--- SEARCH ---
Learning Chinese
Learn to Cook Chinese Dishes
Exchange Rates
Hotel Service

Hot Links
China Development Gateway
Chinese Embassies

Excuse Me, Where Are You from?
Discrimination and antagonism have various excuses: race, sex, age... In contemporary China, add geography to the list.

Many companies that advertise job vacancies in Shanghai newspapers put in a caveat: "Not from Sichuan or Anhui".

The first time it happened, there was much fury or and comment. A lawyer seriously considered filing a lawsuit.

But the practice has become commonplace now.

Shanghainese think people from North Jiangsu Province are poor, not fashion-conscious and have bad taste.

Sarcastic jokes are spread on the Internet about the meanness and untrustworthiness of people from Henan Province; and in pop culture, people from Northeast China provinces are depicted with funny accents who drink heavily and make empty promises.

It is not a new phenomenon. Stereotypes of people from different geographical areas have existed for hundreds of years.

They are embellished by proverbs like "Above heaven there are nine-headed birds, on earth there are cunning Hubei people", and "Slippery Beijingnese, empty-talking Tianjinese, and dog-legged servants from Baoding".


New immigrants to Shanghai, or other big cities in China, often meet with inquiries of "where are you from?"

And an impression is formed about the people based on where they come from.

Does the place have a rich cultural heritage? Is the place poverty-stricken? Did any celebrities originate in that place? All the information about a hometown is linked to the person, in one way or another.

Professor Gu Xiaoming, of the History Department of Fudan University, said people - to a certain extent - are defined by local culture and general characteristics of their area.

For example, he said, Shandong was the home province of Confucius and Mencius. Shanxi, though not a rich province, had developed successful business practise in history. Chengdu, the capital Sichuan Province, has a long history and cultural lineage.

All these are part of the root of regional culture.

Representative professions of specific regions also affect the image of people from these places.

Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang Province, became wealthy by producing and selling light industrial products when China started to open up and encourage private enterprise.

But the city also gained a reputation for producing fake and low-quality products. And the people from the area also suffered - they were seen as cheats and lacking credibility.

And people from North Jiangsu Province are badly discriminated against in Shanghai because of their low social status in their initial years in the city.

They left home because of poverty and did manual work, giving local people an excuse to look down upon them. Even decades after the situation changed, the snobbish urban culture of Shanghai continues.


Another reason for discrimination is the unbalanced Chinese economic development, said Gu. That explains best the discrimination against people from Henan Province.

There have been many negative news stories about Henan: the spread of AIDS because people sell blood or poisoned rice.

Writer Zhou Daxin from Henan said: "People in Henan have suffered living conditions worse than other places of China. Henan is burdened with historical problems. From ancient times, the area had military strategic importance so that it became a battlefield whenever there was a war. Years of conflict and chaos destroyed resources and made it impossible for people to live a rich and peaceful life."

Henan is a farming province with a large population. Jobless levels are high. Poverty-stricken locals take up any profession to make a living: from selling their blood to counterfeiting licenses and diplomas.

The authorities of Henan tried to change the image of the province by burning the fake and low-quality products they seized, just like Wenzhou did to show its determination to eradicate such business practices.

The fires did wonders for Wenzhou's image but didn't work in Henan - people rushed to the fires to grab the products before they were destroyed.

"If these people had good earnings and education just like you and me, with a living standard no lower than people from any other big city, who would risk being burned?" asked an author identified as Cong Chong, on the culture channel of Sina.com.

Mass Media

The mass media also plays an important role in the strengthening of geographical stereotypes. Turn on the TV and you see people of low social status speaking in a North Jiangsu dialect or cheating businessmen speaking with a heavy Guangdong accent.

Actor Gong Hanlin makes a living perpetrating this media stereotype. Gong is from Northeast China, but most times he appears on stage, he speaks with a heavy southern accent - playing a businessman setting traps to cheat people.

"Local characteristics do exist in the long history of China but our culture and media magnify these characteristics to create such images," Gu said.

"We can't eliminate these differences just by saying 'all men are born equal'," Gu said. "But there are good points in every local culture. What we should do is to look for and learn from the good points of others." Everything marked "dissimilar to us" is worth good attention, he said.

(China Daily HK Edition August 6, 2002)

Chinese Professor Urges to Eliminate Discrimination
First Case Involving Right to Equality
Fighting Against Racism Important
'Sex-discrimination' Ads Come under Attack
Print This Page
Email This Page
About Us SiteMap Feedback
Copyright © China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-68326688