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Fieldwork in People’s Republic of China

Cheese drying (Michael Long, 2015)The blessing of a family fire (Michael Long, 2015)A local man playing music inside the ruins (Michael Long, 2015)Prior to arriving in Cambridge, I undertook 10 months (2013-2014) of pre-fieldwork in Xinjiang, PRC.  There I had the privilege of taking part in two provincial government research projects, the first of which investigated the legacy of Xialiwan Living Buddha of Hoboksar Mongolian Autonomous County and the second regarding cultural preservation in Turpan Prefecture.

Part of the first program took me to the northernmost region of Xinjiang where we conducted informant interviews within a Tuvan (considered a subgroup of the Mongol ethnicity in the PRC) community in the region of Kanas which borders Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia.  We also witnessed the blessings of Kanas Lake and the family fire and ovoo of a Tuvan household.

The second program I was only able to participate in the last phase of the project, which included the inspection of the implementation of ruin preservation at the ancient city of Gaochang, just outside present-day Turpan.  Due to the popularity of this tourist destination, locals built shops and shaded areas against the city wall, damaging the ancient ruins.  I was able to observe the detailed inspection conducted by officials after the execution of orders to remove the structures and preserve the ruins.

From top right:

Before the blessing of an ovoo, the research group was invited to have a meal including fried bread, milk tea, and the above cheese. The cheese shown above is currently drying, and won’t be ready until next season.

The blessing of a family fire. The ritual included all males in the lineage who were able to be present (shown in the photo), whereby the male head of the household was seated to the left of the Lama and unfortunately not shown here.

A local man playing music inside the ruins.