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Beijing Review Exclusive
Special> Focus on Xinjiang> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: August 10, 2009 NO. 32 AUGUST 13, 2009
The World Outside
An international gathering of anthropologists and ethnologists opens Chinese academics to more conversations about cultures


TASTING TEA: A foreign scholar at the 16th International Congress of IUAES in Kunming is intrigued by China's tea culture during a traditional tea preparation performance (LI MINGFANG) 

The International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) held its congress in China for the first time on July 27-31 since the gala of anthropologists and ethnologists was founded 75 years ago. Scholars believe the milestone congress, which takes place once every five years, will boost international recognition of China's anthropology and ethnological study while prompting Chinese researchers to open further to the outside world.

Anthropologists study the origin, behavior and development of humans. Hao Shiyuan, the 16th International Congress of IUAES Organizing Committee Vice Director, said although anthropology was imported from the West to China in the 1920s, its development has been dynamic in the country.

He said Chinese anthropologists and ethnologists have begun to use their academic findings to solve the country's practical social problems, such as protecting the environment, finding suitable economic development paths for ethnic minority areas and protecting endangered languages.

Hao, who also directs the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China, a developing country going through industrialization, has rich materials for anthropological and ethnological studies. And the country's scholars have launched studies into the four major branches of anthropological studies—physical and cultural anthropology, linguistics and archaeology. He said more international exchange would help the country's scholars to ease social problems and better understand the knowledge structure and social responsibility of the two sciences.

"This congress has provided an unprecedented opportunity for Chinese scholars to learn from their foreign counterparts and for the international anthropology and ethnology arenas to study the level of Chinese scholarship," said Hao.

The China Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, which joined IUAES in 1992, successfully bid in 2003 to host the organization's 16th International Congress in Kunming, capital of the ethnically diverse Yunnan Province.

The IUAES was founded under the guidance of UNESCO in 1948 as an organization of social and anthropological scientists and institutions.

Outgoing IUAES President Luis Alberto Vargas, a Mexican physical anthropologist, said he was impressed with the rise in stature of Chinese scholars in the IUAES. Vargas said China had gone through a slow progression, from sending a few scholars to IUAES congresses to hosting it, which has helped the world to better understand the country's academia.

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