China's Little People

Deborah Fallows wonders why they are taunted so much:

When we lived in Shanghai a few years ago, I happened to be walking behind a dwarf, on a lane near where we lived. Everyone coming our way slowed down to point and laugh at him. Later many people explained to me that laughing is the behavior of embarrassment, and that the Chinese were uncomfortable and embarrassed at seeing someone who looked unusual and so different from the norm.

OK, maybe, but I don't think this can be the whole story. I think there has to be something more.

... I asked around a little about dwarves in China. One of most interesting comments came just today from a young woman in her 30s whom I would describe as a modern, youthful, savvy nationalist. She said she thinks the reaction to dwarves is part of a traditional mindset where beliefs run deep, even subliminal. It's about Buddhism, she said. Doing good in this life is rewarded. Doing bad is punished, in this lifetime or the next. Maybe, she said, seeing a dwarf makes people wonder for the briefest instant whether this diminished stature is somehow "deserved," and makes them uncomfortable because of the negative history that might be attached to such a person.