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In the Embrace of Southern Fujian--Xiamen University Caring for our Native Region

ICE    Public:ICE    Datetime:2009/5/9
In 2001, the first Symposium on the Culture of South Fujian was held in Xiamen ... The second and the third symposiums were held in Quanzhou and Zhangzhou. The fourth symposium on the theme of "The Culture of South Fujian: heritage and innovation" was held in Xiamen in December, 2007 ...

In June, 2007, approval was granted for the setting up of the first "cultural and ecological zone" in China, the pilot South Fujian Cultural Reserve.

The "Minnan" culture of South Fujian has been attracting increased attention from the general public, and become the research area of a growing number of scholars. Among the latter, those at Xiamen University unquestionably enjoy an advantage in terms of geographical location and cultural proximity. They are closer to Minnan culture, and have a deeper understanding and a distinctive perspective. A recent interview with Prof. Guo Zhichao from the Ethnology and Anthropology Department of Xiamen University lends great insight into this culture. Prof. Guo was formerly the Vice Dean of the Department of Anthropology and the Director of the Xiamen University Institute of Anthropology.

Prof. Guo believes that the decision to study the Minnan culture at Xiamen University is entirely natural on both conscious and unconscious levels. The specific location of Xiamen University in South Fujian has given the University the predominant position in studies of the culture. For scholars who are native to South Fujian, to care for and preserve the Minnan culture is to care for their native region. For those who are not natives, the intimacy with South Fujian that they experience encourages them to focus more closely on the local culture, and to feel greater passion for their studies.

The richness and the special connotations of the Minnan Culture is another reason why it it is attracting so much attention from researchers into culture. On the one hand, its particular geographical location has rooted the Minnan culture deeply, both in the ancestral Chinese mainland and in Taiwan. For a long time, the Minnan culture connected the Taiwan compatriots and overseas Chinese closely with their motherland, thanks to its wealth of features and particular fascination. The Minnan culture is the ancestral culture of those on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, evidence of the unbreakble connection, in their roots their and cultures, between the peoples of both the Mainland and Taiwan.

On the other hand, the Minnan culture marks out an important dialect group in China. Studies of the Minnan culture are not only concerned with the preservation of the cultural diversity of China, but also serve to meet the psychological needs of Minnan dialect speakers. It is widely held that regional economic development requires the support of its local culture. For that reason, the close focus on the Minnan culture is essential for building the foundations for the economic development of the region. At the same time, the study of Minnan culture leads to better communication with other cultures.

To Prof. Guo the study of Minnan culture proceeds from two main aspects, namely the study of the Minnan region in ancient times and the study of the region in modern times, the latter including the viewpoints of both Minnan residents and those of non-natives. Over recent years, studies at Xiamen University have focussed on such areas as the ethnic history of Southeast China, the folk customs of Southeast Fujian,folk beliefs in southern Fujian, also on the ethnic history and cultures of South Fujian minorities, on Han nationality group in the Southeast China and on the Minnan dialect. With its unique and comprehensive perspective and its rich accumulation of academic expertise, Xiamen University remains the main force devoted to the preservation of the Minnan culture.

Finally, Prof. Guo explained his ideas on how to care for the Minnan culture. He says, "The question is how to handle the relationship between conventionality and modernity." He thinks that culture researchers should re-construct the Minnan culture from a non post-modernist angle, in other words, enrich it and innovate on the basis of preserving its traditions. In line with the principle behind the protection of non-material cultural heritage * "to preserve them, to maintain their vitality and to make innovations" * preservation is the fundamental premise of cultural maintenance and innovation. Furthermore, the role played by the Minnan culture should be clarified; it is one branch among a variety of traditional Chinese cultures. "Any Chinese regional culture is inseparable from its motherland, whose various nationalities, like the branches of a great tree, cannot survive without the support of the trunk; like children, they can never forget their mother."

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