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CHINA BOUND: A Guide to Academic Life and Work in the PRC
The quality of cooking on ordinary days varies widely in remote areas —from enormous quantities of tastily prepared fresh vegetables and meat to much less appetizing fare. Many researchers enjoy eating at the tiny independently run restaurants, while others note that sanitary conditions in such places may be inadequate and can cause digestive upset or worse. Of course, there will be no restaurants at all outside the towns and villages. If you have a favorite instant food that can be prepared by adding boiled water, or if you insist on morning coffee, bring some with you for times when you prefer a simple meal at home.
In recent years, many foreign scholars have conducted research in ethnic minority areas, and anthropological research may be easier to arrange there than in Han regions. Scholars contemplating research in ethnic minority areas should read the summer 1991 issue of China Exchange News, which is devoted to an examination of anthropology and ethnology in China. Many of the minority populations live in remote areas along China's borders that are more sensitive politically than the coastal areas with which most Westerners are familiar. Several researchers have had very successful visits to such areas (see, for example, Matthew Kapstein, "New Sources for Tibetan Buddhist History," CEN, Fall/Winter 1991), but others have had difficulty getting permission to conduct research in sensitive areas, even for such innocuous projects as data collection on minority languages. Relations between the dominant Han majority and China's national minorities have always been sensitive, most notably in Tibet and Xinjiang. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and growing ethnic nationalism everywhere, China's national minorities problem is even more delicate. U.S. field researchers are still conducting productive research in these areas, but conversations with colleagues who have preceded you may help to prepare you for the particular problems you might encounter.
EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
The equipment and supplies you need depend very much on the nature of your research. You will want to consult extensively with both your American and Chinese colleagues for their recommendations.
A general rule of thumb for field researchers is to bring everything you will need. The following paragraphs are written by A.T. Steegman, a biological anthropologist at the University of Buffalo. The article by John Olsen, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and former director of the CSCC's Beijing office, in Appendix O, contains important recommendations, including how to purify water in the field, food and cooking equipment, and how to choose the best vehicle for your trip. The comments by Steegman and Olsen should be required reading for anyone conducting scientific fieldwork.