Recently I was in Xian, home to the tomb of Emperor Qin (also known as Shi Huangdi), the first Emperor who unified China. While the tomb is most famous for its terracotta soldiers the Emperor was also buried with a whole range of other figures and belongings, including figurines of the ethnic minorities who live in the outlying regions of China. These were included in the tomb to illustrate the extent of his domain and the variety of peoples he had unified (and would rule again in the afterlife). Two thousand years later minority figures are still appearing as part of the iconography of the wide reaching united Chinese nation, employed in diverse materials such as revolutionary communist artwork and a even recent Wrigley's brand ad:
In this ad they are used to illustrate that all sorts of people, all across China love a bit of western chewing gum. (Does this make China's ethnic minorities the oldest advertising property ever?) This is also a small illustration of the immense continuity in Chinese culture. Confucianism, Taoism and traditional medicine are all part of this same continuity and it creates a sense of innate heritage and wisdom that the Chinese understandably see as a unique national strength.