Rethinking ‘Hanhua (Sinicization)’: A case study of Dai-Han relations in Dehong, Yunnan
In multiethnic Southwest China, many people, including Han immigrants and native peoples, recognize that sinicization (Hanhua漢化) is taking place. However, the term is often used in a relatively ambiguous way. This term conceals cultural diversity and the dynamic changes taking place in society rather than representing the reality of the situation. In this presentation, I take the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Region德宏傣族景頗族自治州 in Southwest Yunnan province as a case study. The first purpose is to investigate who uses the concept, and the nuances involved. The second purpose is to clarify the reality of Hanhua in local society. The principle inhabitants of the lowlands in Dehong are Dai傣族, but the whole Region has experienced two types of in-migration by the Han over history. The first inflow from the Ming period was low-key, progressing relatively slowly, while the second inflow since the 1930s has moved at a fast pace. Both inflows produced different types of cultural transformation that have turned Dehong into a showcase for various types of Han-Dai cultural configurations. The talk will focus on the prevalence of various kinds of Guanyin cults that symbolically exemplify the situation of ‘Hanhua’. I will explain the reality of ‘Hanhua’ using analytical concepts like syncretism and hybridity. By doing so, I aim to capture the cultural diversity and change inherent in the term Hanhua, and to recognize the reality of the local society.