The Korean Ethnic Minority is the 13Th Largest Ethnic Minority Group in China (P.R.C.).
In 1949 AD, immediatly after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China the Yanbian Korean Ethnic Minority University was created in Jilin Province. It was the first such Ethnic University to be established in the Nation. Not much later, in 1952 AD during the establishment of a National Ethnic Minority Protection Plan the new Chinese government gave Koreans their own autonomous region in North-East Jilin Province on the Border with North-Korea. This Area, Yanbian was upgraded into an ethnic autonomous prefecture, the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in 1955 AD.
Korean Ethnic Culture in China :
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The Korean Ethnic Minority is the 13Th Largest Ethnic Minority Group in China.
The Main population of Koreans is found at Yanbian Korean Prefecture located in the extreme North-East corner of Jilin Province, directly bordering on Russia and the North-Korean Border. A very small minority of Koreans have migrated further into China's Central plains where they can be found in medium sized and large cities. Beijing, for instance, knows its own small Korean enclave within ChaoYang District about which more in spring of 2009 AD. In Xi'an there is another Chaoxian Enclave.
Although since 1982 AD, historic documents have proven that the Chaoxian had been living in the Northeast region of China from as early as the Ming and Qing Dynasties,
most Korean Minority Members are descendants of early Korean Immigrants of the 19Th and early 20Th Century, currently the Korean Minority includes large numbers of North Korean Refugees who managed to flee from North Korea across the Border and now reside illegally in the North-West of China. There are an estimated 10.to 100.000 or more.
Eversince the great famines of the 1990's the influx of North Korean Refugees has greatly increased. The Chinese Government however is unwilling to grant official refugee status to North Korean refugee migrants and those found by the Police are deported back to North Korea to face a grim future. In the last few years strict penalties have been given to those found harboring Korean Refugees, in a vain attempt to diminish the considerable local support and sympathy for the fleeing North Koreans.
History of the Korean Minority in China :
The ancestors of the Korean minority in China immigrated directly across the border from the Korean Peninsula. The first wave of Korean immigration began in the latter part of the 17th century, then only consisting of small numbers. The first settlers only trickled in from across the border, settling in less populated area's where they continued Korean styles of agriculture, especially concentrating on rice farming.
Large Scale immigrations of Koreans into North-Western China did not occur until the 19th century. They first wave of Koreans migrated in order to avoid the oppressive feudal landlords in their Korea looking for better opportunities across the border with China. A second later wave was mainly caused by the great famine of 1869 AD and the third wave of Korean Migrants arrived during the prolonged period of Wars between Russia and Japan and during the lenghty Japanese Occupation of Korea and Chinese Manchuria in the first half of the 20th century.
Not much is known about the Life in Korea during the Japanese Occupation, but life was hard, the Japanese installed Government oppressive and in general the Korean Culture was threatened. For instance: eventually the Korean Language and its literature were banned entirely from schools in the Korean Occupied Area's under Japanese Rule and all Koreans were forced to adopt a Japanese Surname. As a result, many Korean Nationalist, dissidents and educated peoples fled the Nation. One way out was across the Chinese Border into Manchuria.
In China the Korean Ethnic Minority are known as the Chaoxian, refering to the Chinese Signs used to describe the Nationality.
The Members of the Korean Ethnic Minority in China are considered to be in a relatively advanced position, demographically and socio-economically. Education is considered very important among the Korean Minorities. Their illiteracy rate is the lowest among the 56 Minorities and the college attendance rate of Koreans is the highest of all Chinese Minorities. Through the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Ethnic Networks the Korean Nationality Community have their own communication and education networks preserving their culture, social position and identity.
Among the latest developments for the Korean Minority in China are grave challenges. The Korean minority has been experiencing a deep social change, as other nationalities are, since China (P.R.C.) adopted reforms and open door policies. The “compact community” of Korean agricultural villages, the basis of their traditional lifestyle, is facing a crisis of disintegration. Koreans in China are hoping for economic development and, at the same time, are concerned about losing their ethnic identity.
Most if not all of the Koreans in China use their own Korean language in spoken as well as written form, however today the vast majority is bilingual, using Chinese spoken language and signs as well.
Due to their high level of education and strong ethnic identity the Korean Minority has a fairly well developed culture and education. Since the end of World War 2, the
Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, or Yanbian ChaoXianzu ZizhiZhou, measures 42,700 square kilometers (roughly 45% of the Size of South Korea) and is located in the far North-Eastern Corner of Jilin Province where it borders on both Russia and North-Korea. To the North and West lies the Russian controlled area of Primorsky Krai with the nearby City of Vladivostok. Yanbian Prefecture has two counties, Antu and Wangqing.
