“Preserving Cultural Heritage for Ethnic Minorities in Contemporary China”—a Service-learning Subject of CBS
The service-learning subject “Preserving Cultural Heritage for Ethnic Minorities” by the Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies (CBS) has been offered twice since its launch. One objective of the subject is to enable students to understand the tension between the ethnic cultural preservation and the economic difficulties caused by contemporary China’s development, and to raise their awareness of minority cultural values and the danger of extinction of ethnic minorities in China.
Students went on a journey from Hong Kong to the Grand North of China to the Orochen community (鄂倫春族) in Inner Mongolia. After doing a site visit of the Orochen’s settlement and acquiring basic information about the Orochen’s way of living, students were required to interview the Orochen, record and transcribe individual stories of the Orochen, write fieldwork diaries, exchange with high school students there, and report outcomes to the interviewees in the following 10 days. Upon returning to Hong Kong, students prepared group presentations, edited the findings and sent them to the Orochen community, displayed their findings in the campus exhibition, and produced documentaries and books.
This subject took students out of their routine classroom setting and brought them into an unfamiliar environment, stimulating their aspiration of knowledge, as well as enhancing their sensibility and awareness of social responsibility. Its influence will be profound and reflective as students discovered a different mode of being embodied by the Orochen’s traditional wisdom and dignity facing abject poverty and fuzzy boundaries in nature. Students’ usual sense of “truth” has been impacted on by the Orochen’s emphasis on the continuity between humans and non-humans. With a heavy heart, students realised what they could contribute because Orochen culture almost disappeared. The experience has also led all participants to ponder the human quality that this subject aims to retrieve.