Ethnic Peoples in China: The Uyghurs

    Written by: Shi Xiaoqi
    Posted on: July 10, 2012 | Post your comment here Comments | 中文

    Ethnic Peoples in China - Ethnic Peoples in China: The Uyghurs

    Ethnic Peoples in China

    The Uyghur nationality has a population of over 8 million. The majority of them live in compact communities in the areas to the south of the Tianshan Mountains, such as Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu, and the rest inhabit the Ili prefecture and other places in the northern part of Xinjiang.

    The Uyghurs’ ancestors can be traced back to the third century. Translations of the name “Uyghur” in ancient Chinese historic records vary from period to period, with at least five being known; these are Wuhu, Yuanhe, Weihe, Huihe and Uyghur. In 1935, the term “Uyghur” was authorized as being the official translation and it continues to be used today.

    The Uyghurs believe in Islam, which has been their dominant religion since the tenth century. They have their own unique written and spoken language which belongs to the Turkic Group of the Altaic Language Family. The Uyghurs have also created and developed their own culture, and, over the course of a long and well-documented history, they have produced classical epics and great academic works, such as The Dictionary of Turkic Language. These works are symbolic of their splendid culture.

    Uyghur men usually wear a long gown, known as “qapan”, with a tilted front and waistband but no buttons. Women like wearing broad-sleeved dresses, and young girls arrange their hair into many small braids. The Uyghur people, both old and young, men and women alike, are fond of wearing the typical four or five angled embroidered hat. These Uyghur hats, known as “dopa”, are exquisite handicrafts with bright colors and various designs. Their styles vary, based on different districts, the gender of the wearer, and the wearer’s profession. Other popular Uyghur handicrafts are the Etles satin for women’s dresses and the Yengisar knives used by men.

    Nang and Laman (pulled noodles) are daily staples of the Uyghurs. Polo, a special Xinjiang cuisine consisting of rice cooked with fresh mutton, carrots, onions, and shish kebab (kawap), is typically served at festivals or to invited guests. The kawap is a particularly well-known snack, enjoyed by people all over the country.

    The Uyghur dwelling is typically a flat-roofed building, with a small window and a fenced porch on the outside, and a fireplace and niche inside. The fireplace is for cooking and heating while the niche is for storing articles of daily use. Both the inside and outside are decorated with brightly colored material and grained ornaments.

    The two most important Uyghur festivals are the Eid-ul-Fitr (which is celebrated at the end of the month of Ramadan) and the Eid-ul-Azha or the Corban (Sacrifice) Festival.

    The Uyghurs have long been known as “a nationality of song and dance”. Sanem is the most popular folk dance, in which one or two people dance together while others sit in a circle, clapping and beating drums. The classical folk music, Twelve Muqam, is one of the treasures of Chinese arts, with 12 sets, 170 varieties of tunes and 72 songs. There is also the “Meshrep,” which combines songs and dance.

    With their unique history and culture, the Uyghurs add dynamism and beauty to China’s family of nations.

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