Dongxiang days

Updated: 2011-10-05 08:57

(China Daily)

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Dongxiang days

Editor-in-Chief of China Daily Zhu Ling hands out stationery as gifts for students at Zhongbao Hope Elementary School. [Photo by Xu Jingxing / China Daily]

China Daily reporting team returns with new appreciation of life in rural Gansu province

For generations, people here have managed to get around in the bleak terrain of Dongxiang county with its thousands of ridges and valleys. But getting out has never been easy.

On the dry and forbidding Loess Plateau in Northwest China's landlocked Gansu province, most of the county's 284,000 population are pious Muslims. Among China's 56 ethnic groups, the Dongxiang people may be the least educated. One reason: the autonomous county, as large as London in area, generated an annual per-capita income of less than 2,000 yuan ($317) in 2010.

That's what a group of young and senior China Daily reporters learned from the Internet about this ethnic group before they set foot on this remote land.

"Before trudging 4 km on the muddy road and having my shoes stuck in the loess, I did not really understand why Ma Xiuying, a 13-year-old girl, said she could not go to school five or six days every term because of rain or snow," said one of the reporters, Wang Huazhong.

Dongxiang days

Goat traders negotiate prices in the traditional manner with their hands concealed in their sleeves. [Photo by Chen Jia / China Daily]

For a week last month, the journalists ate and talked with locals, living their life for one important goal: to befriend the Dongxiang people and to help outsiders better understand the community.

Acting as ambassadors from the outside world, the journalists discovered that while some locals are switching to MP3s and adapting to the latest technologies, others are determined to keep their traditions - such as bargaining over the price for a goat by hand gestures in each other's sleeves.

"Life is hard, but I'm impressed by the locals' resolve to live with hostile conditions," said another reporter, Chen Longxiang. "That encourages me."

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