In China’s heart, its name barely known-Jim Yardley

from the International Herald Tribune ((link)

DONGXIANG, China No, the old man answered, standing in his bare home deep in a mountain ravine, he had never seen an airplane. Tie Yongxiang had never watched television, either. He listened to the informal pop quiz and seemed pleased when he could answer the last question in the affirmative.

China? Had he ever heard of it?

“I know what China is,” said Tie, 68. “It is a country run by people who are supposed to be helping us.”

“Us,” as Tie puts it, are the Dongxiang people, an ethnic group that has lived for eight centuries in the dry, forbidding mountains that make this county in Gansu Province one of the most isolated places in China. Of the 25 townships in the county, 19 do not have a single Chinese resident. Most people do not speak Chinese, and some, like Tie, have only a vague notion of China, even though they live in the middle of it.

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