Multiethnic Family Lives in Harmony on Grassland

ByZhang Jiamin May 11, 2022
Multiethnic Family Lives in Harmony on Grassland
Xia Minshan's big family


Xia Minshan's family lives in Old Barag Banner, in Hulun Buir, a city in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The three-generation family has 50 members from six ethnic groups, which are Hui, Han, Mongolian, Daur, Ewenki and Manchu. The multiethnic family lives in harmony — and happiness.

'Rich and Colorful'

It is normal to see a gathering of 40-plus members of Xia's family, each person wearing the traditional clothes of his/her ethnic group as he/she sits and enjoys tasty dishes and snacks popular with the various ethnic groups represented in the family. "We have Hui, Han, Mongolian, Daur, Ewenki and Manchu members, all of whom have their traditional clothes and foods. They speak different languages. Our family's gatherings look rich and colorful," Xia says, proudly.

"General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping, once said the 56 ethnic groups in China are closely united as family members, just like pomegranate seeds that stick together. In our hometown, people of different ethnic groups love and support each other. We live in a harmonious neighborhood, just like the pomegranate seeds," adds Xia.

Multiethnic Family Lives in Harmony on Grassland
Anna (left, Xia Minju's ethnic Ewenki daughter-in-law) and Li Hengxin (middle, Xia Minshan's ethnic Manchu daughter-in-law) help Xia Minju's husband Han Zaili prepare beef to be dried in the open air.


Sixty-year-old Xia and his wife, Wang Zhixia, who is one year younger, are both of the Hui ethnic group. Xia and his siblings have a combined 14 children. Many of their children, of the Hui ethnic group, have married people from other ethnic groups. For example, Xia Minshan's eldest brother, Xia Minsheng, has daughters-in-law from four — Hui, Mongolian, Daur and Han — ethnic groups. "Jiaojiao, wife of my third son, only eats beef, when she eats meat. We cook more dishes with beef if Jiaojiao takes part in a gathering," Xia Minsheng explains.

Xia Baojing, 43, is the daughter of Xia Mincheng, Xia Minshan's second brother. Xia Baojing has been married to Shao Hui for 19 years. Shao is ethnic Han. He spent a long time studying folk customs and wedding etiquette before he married Xia Baojing, who is ethnic Hui. In accordance with Hui customs, Shao took tea and candies when he visited his bride's home. Xia Baojing has helped to make her husband's life more comfortable with the big family on the Hulun Buir grassland.

Xia Minshan's nephew, Han Wei, loves his wife, Anna, who is ethnic Ewenki. Since their extended family lives in a place inhabited mainly by ethnic Mongolians, they gave their son a Mongolian name, Han Gai, which means "a world with blue sky, white clouds, grasslands and rivers."

Xia Zhimin, 25, is the family's eldest grandchild. As she grew up in a family with members from several ethnic groups, Xia Zhimin has enjoyed her extended family's gatherings. "Besides Spring Festival and other folk festivals, we often get together to share happy and interesting experiences. We cook together, and chat, sing and dance, to relax, keep close with each other and release our pressures," she says.

In Xia Minshan's opinion, "equality, mutual respect and inclusiveness" are important to ensuring everyone in his big family lives in harmony. 

Multiethnic Family Lives in Harmony on Grassland
Han Zaili dries beef slices.


Helping Build Harmonious Neighborhood

Xia Minshan owns a food factory, which produces various snacks popular with minority people living on the Hulun Buir grassland. Xia Minsheng is an ironsmith, who is good at making Mongolian yurts and tools herdsmen use in pastures. Their sister, Xia Minju, learned how to make quality beef jerky from her Mongolian friends, and she has since opened a jerky shop. Shao is a technician, who operates a motorcyclerepair shop. He often repairs motorcycles, for free, for his Mongolian and Ewenki friends. Anna is a civil servant, who works at the civil affairs department of the government of Old Barag Banner. She does her best to help people, of various ethnic groups, deal with problems in their daily lives.

Multiethnic Family Lives in Harmony on Grassland
Li Hengxin holds a plate of home-cooked cakes.


"Everyone in our family treats others with patience and has a positive work attitude. Our good family traditions have influenced each member and his/her friends from our neighborhood," Xia Minshan says.

Xia Minshan's food factory caught fire during the winter of 2009; as a result, most of his equipment and raw materials (stored in the factory) were ruined. The accident happened near the end of the year. He had a difficult time hiring workers to rebuild the factory, especially in such a short time and during the cold winter. "Don't be afraid. Let me take charge of the reconstruction, and we will do it together!" Xia Minsheng encouraged his brother. More than 30 members of the family helped.

Multiethnic Family Lives in Harmony on Grassland
Anna and Li Hengxin in their family's restaurant


The following day, many of the Xias' neighbors noticed the Xias had closed their shops and were helping Xia Minshan build something. The neighbors soon realized they were busy reconstructing the food factory. The men in the family transferred building materials to the factory, while the women and the elderly family members cooked for them. Many of the neighbors pitched in. Together, they all worked tirelessly for a month, until Xia Minshan's factory reopened. 

When Xia Minshan recalls the fire, he describes it as "the most difficult time" he has had to endure. However, it was also a period of time in which he received a lot of help from his family and friends — of various ethnic groups — from the neighborhood. Some of his ethnic Han and Hui neighbors accompanied him when he purchased new equipment and building materials. Some ethnic Mongolian and Ewenki friends helped repair the factory. Ethnic Russian neighbors taught him how to make traditional Russian bread.

Multiethnic Family Lives in Harmony on Grassland
Shao Hui repairs a motorcycle in his shop.


Thirteen years have passed since Xia Minshan's factory caught fire. Even today, as he talks about the tremendous help he received while going through the difficulty, Xia Minshan is moved to tears. He and his wife have handed over the factory to their sons. The elderly couple is pleased that their children have made snacks of new tastes. Xia Minshan likes to share snacks with his neighbors, so those who have helped him can share in his family's happiness.

"For a family like ours, with 50 members, from several ethnic groups, everyone in our family benefits from the loving care and support we provide to each other. We learn from each other, and we encourage each other to study and work hard. We create wealth from our diligent work, and we make our life happier and happier," Xia Minshan says.


Photos by Lian Zhen

(Women of China English Monthly April 2022 issue)


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