Daily Archives: 19 January 2009

A Uighur Dance Hall in Urumqi

From Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China, by Blaine Kaltman (Ohio U. Press, 2007), pp. 56-57:

In Urumqi, Han bands often learn Uighur songs and perform at Uighur bars. Most of these are Uighur-owned and Uighur-operated and have an almost entirely Uighur staff and clientele, although there are usually a few token Han waiters and customers. The musicians performing Uighur songs at these bars, however, are almost always Han.

There is also a disco in Urumqi that has a Uighur clientele but whose owner is Han. The staff is all male and almost entirely Han. However this does not dissuade Uighur from coming—and coming in droves—every night of the week. Between 11:30 p.m. and 3:00 a.m., the disco is packed.

The DJ is a Uighur woman, and all announcements are made in the Uighur language. She plays Uighur popular music, with a few Russian and Indian songs mixed in. I never heard any Han songs played. Toward the end of the night, an occasional American pop song is played—Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys. After every fourth or fifth song, the dance floor clears, and a Uighur dance team—sometimes two men and two women, sometimes three women, all dressed in traditional Uighur outfits—performs traditional dances. Although the music is traditional, a computerized dance beat is almost always mixed beneath it. And even though the Uighur women hold candles during some of the dances, modern strobe lights still flash to illuminate and intensify the performance.

The disco’s clientele on any given night is entirely Uighur. Most of the patrons are in their mid- to late twenties, although there are some older people and a few families who bring their teenage children. Some of the older women wear head scarves and long sleeves, although most female patrons, regardless of age, dress in jeans or skirts. The women in this disco do not dress as revealingly—or formally, for that matter—as Han women typically do in Han discos.

Most of the dancing, despite the modern music, has an air of traditionalism. Uighur spread their arms like wings and circle each other with pride. During slow songs, men and women dance together. Women also dance with other women, and sometimes men dance with men. The women who wear head scarves usually dance with other women. Occasionally they dance with men, probably their husbands. However, when these women dance with a man, they dance without touching.

According to the disco’s owner, “Han don’t usually come here because they don’t like Uighur music. Maybe they think it’s interesting at first, but they prefer modern Han music. I opened this place because I had been in other Uighur discos and knew they could make money. Uighur don’t mind who runs their disco, they just want a place to go play.”

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Filed under Central Asia, China, music

Japan’s Women vs. Children Left Behind in China

From Memory Maps: The State and Manchuria in Postwar Japan, Mariko Asanoi Tamanoi (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 91-92 (Japanese kanji added):

Today the Japanese state and media woman call [women abandoned in Manchuria at war’s end] chūgoku zanryū fujin [中国残留婦人](Japanese women left behind in China) and distinguish them from chūgoku zanryū koji [中国残留孤児] (Japanese orphans left behind in China) in terms of age and gender. The latter were born of Japanese parents, mostly agrarian colonists, in either Japan or Manchuria, and were younger than thirteen at the time of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. In the wake of Japan’s capitulation, their parents entrusted them to Chinese families, either because they were too sick to take care of their children or because the latter had little hope of survival. Children who were orphaned or accidentally separated from their families were also adopted by Chinese families. Today, owing to the tender age of these children at the time they were separated from their relatives, they are unsure of their mimoto, their “roots” [身元]. Since the mid-1970s, such children have been urged by the Japanese state to prove their identities as Japanese in the system of nation-states. Only those who have successfully proved their Japanese nationality have been officially allowed to return to Japan permanently.

In contrast, chūgoku zanryū fujin is a gendered category, referring to women who were over the age of thirteen when separated from their families. By 1945, most Japanese men older than thirteen had already been mobilized into the Youth Brigade or military. Hence, whether they were married or not, the women in this category had been left to take care of themselves and all the children. In the turmoil after Japan’s capitulation, some of these women chose to marry Chinese citizens for their own survival, and they stayed in China. These women are different from the children who were left behind in one important way: because they were older, they firmly remember their roots as well as the Japanese language. Precisely for this reason, the Japanese state deemed these women old enough to make choices when they were left on their own. Thus until 1993, the state did not permit them to return permanently to Japan; they were regarded as belonging to China as the spouses of Chinese citizens.

The set of terminology is confusing largely because the difference between the women and the children was artificially created by the Japanese state and media. In addition, the categories excluded Japanese men older than thirteen who left in China as of 1945. In 1994, the Japanese state admitted this confusion. Through the Repatriation Support Law (Kikoku shienhō [帰国支援法]), the state eliminated the differences between the two categories and combined them under the umbrella term of chūgoku zanryū hōjin [中国残留邦人] (Japanese left behind in China). Nevertheless, this term too has generated confusion; as a result, the state and media continue to use the two earlier terms today.

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Filed under China, Japan, language, migration, nationalism