I’ve been reading about the history of the Shimenkan village for the past week, and I also organized my notes from the interviews I conducted over the summer.
The minority Miao came to this isolated village to avoid conflict with other minorities that lived in Southern China. Over time, their culture was passed on generation after generation. Before Christianity came to the village, the Miao minority mostly believed in folk religion. People prayed to the soil god and the rain god for good harvest, and their lives lacked basic science. When people got sick, others could only pray. Medicine was not known to many people except for the common herbs. At this village, people go blind at fairly young ages because of the water and soil are heavy in a kind of metal. And this is still an issue today!
Samuel Pollard, the preacher who brought Christianity to this village, had a significant impact on the local culture and history. Along with the religion, he also brought education, medicine, science, and he even helped the villagers to create their own written characters. Before this creation, the Miao villagers only had a spoken language, and they did not have written characters. Pollard was inspired by the traditional design of Miao people’s clothing, and he created some characters based on the patterns of women’s dresses. He helped to complete the Miao’s language with Latin roots. He helped the villagers to build the first school and the first hospital which were defining moments in the village’s entire history. Pollard and another scholar named HuanZhang Zhu became the educator for Miao’s people. Together, they helped Miao people to live their lives in the field and in the church. This way, people could grow food to sustain their lives, and they also fulfilled their spiritual life.
I specifically remember one thing said by an old villager: Pollard arrived at the land with no money, but hope. The work Pollard had accomplished is absolutely amazing and they are still affecting the village today.
Next week, I will be looking at the difference between Pollard’s effect and the current Chinese government’s effect on the village.