An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China

Front Cover
Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998 - History - 434 pages

Since Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms began in the early 1980s, the People's Republic of China has rejoined global politics as a world power. The country is likely to become more open and its internal politics will no doubt affect the rest of the world. With more than 1.2 billion people divided into hundreds of ethnic groups, all dominated by the Han people, China's politics and its foreign policy are bound to be affected by ethnicity and ethnic rivalry. This book is designed to give librarians, students, scholars, and educated readers a ready reference for background information of interpreting ethnic events in China.

Generally defining ethnicity in terms of language, this book provides individual essays on hundreds of Chinese ethnic groups, including ethnic groups living in the Republic of China on Taiwan. The book also includes a chronology, bibliography, and a breakdown of the People's Republic of China's ethnic political subdivisions.


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This is not a tremendously reliable source. It is nice to have a litany of ethno-linguistic groups in one place, but the accumulation of mistakes adds up to rather sloppy scholarship. In addition, the references cited are not the most reliable -- travellers, National Geographic, and decades old research about the same ethnic groups in other parts of the region (e.g., SE Asia). I would recommended it only as a starting point for a non-expert in the area -- and ONLY as a starting point. In addition, I'm told by scholars of China that the transliteration of Chinese words is irregular (inaccurate and not standardized). Finally, based on my reading of their contribution on the Lisu, the group I know best, it's full of old Chinese canards about those 'others' over there. Not recommended.  


Autonomous Ethnic Political Units in the Peoples

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About the author (1998)

JAMES S. OLSON is Distinguished Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at Sam Houston State University. He is the author of more than 25 books on U.S. and world history, including his most recent Historical Dictionary of the British Empire (Greenwood, 1996) and The Peoples of Africa: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary (Greenwood, 1996).

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