¡¡¡¡There are about
4,890 Tatars in China, most of whom live in Yining, Tacheng and
Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Their history in China dates from the
Tang Dynasty (618-907), when the Tatar tribe was ruled by the nomadic
Turkic Khanate in northern China. As this state fell into decline,
the Tatars grew in strength, and their name was used to refer to
several tribes in the north after the Tang Dynasty. Their homeland
was later annexed by Mongols, and when the Mongols pushed west,
many Central Asians and Europeans called them Tatars.
In the mid-13th century, Batu, the
grandson of Genghis Khan, established the Golden Horde Khanate in
Central Asia. It began to decline in the 15th century, and the Kashan
Khanate began to rise on the middle reaches of the Volga River and
in areas along the Kama River. The rulers of the Kashan Khanate,
to boast their strength, began calling themselves Tatars, the sons
of the Mongols.
Tatar gradually became the recognised
name for the inhabitants of Kashan Khanate. Today's Tatar ethnic
group was formed through a mixture of the Baojiaer people, Kipchacks
and Mongolians over a long period.
After the 19th century, the serfdom
crisis in Tsarist Russia worsened, and serf owners intensified their
plundering of land. Most of the Tatars' land along the Volga and
Kama was grabbed, and the inhabitants forced to flee. Some went
south to Central Asia and then on to southern Xinjiang.
In the late 19th century, Tsarist Russia
expanded into Xinjiang, and won trade privileges there. For a time,
Russian merchants traveled to Xinjiang, and were followed by Tatar
merchants from Kashan. Many stayed in Xinjiang to trade. During
this period, many Tatar intellectuals and clerics moved to Xinjiang.
Up to the early 20th century, a continuous stream of Tatars came
to Xinjiang from Russia.
The Tatar language belongs to the Turkic
language family of the Altaic language system. Because the Tatars
mix freely in Xinjiang with the Uygurs and the Kazaks, the three
languages have had strong effects on one another, and have produced
various local dialects. The Tatars' written language is based on
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
some wealthy Tatar merchants netted great profits and forced smaller
traders to the brink of bankruptcy. Of the few Tatars engaged in
animal husbandry, most were poor herdsmen who had few animals and
As a result of exploitation by Tatar
and Kazak feudal masters, some poor Tatar herdsmen were forced to
become hired hands, whose families suffered great hardship, and
others were taken on by feudal masters as "adopted sons,"
who had to work as hired herdsmen
but without pay.
In addition, there were also a smaller
minority of Tatars engaged in handicrafts, chiefly in leather-making,
tailoring and embroidery.
These trades were carried out as household
Since 1949, the Tatar people have enjoyed
equal political rights in Xinjiang, where many ethnic groups live
in tightly-knit communities. They have representatives on the National
People's Congress and various tiers of regional and local government.
A series of social reforms has extricated the poor Tatar farmers
from feudal exploitation and oppression. Some have now become industrial
The Tatars' educational development
began in the late 19th century when Tatar clerics opened schools
in several areas. Besides the Koran, Islamic history and Islamic
law, these schools taught arithmetic and Chinese language. The Ining
Tatar School, set up in 1942, was one of the earliest modern schools
for ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
It played an active role in reforming
the old religious education and teaching science and culture.
Many Tatar intellectuals earlier this
century worked hard to set up and run schools. Some went deep into
rural areas, and played a big part in establishing Xinjiang's educational
cause. Their efforts benefited not only the Tatars, but also the
Uygur, Huis, Kazaks, Xibes and Ozbeks.
Most Tatars in cities live in flat-roofed
mud houses equipped with flues for heating. They like to hang tapestry
inside their homes, which are usually very clean and tidy. Courtyards
planted with flowers and trees have the appearance of small gardens.
The Tatars in pastoral areas have adapted to a nomadic life, and
live in tents.
Tatar cuisine, popular in Xinjiang,
includes various kinds of pastries. At festivals, they serve pastries
called "Gubaidiai" and "Yitebailixi," the former
being cured with cheese, dried apricots and rice, and the latter
with pumpkin, meat and rice. Both kinds have crisp crusts and soft
contents. Tatar drinks include beer-like "keerxima," made
of fermented honey, and "Kesaile" wine brewed from wild
Tatar men usually wear embroidered
white shirts under short black vests or long gowns. Their trousers
are also black. They often wear small black-and-white embroidered
caps, and black fur caps in winter. Women wear small flowery caps
inlaid with pearls, and long white, yellow or purplish red shirts
with pleats. Their jewelry includes earrings, bracelets and necklaces
of red pearls. Since liberation, more modern styles have influenced
both men's and women's clothing, and a growing number of Tatars
are now wearing Western style clothes.
Most of Tatars in cities belong to
small monogamous families. Sons and daughters live apart from their
parents after they get married, but they still support their parents
until they die, showing great respect for their elders. Intermarriages
between Tatars and other ethnic groups believing in Islam are quite
common. Marriages between cousins occur but are uncommon.
A wedding is held at the bride's home
in accordance with religious rules. The newlyweds must drink sugar
water from the same cup, symbolizing a long sweet life together.
Usually, the groom must live for some time at his parents-in-law's
home, and in some families, must not go to his own home until the
first child is born.
Babies receive a formal religious blessing
three days after birth, and their names are usually taken from the
Islamic classics. A child usually takes the surname of father or
grandfather. The cradle rites are held seven weeks later, with the
cradle and clothes provided by a grandmother.
Forty days after the child's birth,
he or she is bathed in water fetched from 40 places, a custom intended
to bring about healthy growth. When a person dies, the body is shrouded
with white cloth in conformity with Islamic practice.
The cultural life of the Tatars is
rich and colorful. Their music has a lively rhythm, and several
musical instruments are used, including the "Kunie" (a
wooden flute), the "Kebisi" (a kind of harmonica) and
a two-stringed violin. Tatar dances are lively and cheerful. Men
use many leg movements, such as squatting, kicking and leaping.
Women move their waists and arms more.
Their dance styles incorporate features of the Uygur, Russian and
Ozbek dances, but also have their own unique characteristics.
At festivals, the Tatars often hold
mass dancing contests. "The Plough Head Festival" every
spring is an annual grand gathering, held usually at beautiful scenic
spots, and includes such collective games as singing, dancing, wrestling,
horse racing and tug-of-war.
The game they enjoy most is the "jumping
walk" contest. All contestants hold an egg on a spoon in their
mouths. The first to reach the finishing line without dropping the
egg is the winner. Tatar drama began developing earlier than those
of most other ethnic groups in Xinjiang. By the early 1930s, a Tatar
drama troupe had been set up and began giving performances in Ining,
Tacheng and Urumqi.