All the above measures are to protect, inherit and develop the culture of ethnic minorities, because they not only carry the historical origin and development of ethnic minorities, but also relate to the spiritual outlook and value of the whole Chinese nation.

In China, while popularizing Putonghua, the protection, use and development of minority languages have been paid more and more attention by the whole society, and ethnic minority languages have got developed unprecedentedly, which has played an important role in promoting national unity, social stability and cultural prosperity. A number of measures have been taken to ensure that ethnic minorities use and develop their own spoken and written languages. We scientifically continue to rescue and protect the spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities, especially that of endangered ethnic minorities. More attention has been paid to the development of the researches on minority languages, and the informationization of minority languages has gradually sprung up. Therefore, the Chinese Communist party’s national language policy is to promote national unity, and then better transform the wisdom and strength contained in national unity into a powerful driving force for the development of the Chinese nation in the new era.

(LIU Dairong is an associate professor at the School of International Languages and Cultures, Yunnan University of Finance and Economics; Zong Wei is a Ph.D candidate at the School of Ethnology and Sociology, Ming Zu University of China; PENG Yun is an associate professor at the School of International Languages and Cultures, Yunnan University of Finance and Economics

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