Projects: China's Outer Lands
By Q. Sakamaki
This project covers China’s peripheral provinces or regions that have been home to many different ethnic groups: Uighurs, Tibetans, Manchus and Bais for example. Their languages and religions were, and are, often very different from those of the Han Chinese — many people in these outer regions celebrate Islam, like the Uighurs and other peoples of Turkic ancestry, or strictly practice Mahayana Buddhism, like Tibetans. These groups have historically been located at significant crossroads, often called as Silk Road or Step Road and romanticised by the West or foreigners. However, in the regions that I name as “China’s Outer Lands”, changes in the balance of power over time have created waves of migrants looking for better lives, often resulting in another war.
Today, they face another historical upheaval -- the phenomenon of China's massive economic development with millions of ethnic Han Chinese migration into these regions. It helped China become the biggest economic power next to United State. However, such a movement has also created enormous economic disparity as well as conflicts between the old guards (including not only ethnic people but also early-migrated Han Chinese themselves) and the newcomers. Now many minority groups are rapidly becoming strangers in their own homes. In this modern context, the people in China's Outer Lands must struggle, whether consciously or not, redefining their identity, for survival.