The Korean Prefecture has only 2.2 million inhabitants (the total population in Yanbian in 2008 was 2.185.500, of which 58.34% Chinese, 38.76% Korean, 2.9% other minorities) concentrated in Six major population centres. These are Dunhua, then the Prefectural Capital City of Yanji (Yon'gil) counting 399 thousand citizens and Yanji Chaoyangchuan Airport, LongJing and Tumen somewhat famed for its bridge (the Tumen-Namyang bridge) and border-crossing into North- Korea. As a Last point may be mentioned the small city of Hunchun underneath the south slope of the Selin Mountain of some 160.00 citizens. The Eastern most population center in the prefecture is Fangchuan, an attraction only because of its remote location in view of both the Russian and North-Korean Borders.
A Satellite Image of the Korean Peninsula and Parts of China's North-Eastern Liaoning and Jilin Provinces giving a rough idea of local borders and towns.
- Mouse over Image to reveal the location of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture !
Technically, the Korean Language is thought to belong to the Altaic family.
In Chaoxian (Korean Ethnic) families, men are traditionally responsible for taking care of matters outside the home while women's duties revolve around caring for the inside of their homes. Women however participate in agricultural and work on the Farm if required.
In 1953 AD, according to census there were 1 million 120 thousand 405 Ethnic Koreans in China. The Korean population in China numbered 1,920,597 in 1990. According to the Year 2000 AD National census there were 1 million 923 thousand and 800 Koreans living in China. The latest numbers show a small drop in the number of Korean Minority Members.
Among all 56 Minorities, the Koreans have the lowest growth rate.
Basically, the Korean minority celebrate the same festival as the Han people which including the Lunar New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Qingming Festival, the Pure Brightness Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, etc. Besides these, they have three important days which are celebrated in their families - a baby's one-year birthday, a senior people's 60th birthday (Huijia Ji) and a couple's 60th wedding anniversary. At these joyous times, guests will give gifts to the person or couple being honored and will also celebrate by enjoying the host's delicious dishes.
To celebrate a baby's first birthday many guests would be invited to attend a dinner party. Huajia festival is the sixtieth birthday and the huihun festival is the sixtyieth wedding anniversary of a couple. On Huajia Festival, the elder person whose 60th birthday is being celebrated in his best clothes sits in the middle with the other old people sitting on both sides. His children, grandchildren and relatives kneel down in front, offering him wine one by one to show their respects and thanks.
The Huihun Festival, also named Guihun Festival, is the most ceremonial family festival. It is a great honor for a family to hold this festival and is often a communal affair for the whole village. On this special occasion, the couple will wear their wedding dress and attend the banquet held by their children and grandchild. All the guests will toast the couple and wish them a long life.
Among the Korean Ethnic Minorities respect for the elderly is very important. The Koreans even have their own Day of the Elderly, marked as August 15th. On this day younger people traditionally are forbidden to drink or smoke in front of their elders, are expected to walk behind their elders and should give way and greet elders when meeting them showing a maximum of respect.
In the Chaoxian family (often of agricultural backgrounds) the elder son is expected to support his parents forever. Anyone who is not dutiful to their parents will be looked down on by all of their society.
Social Life :
The Korean people are especially good at singing and dancing. They sing and dance not only during the festivals, but also in the leisure time and during the breaks in work.
The Korean dances are graceful and elegant, a harmonious combination of strength and flexibility. The famous folk dances include the Tambourin Dance, Fan Dance, Carrying Water Dance, Sword Dance, Dance of Happy Farmers, and more. During many dances girls Dance with Drums and Fans, whereas their male counterparts dance with a Dagger or Knife in their wastebands.
The songs sung by the Korean people are beautiful, natural and full of inspiration and expressive force. The famous Korean folk songs like the balloon-flower ballad, Alilang and Along Noduer River Side are widely known throughout China and Korea and are sung on many occassions. The Koreans value aesthetics, and educate their children to appreciate beauty.
In modern Times Koreans like athletic sports like football, wrestling, skating, springboard and playing swing. Traditional sports are wrestling and footbal for men, and seasaw jumping and swings for women. For the men wrestling is the traditional test in strength and skills.
Today Football is especially popular among the Korean men and Yanbian area has a reputation as of the "land of football". Several players from Yanbian have made National Careers and no less than 6 have been elected for the Chinese National Team.
