The Problems of Chinese Identity

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Chiara Tuzzato, major in Chinese language and culture at Ca’ Foscari University Identity, Heritage and Globalization: Mid-term paper The problems of Chinese Identity: Han versus Minorities Identity China has always had a strong tendency in consider itself as a united and unique country, separated from the rest of the world. Since the Han period (206 B.C.-220A.C.), and later through the succession of the Dynasties, the shifting territories that belonged to the Empire had developed a primeval idea of Chinese identity, based mainly on the imperial central authority and a symbolic conception of power. This complex political symbolism combined the traditional cosmological theories, which had a Confucian matrix, with the influence of other cultures, such as the Tibetan Buddhism. Even if there have been several influential predominant cultures that penetrated and conquered the leadership throughout the centuries (namely Mongolian and Manchurian cultures, Buddhism and also partially Islamism). In Modern Era the idea of a collective Chinese identity has focused on the basis that Chinese population is composed for the great majority by people belonging to Han cultural and ethnic group. Since the end of the Empire and the foundation of the Chinese Nationalist Republic in 1911, and throughout the process that led to the creation of People’s Republic of China in 1949 until the very present day, Chinese rulers had made a strong effort to legitimate their power, creating a new modern Chinese identity that could be shared by the multitude of different ethnic, cultural and religious identities scattered all around the immense territories that we now call China. From the start of the modernization process it has been a central question for the intellectuals of the beginning of the century to determine what must be preserved and what should be abandoned in the traditional
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