Deep in the mountains in the west of the Gansu Province, you will find the remnants and deep heritage of one of Chinas 56 unique people groups. Allow me to introduce you to the Yugurs. Many might confuse them with the Uyghur people who occupy much of North Western China, both by name and culture. In fact the Yugur people are distant descendants of a clash between the Uyghur people and the nomadic Mongolian tribes. There are estimated to be less than 15,000 of these people left in the world. Thats less than most American universities!! We had the unique opportunity to have lunch with these unique people and learn about their history and culture.
Admittedly we were a little disappointed when we reached their village, and saw no-one dressed in the very colorful, traditional clothing seen in any photos of the people. We were also surprised to see the beautiful mountain landscape be interrupted by drakes building high rise apartments. Can you escape construction anywhere in China?! But almost immediately, we met a man who seemed to have some influence in the town and he invited us to the cultural center being built to celebrate and preserve the unique customs these people have developed but are slowly losing to globalization and tourism. You would hardly be able to distinguish these once nomadic people from any other minority group in China. They dress the same as you and I and will soon be living in modern accommodation, abandoning there portable tents.
Meeting these people, and talking over a translation app, we soon saw how important there heritage still was. They made sure we had their cultural dishes and insisted on seeing they state of the art museum that has gathered ancient artifacts of their ancestors. They still put on lots of traditional festivals where they don the traditional colorful garments and funky hats. This beautiful lady sits outside the museum showcasing and preserving the unique culture of the Yugur people so that passersby may appreciate the rich and ornate beauty of their old way of life.
Overall it is very sad to see so many of these unique cultures slowly being swallowed up by globalization and industrialization. Their quality of life is hopefully improving thanks to modern technologies and improved social systems, but what makes them unique and special is being lost. So glad I am in the era where traveling the world is made easy to modern technology, but still being able to catch the tail end of some of these unique people groups.