Most of the Korean villages are located near the mountains and rivers and have only a have relatively few citizens. Many have only 7 to 12 households and consist purely of frams, others villages are larger with dozens of Families and several available services. Until very recently, the houses in and around Yanbian Prefecture were constructed out of wood (easily available) and either had a tiled-roof or even a straw thatch-roof. Due to the large increase in living standards throughout the nation since the 1990's houses now have more modern amenities and thatched roofs have all but disappeared.
The doors of Korean Houses (farms) open to the Southeast, South or Southwest. Korean house usually have a wooden framework and a roof of four sloping planes covered with a thick layer of straw or tiles. Their house usually has three doors in the front side and four rooms: bedroom, reception room, kitchen and warehouse.
The most striking feature of the Korean house is the flat heatable bed (known as kang). Built with bricks or thin stone slabs, the surface of the kang is covered with wooden boards or fiberboard which is decorated with yellow lacquer polish. A flue underneath heats the kang keeping it warm in the cold winter.
In and around Yanbian, Shoes are left at the Door before entrance into the Home.
The traditional hanbok style consists of silk clothing, adorned with small, delicate and subtle decorations. The silk cloth can be died in many different colors, which depend on the occasion for which the dress will be worn. On happy occassions, bright red and other colors may comunicate and enhance the festive mood. Naturally, official events call for more serious attire which is often communicated through the color blue, light or dark, or other similar tones. In mourning periods, the dress is all white.
As during the rule of Mao Zedong over China (1949 - 1976), the age of mass collectivation and totalitarian dedication to communist zeal, Koreans were extremely limited in openly demonstrating their national (ethnic) culture and according fervor, most Chinese and Koreans living in north China resorted to only wearing their traditional style of dress during funerals and mourning and during the Lunar New year period. Hence, among Han Chinese the Koreans aquired the reputation of "the people in white". Partly due to the fact that traditional style was only seen worn by members of funeral processions and secondly due to the seemingly special Korean tendency of love of the color white.- In the strongly Confucian influenced Korean society of the past - the color white was a symbol of simplicity and serenity since ancient times.
With the latest economic developments in China, the opening up to the world, and the rise of such inventions in communications as cellphones, satellite TV and the Internet, young Koreans are have changed in attitudes and are abandoning Korean Dress, chosing instead for more regular clothing in the styles of City Citizens.
Korean Traditional men's ware often includes a white short buttonless frocks with dark-colored sleeveless jackets outside. The Jackets close on the right. Their trousers are loose (baggy) with the trouser legs fastened with two cloth-straps at the ankles. The true traditional Men's costume is than completed with a high black hat made out of horse-hair.
Nowadays most of the Korean men wear western-style clothes and their traditional costume is worn only on special occasions such as festivals or weddings.
In their traditional dress, Korean women usually wear short buttonless jackets and long skirts. Their jackets, about 35 centimeters long, are tied with a red, blue or purple ribbon. Their silk skirts, have many folds at the waist.
Young women often wear short skirts, which reach their knees, while the older women wear the longer skirts down to their instep. Various fashionable dresses are now popular with the young women.
Diet / Food :
Yanbian traditionally is an agricultural community of small farms. For the Farmers of Jilin Province, many of whom are Ethnic Koreans, Rice is the staple food for the Korean people. Millet the second staple in the Region. The Rice and Millet are complemented with soup, catsup, piccalilli sauce, pickles and kimchi (pickled chinese cole in peppersauce). Koreans are famous for their cold noodles and also eat corn. Depending on economic standing small amounts of Beef, or fish or squid are added to the menu on an infrequent basis.
The Diet of City based Koreans may differ from the traditional pattern.
The Korean people are mainly engaged in agriculture. They are especially good at growing paddy rice in the frigid regions where they reside (average Januari Temperatures range between -20 to -14 Celcius). The Yanbian area, where most of the Koreans live is the main production area of paddies in Northeast China. Local Agricultural Products include : rice, beef, precious herbs, corn, red peppers and flue-cured tobacco. Yanbian specifically is famous for its apples and pears, which have been exported since 1955 AD.
This area also has abundant natural resources: animals, plants and minerals. The famous "Three Treasures" of the Northeast, namely ginseng, marten fur, and pilose antler are found at Yanbian Prefecture and throughout the Province.
The oxen bred in Yanbian is one of the fines breeds in the five big producing areas of China. This area is also one of China's major sources of timber, mainly drawn from within the Changbai Shan National Park and the slopes of the Sikhote-Alin Mountains. Due to its remote location and rough climate the area is a habitat for many wild animals, including the Manchurian or Siberian Tiger.
