After words like God and Bible have been removed from literary masterpieces in primary school textbooks, religious and ethnic minorities are next to go.
by Wang Yong
“Uyghur girls are so beautiful that people don’t dare to look directly at them. Thick eyelashes, deep eyes, and a charming smile—like a flower blossoming in the wind of the desert. The young men there are passionate, handsome, romantic, and witty.” This is a passage from the text Uyghurs in Hotan that used to be in a sixth-grade primary school textbook in China. The full text introduces the hardworking and straightforward nature of the Uyghur people, their generous and cheerful folk customs, and their distinctive ethnic traditions and habits. It also describes Uyghurs’ love and enthusiasm for life.
The entire text has been deleted from the textbook recently.
According to a primary school student’s parent from the southeastern province of Jiangxi who reported this case to Bitter Winter, Uyghurs in Hotan was still in the version of the sixth-grade primary school language textbook that was written in 2015 and issued last year. In the 2019 edition, the text is nowhere to be found.
The mother of a student in the northwestern province of Shaanxi told Bitter Winter about a similar case. Apart from the deletion of Uyghurs in Hotan, the content related to Living Buddhas has also disappeared from the text Tibetan Dramas in Volume 2 of the sixth-grade textbook.
According to the mother, her daughter recently told her that a teacher was openly surprised when she discovered during class that a sentence was missing from the text Tibetan Dramas: “The masks of Living Buddhas are yellow, which represents auspiciousness.” This didn’t match the content of the extracurricular tutoring materials, the teacher said. But she soon changed her opinion and told the students in the class: “Our textbooks are written and compiled according to the guiding spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping. The main thing is to make you keep far away from [religious] belief.”
Subsequently, the mother started looking for more information and discovered that the same content had not yet been deleted from the online version of the textbook. She believes that the CCP’s intention in tampering with textbooks is to completely cut off the next generation’s understanding of religious belief. She finds this move to be absurd.
As part of the suppression campaign against Muslims in Xinjiang, the CCP strictly prohibits the teaching of Uyghur and Arabic languages. Islam-related content is torn from books, and copies of the Quran are seized and burned. Children are “hanified” and cut off from their ethnic and cultural roots. Some scholars believe that mandatory indoctrination of the offspring of Muslims constitutes cultural genocide. Meanwhile, changes to the content of textbooks in provinces outside Xinjiang serve as a reminder that Uyghur cultural genocide is not limited to the Xinjiang area.
Besides, religion-related terms in textbooks have also been altered. In recent days, a few parents of students in the central province of Henan discovered that multiple instances of the word Shàngdì (the Chinese word for “God”) in their children’s textbooks had been changed to shàngtiān or lǎotiān (both meaning “heaven”).
Among the altered content, the sentence “Thank God that the children are still healthy” in a text entitled The Poor in Volume 2 of the sixth-grade textbook, has been changed to “Thank heavens that the children are still healthy.” Similarly, “God, why would I do that?” has been replaced with “Good gracious, why would I do that?”
In a text entitled A Great Tragedy in Volume 2 of the seventh-grade textbook, “May God bless us!” has been changed to “May the heavens bless us!” In Volume 1 of the seventh-grade textbook, similar changes were made to a text entitled The Man Who Plants Trees.
As Bitter Winter has reported previously, in the western literary masterpieces that have been selected for a primary school textbook, such as Robinson Crusoe, The Little Match Girl, and Vanka, religion-related content has been altered, removing words like God and Bible.
The practice of altering textbooks is closely related to the CCP’s campaign against religious belief at schools throughout China. Students are forced to swear an oath to resist religious belief and boycott Christmas and other Christian holidays, in an attempt to make children stay away from religion. The CCP hopes to achieve this goal also through ideological indoctrination of teachers. According to the documents published by Bitter Winter, religious teachers are investigated and “re-educated” to make sure that “education and teaching adhere to the correct political direction.”