PERCEPTIONS OF MINORITY CULTURES IN CHINA AND THE US
Preliminary Lesson: "Future
Will Be Better"
Theme: A Society in Transition
Using a single, simple artifact from contemporary China, students
will be asked to speculate about what can be learned about a large
and complex culture. The Chinese cola label will be compared to
the archaeologist's shard, a small piece of a culture with surprisingly
Grade Level: Middle school through high school (6 - 12)
Materials: A label from a Chinese "cola" (Future
Cola) bottle and a label from a Coca-Cola bottle.
· To demonstrate to students concepts of cultural diffusion,
cultural borrowing, or even violation of copyrights;
· To explore manifestations of the spread of American culture
· To discuss the lure of the American Dream.
Time Required One teaching period.
Assessment Demonstration of ability to draw conclusions from an
· written reactions in the form of journal entries;
· a formal essay following class discussion;
· class discussion;
· formulating follow-up questions and ideas for future cultural
· Students are presented a Future Cola label. (The actual
label may be displayed, or each student may find a color copy of
the label as a header to a work sheet.) They are informed that it
was obtained on a recent trip to China.
1. Does the Chinese label seem at all familiar to you?
2. List the similarities between the Future Cola label and the Coca-Cola
3. List the differences between the two labels.
4. Why "Future" Cola? What are the implications of the
5. What are the implications of the slogan, "Future will be
6. What are the implications of the American slogan, "Enjoy"?
7. Does the marketing of Future Cola have implications for the status
of communism in China as an active economic philosophy?
8. What does the Future Cola label suggest about Chinese attitudes
toward American culture?
9. Why do American products seem to be so popular abroad?
10. Can you think of other American products which seem to represent
the American way of life? What do these products suggest about the
lifestyles of Americans?
11. In addition to American-made products, what other aspects of
life in the U.S. seem to be popular with other nations? What do
they suggest about our way of life?
· Students may work in groups and select reporters from
each group during the discussion phase of the lesson.
Lesson: Perceptions of
Minority Cultures in China and the United States
Theme: Minorities in China and the U.S.
Students will, through the assigned readings, analyze the concept
of a "minority" culture. Readings will focus on how China
defines its ethnic minorities and whether all of its minorities
equally. An attempt will be made to determine whether the Chinese
concept of minority cultures can be differentiated from the term
as it is used here in the United States.
The political events taking place in the opening years of the twenty-first
century (particularly perhaps since the fall of the Soviet Union
at the end of the twentieth) provide ample incentive and motivation
to become more familiar with what is happening in Asia.
Events in the former Yugoslavia, the crisis between India and Pakistan
over Kashmir, the situation in Chechnya, as well as in a host of
other global flash points, just as much as the more or less dormant
crises in China over the Tibet and Xinjiang provinces, all argue
for a greater understanding of what it means to have a national
identity. It is clear that issues of identity involve the notions
of race, ethnicity and religion.
Grade Level: High school (juniors and seniors)
· To introduce and examine the broad spectrum of minority
cultures in China;
· To analyze the very notion of what it means to belong to
a minority culture;
· To explore any differences in the way the Chinese concept
of a minority culture appears to differ from our own use of the
· To gain a deeper understanding of the subject through assigned
classroom readings as well as through independent research;
· To explore the relationship between the issue of ethnic
minorities here and abroad, and its relationship to issues of globalization,
national identity, and tourism;
· To become familiar with the unique politics of Tibet and
Xinjiang (provinces labeled autonomous by the Chinese government);
· To have students make comparisons to area crises in Chechnya,
Time Required: A one- to two-week unit.
· Preliminary, "warm-up" lesson on cola bottles
in China and the U.S.;
· Stephen Mansfield's essay on "History and Politics"
in China: Yunnan Province (The Bradt Travel Guide);
· Stevan Harrell's Introduction
to Cultural Encounters on China's Ethnic Frontiers;
· Photographs and text from Ethnic Groups in China depicting
each of the minority cultures;
· "Exhibits" in the form of books and journal articles
depicting China's ethnic minorities;
· Internet resources.
· Students will participate in classroom discussions of folk
traditions and determine what they tell us about a given culture
or national identity.
· Students will participate in classroom discussions in which
they analyze the character of Monkey and of his companions on the
journey, and make comparisons to similar heroes from other world
· Students will write a culminating essay or paper on the
· Begin with the lesson on cola bottle labels both for its
intrinsic interest and as "Exhibit A" of the trend toward
globalization (and/or Americanization).
· Assign Stephen Mansfield's "History and Politics"
in The Bradt Travel Guide and Stevan Harrell's Introduction
to Cultural Encounters on China's Ethnic Frontiers to be read
at home, prior to class discussion.
· Using a variety of sources, explain the special cases represented
by Tibet and Xinjiang.
· Using Ethnic Groups in China, provide illustrations of
the various ethnic groups (in costume, of course).
· Classroom discussion of the texts.
· Sample pivotal questions:
1. Would you expect a book like Ethnic Groups in China to be published
here in the United States?
2. Do China and the U.S. seem to use the term "minority"
in the same way?
3. Do Harrell's metaphors (viz. the sexual, historical, and educational
metaphors) apply to the American experience?
4. What are the political implications of the fact that Chinese
minorities, being only 8% of the population, occupy some 62% of