Jilin Province furthermore has rich deposits of mineral resources such as copper, lead, zinc, gold, iron, antimony, phosphor, graphite, quartz, limestone and oil shale.
Copper, lead, zinc and gold have been mined at Yanbian and sites in Jilin and Heilongjiang Province since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and the area has a substantial mining industry and railway connections to support it. Railroad upgrades giving direct connections into Primorsky Krai and North Korean Harbors have been in operation since 1998/2002 AD.
The earliest Korean people arriving in China practiced totemism and ancestor worship. Their religion was shamanist. Today, there is no longer a uniform religion for this minority. Many Ethnic Koreans are atheist. Among those who consider themselves as religious, most are of the Christian Faith. A small numbers of the Koreans have adopted Chinese Religious influences, practising Buddhism or Confucianism.
Read More on the Religion(s) of the Korean Ethnic Minority in China on this page:
Korean minority in Yanbian operate their own cultural channels and networks. First to appear immediatly after 1945 AD were Newspapers in the Korean language such as the Jilin Daily (later renamed the Yanbian Daily), Heilongjiang Daily and the Liaoning Daily. The Yanbian Korean Publishing House was founded in 1947 AD at Yanji the Capital of Yanbian Prefecture, and the Yanbian People's Radio went on the air in that same year.
The Yanbian Ethnic Korean University was founded in Yanji in 1949 AD, the first such Institute established in the new Nation of the Peoples Republic of China. Other important institutions of higher learning established during the early post-liberation period include the Yanbian Medical Institute, the Yanbian Amateur Agricultural University and a teachers college.
The Yanbian Prefecture and wider Korean Ethnic Community in the North-East are further well-known for their cultural- and art-performance troupes and Korean cultural organizations. The Yanbian song and dance, modern drama and theatrical companies are famous all over the country, and many Korean artists study at advanced institutes in other parts of China.
At the prefectural level, Korean ethnic minority organizations are the United Association of Yanbian Culture and Art Workers and the Yanbian Branch of the Chinese Writers Association.
A Complete Map of China (PRC) identifying all Language Areas big and small in all Provinces & Autonomous Regions of China.
Map includes Turkic Languages (Uygur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Salar & Uzbek), Mongolian Language and Sub-Divisions (Mongol, Tu, Daur and Dongxian), Tungusic Peoples (Oroqen, Evenki and Xibe) and Languages, Korean, Tajik (Tadzhik), Mon-Khmer (Kawa + Puman (or Pulang)), Hui, Uygur (Uighur), Tibeto-Bhurman Languages, Tai and Miao, Yao and She' Language Area's and Borders. Further included. This color-coded ethno-linguistic Map (of 1967 AD) identifies at a glance most ethnic minority regions in China
Map China Ethno-Linguistic / Language Distribution China
The Korean Traditional cuisine is very spicy and includes kimchi (pickled vegetables), cold noodles, sticky rice cakes and dog meat.
Kimchi is a kind of pickled vegetables favored by Koreans. It is usually made in winter, and the main ingredients are cabbage and carrots which are spiced with garlic, capsicums, gingers, salt etc.
Especially Famed among Korean foods are the Cold-noodles with their unique flavor. They are a traditional cooked wheaten food of the Korean people. It is made of buckwheat, wheat-flour and amylum. Complemented with some beeves, chicken, capsicum and seasonings, the cold-noodles taste quite delicious.
The most popular meat dish among the Korean people is dog meat. In Fact, the Koreans are about the worlds' only Culture to eat dogs, giving the Koreans some international fame for their unusual cooking of dog-meat. Most foreign visitors to Yanbian are very interested in dishes made with dog-meat. Among the rare delicacies to be tested - Dog-meat soup is considered especially delicious. Even today, Korean people continue their tradition of treating their guests to a "Dog Meat Banquet". However Killing and eating dog is forbidden during weddings, funerals or festival periods.
Other traditional Chaoxian Korean dishes include Dagao, sponge cake and capsicum.
A 45 Minute Introduction to Traditional Korean Food & Cuisine by Discovery Channel.
Table settings are very important within Chinese Culture, but even more so in Traditional Korean Culture. When eating together at a table, dishes must be placed in particular positions. The spoon and chopsticks should be on the right, rice should be to the left of the soup, and seasonings should be in the middle of the table. As elsewhere in China, Teapots should never point to any of the guests at the table as this causes unluck.
Hanok - See and learn of the uniqueness of traditional Korean housing and design !