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Cultural connections: 3 generations of family

Senior computer science major, Yinjie (Draco) Ma, from Aksu, China described his grandfather’s, father’s and his own experience with family, education and religion growing up in the minority group, Hui, in China. About 90 percent of people in China are part of the majority group Han, while only 1-2 percent are Hui. Ma said that his grandfather was a Hui farmer with a horse and wagon.  

“He loved his horse a lot– a lot more than me,” he said with a grin. 

Ma presented at last Friday’s Cultural Connections event put on by the Memorial Union Building (MUB) and the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) in the Entertainment Center of the MUB. Ma said his grandfather, Ma Bao Liang, valued Islam, the religion of Hui people. Liang studied the Quran and learned to read Arabic, but had limited writing skills and no formal education. Liang would wake up every day at three or four in the morning to cut vegetables, then stack them in his wagon and go to the market. He said Liang wanted his children to go to a religious school to become Imams, who are people in leadership positions in a mosque or Muslim community. Liang had two wives and three children — Ma’s father was the middle child. 

“Hui people respect people who are good at religion,” Ma said. He said his father, Ma Cong, had a rough childhood and school experience but had a better life after college. He said Cong had no electricity or bike in his time, did everything by himself by six or seven years old and had to use a lantern to study for school.   

“’Get an education if you can, go to school, I’ll support you no matter how poor I am,’” Ma said his father told him. “That’s why I’m in Durham today.”  

Ma said he had a happy childhood and was a typical Hui young man; he had dogs and sheep growing up and practiced religion, but less so than the previous generation. He had a cousin stay with his family for a while when he was young, but she then moved back home and got married to her neighbor at 16 or 17 years old. He said she has three babies now but “she’s not happy anymore; based on her face, her life changed completely.” 

Ma said Hui people didn’t support girls going to school because education makes girls’ minds change and they are then harder to control. His mother, Wang Yunlan, is a typical Hui housewife and only has a third-grade education. However, he said that his generation will have the chance to have an education no matter what gender they are. He also said about his generation that he wants them to be good people, “not like my older uncle robbing a bank,” he joked. One of his slides was a picture of his childhood crush and he said he had happy memories of her. 

 “I was dreaming one day I could be with her,” he said, pausing before saying with a grin, “things changed.” When someone asked what she’s doing now he laughed and said he thinks she’s married now.  

Yu Zhou, a junior mechanical engineering major from China, said she liked the part about his childhood crush and said she and Ma have done presentations together before. She is part of the Han group in China and said she knew nothing about Hui people before Ma’s presentation.  

Ma said people in the U.S. are friendly and nice – the only thing he doesn’t like about the U.S. is how far away he is from home and the only thing he said he doesn’t like about UNH is the dining hall food. Some of Ma’s favorite things about being a student at UNH are sports and activities, like basketball, swimming, running and hiking. Ma is currently working on a robotic arm to play ping pong, and is looking to go to graduate school at UNH or in Boston, possibly at Northeastern University. He said he doesn’t know whether he’ll go back to China after school, he said he thinks he can find a job in China or the US. 

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