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Miaozu, Christianity, and Modernity: A Critical Review on "Shimenkan Study"

Shu-Li HUANG (Academia Sinica)
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Framed as a critical review of five historical ethnographies published between 1992 and 2015, this paper offers an intellectual history of the study of Shimenkan. Shimenkan is a small rural village near the provincial border between Yunnan and Guizhou. It is also known as the center of Ahmao Christianity and of the Ahmao literacy tradition before the communist state took over in 1950. Because Shimenkan's church-school system was very successful in transforming the "savage Ahmao" into "literate Christians" / " Chinese citizens", it has attracted abundant attention from Chinese ethnologists since the 1930s. Thus the history and ethnography of the village have been well-documented. And perhaps Shimenkan should be credited as one of the most famous villages in southwestern China. The contrast between Christian Shimenkan before 1950 and Communist Shimenkan after 1980 constitutes the theme of the recent " Shimenkan Fever ". This paper examines " ethnological interventions" on Shimenkan narratives, identifies the bias that has consistently existed in Shimenkan study, and argues that the bias has made Christianity less and less relevant to Ahmao modernity.

Journal of History and Anthropology