Assignment Asia

Ancient Cultures in a Modern World

Asia is home to some of the world's oldest cultures and ethnic groups. But in modern times many of them are on the verge of fading. In South Korea, female divers called the haenyeo have been scouring the seas for food for more than 1,000 years. Yet today's sea women are ageing, and there's a dearth of new divers. Reporter Jack Barton travels to Jeju Island to meet some of its oldest haenyeo and looked into efforts to stop their tradition from dying. Seafaring tribes long inhabited the waters of Thailand and its neighbors, Myanmar and Malaysia. But modernization and the 2004 tsunami pushed many sea gypsies out of their traditional dwelling place. Even in their new homes on land, however, they are being driven out by a booming tourist trade and property development. Reporter Tony Cheng shows the conditions of the Moken people of Surin, Thailand, who are holding on to their way of life and despite the challenges of living in a modern world. More than a century ago, their ancestors fled western China and settled in Central Asia. But through the years, the Donggan ethnic group managed to keep their Chinese traditions alive. As reporter Han Peng reports from a Donggan community in Kyrgyzstan, the ongoing revival of the Silk Road trade route is linking them closer to their Chinese roots.

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