Blog EntriesContemporary Society

ZGBriefs The Weeks Top Picks, May 15 Issue

Geographic and cultural divides and differences understanding them and bridging them were common themes this week.

Chinese railroad workers honored for linking East and West (May 9, 2014, Salt Lake Tribune)

Most of us are probably familiar with the famous photos of the joining of the transcontinental railroad that was taken 145 years ago this past Saturday (May 10). Absent from these photos are the Chinese laborers (today we would call them migrant workers) who did the actual work of building the railroad.

In Salt Lake City last week, a group set out to begin changing our perception of that historic event:

A two-day celebration of the indispensable but often ignored role played by Chinese workers in building the transcontinental railroad completed 145 years ago Saturday began Friday at Utah's state Capitol. These workers, more than 11,000 in all, didn't just brave dangerous labor conditions to link the East and West coasts of the United States in 1869, said Margaret Yee, a former state Asian affairs adviser who has railroad workers on both sides of her family tree.

For more information on the railroad, visit the website of the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah.

One Uighur Man's Journey in Two Cultures (May 15, 2014, Tea Leaf Nation)

The animosity and increasing tension between the majority Han population and the Uighur of north-west Xinjiang has been in the headlines often this year. One young Uighur man is seeking to bridge the chasm by sharing his story.

Kurbanjan Samat is a 32-year-old ethnic Uighur photographer working for CCTV, China's state-owned television station. He is a native of Hotan, a predominantly Uighur oasis town in the south of China's Xinjiang autonomous region that has an urban population of 360,000, according to official data.

Kurbanjan settled in Beijing, which lies more than 2,600 miles to the east of Hotan. In part to reach out to Han who might want to gain more insight into what is happening in Xinjiang, he spoke with journalist Zhang Chi in a lengthy first-person narrative article that was published in the April 30 issue of Phoenix Weekly, a Hong Kong-based news magazine.

In telling his story, Kurbanjan gives his father credit for enabling his family to interact with and succeed in mainstream China:

In southern Xinjiang, it would be nearly impossible to find another family like ours. I attribute that to my parents, especially my father. He loves talking to strangers, respects educated people, and is always learning something new .

It's a long piece but well worth reading.

Wheat vs. Rice: How China's Culinary Divide Shapes Personality (May 9, 2014, China Real Time)

How does one explain the differences between northern China and southern? Apparently it's in the rice.

In China, as in many countries, the north-south divide runs deep. People from the north are seen as hale and hearty, while southerners are often portrayed as cunning, cultured traders. Northerners are taller than southerners. The north eats noodles, while the south eats riceand according to new research, when it comes to personality, that difference has meant everything.

A study published Friday by a group of psychologists in the journal Science finds that China's noodle-slurping northerners are more individualistic, show more "analytic thought" and divorce more frequently. By contrast, the authors write, rice-eating southerners show more hallmarks traditionally associated with East Asian culture, including more "holistic thought" and lower divorce rates.

The reason? Cultivating rice, the authors say, is a lot harder .

Now we know.

Image credit: Guilin, Longsheng, by Jack French, via Flickr

ChinaSource Team

Written by members of the ChinaSource staff.  View Full Bio