Adapting traditions in 21st century China – Stevan Harrell
The Sani people, an Yi group who live in the hills east of Kunming, have faced the puzzle of modernity longer than most. Many were part of a utopian Catholic experiment started by Père Paul Vial in 1887. Vial wanted them to be modern, educated and Catholic, while still being Sani. He built churches, translated scripture into Sani, published a Sani-French dictionary and purchased land for agricultural improvement projects. He also fought fiercely for Sani autonomy and against what he saw as their oppression by Han Chinese landlords and officials. About a third of the Sani population became Catholic by the time Vial died in 1917, and many remain Catholic to this day.