กกกกAlmost all the Uygurs are found in Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Region which covers more than 1,709,400 square
kilometers or approximately one sixth of China's total landmass,
and is by far the biggest of the country's regions and provinces.
It occupies much of the sparsely-populated Northwest.
Besides the Uygur ethnic group, Han,
Kazak, Hui, Mongolian, Kirgiz, Tajik, Xibe, Ozbek, Manchu, Daur,
Tatar and Russian people also live in Xinjiang. The Uygurs is the
largest ethnic group in Xinjiang. They believe in Islam.
The region is bounded by the Altay
Mountains in the north, the Pamirs in the west, the Karakoram Mountains,
Altun Mountains and Kunlun Mountains in the south. The Tianshan
Mountains divide Xinjiang into northern and southern parts with
very different climate and landscape. Southern Xinjiang includes
the Tarim Basin and the Taklimakan Desert, China's largest, while
northern Xinjiang contains the Junggar Basin, where the Karamay
Oilfields and the fertile Ili River valley are situated. The Turpan
Basin, the hottest and lowest point in China, lies at the eastern
end of the Tianshan Mountains. The Tarim, Yarkant, Yurunkax and
Qarran rivers irrigate land around the Tarim Basin, while the Ili,
Irtish, Ulungur and Manas rivers flow through arable and pastoral
areas in northern Xinjiang. Many of the rivers spill into lakes.
The Lop Nur, Bosten (Bagrax), Uliungur and Ebinur lakes teem with
Xinjiang's climate is dry and warm
in the south, and cold in the north with plenty rainfall and snow.
The Uygurs farm areas around the Tarim Basin and the Gobi Desert.
Wheat, maize and paddy rice are the region's main grain crops, and
cotton is a major cash crop. Since the 1950s, cotton has been grown
in the Manas River valley north of 40 degrees latitude. The Tianshan
Mountains are rich in coal and iron, the Altay in gold, and the
Kunlun in jade. The region also has big deposits of non-ferrous
and rare metals and oil, and rich reserves of forests and land open
Xinjiang has been part of China since
ancient times. The Uygurs, together with other ethnic groups, have
opened up the region and have had very close economic and cultural
ties with people in other parts of the country, particularly central
Xinjiang was called simply "Western
Region" in ancient times. The Jiaohe ruins, Gaochang ruins,
Yangqi Mansion of "A Thousand Houses," Baicheng (Bay)
Kizil Thousand Buddha Grottoes, Bozklik Grottoes in Turpan, Kumtula
Grottoes in Kuqa and Astana Tombs in Turpan all contain a great
wealth of relics from the Western and Eastern Han dynasties (206
B.C. -- A.D.220). They bear witness to the efforts of the Uygurs
and other ethnic groups in Xinjiang in developing China and its
Zhang Qian, who lived in the second
century B.C., went to the Western Region as an official envoy in
138 and 119 B.C., further strengthening ties between China and central
Asia via the "Silk Road." In 60 B.C., Emperor Xuan Di
of the Western Han Dynasty established the Office of Governor of
the Western Region to supervise the "36 states" north
and south of the Tianshan Mountains with the westernmost border
running through areas east and south of Lake Balkhash and the Pamirs.
During the Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern
dynasties (220-581 A.D.) the Western Reigon was a political dependent
of the government in central China. The Wei, Western Jin, Earlier
Liang (317-376), Earlier Qin (352-394) and Later Liang (386-403)
dynasties all stationed troops and set up administrative bodies
there. In 327, Zhang Jun of the Earlier Liang Dynasty set up in
Turpan the Gao Chang Prefecture, the first of its kind in the region.
In the mid-seventh century, the Tang
Dynasty established the Anxi Governor's Office in Xizhou (present-day
Turpan, it later moved to Guizi, present-day Kuqa) to rule areas
south and north of the Tianshan Mountains. The superintendent's
offices in the Pamirs were all under the jurisdiction of the Anxi
Governor's Office. In the meantime, four Anxi towns of important
military significance -- Guizi, Yutian (present-day Hotan), Shule
(present-day Kaxgar) and Suiye (on the southern bank of the Chu
River) -- were established.
In the early eighth century, the Tang
Dynasty added Beiting Governor's Office in Tingzhou (present-day
Jimsar). The Beiting and Anxi offices, with an administrative and
military system under them, implemented effectively the Tang government's
In the early 13th century, Genghis
Khan (1162-1227) appointed a senior official in the region. The
Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) established Bieshibali (present-day areas
north of Jimsar) and Alimali (present-day Korgas) provinces. The
Hami Military Command was set up during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) the northern part of the Western
Region, namely, north of Irtish River and Zaysan Lake, was under
Zuo Fu General's Office in Wuliyasu. The General's Office in Ili
exercised power over areas north and south of the Tianshan Mountains,
east and south of Lake Balkhash and the Pamirs. Xinjiang was made
a province in 1884, the 10th year of the reign of Emperor Guang
Uygur means "unity" or "alliance."
The origin of the ethnic group can be traced back to the Dingling
nomads in northern and northwestern China and in areas south of
Lake Baikal and between the Irtish River and Lake Balkhash in the
third century B.C. Some people maintain that the forefathers of
the Uygurs were related to the Hans. The Dingling were later called
the Tiele, Tieli, Chile or Gaoche (high wheel). The Yuanhe tribe
reigned supreme among the Gaoche tribes during the fifth century
A.D., and the Weihe among the Tiele during the seventh century.
Several tribes rallied behind the Weihe to resist Turkic oppression.
These ancient Uighur people were finally
conquered by Turkic Kirghiz in the mid-ninth century. The majority
of the Uighurs, who were scattered over many areas, moved to the
Western Region under the Anxi Governor's Office, and areas west
of Yutian. Some went to the Tufan principality in western Gansu
Province. The Uighurs who settled in the Western Region lived commingled
with Turkic nomads in areas north of the Tianshan Mountains and
western pasturelands as well as with Hans, who had emigrated there
after the Western and Eastern Han dynasties. They intermarried with
people in southern Xinjiang and Tibetan, Qidan (Khitan) and Mongol
tribes, and evolved into the group now known as the Uygurs.
The Uygurs made rapid socio-economic
and cultural progress between the ninth and the 12th centuries.
Nomadism gave way to settled farming. Commercial and trade ties
with central China began to thrive better than ever before. Through
markets, they exchanged horses, jade, frankincense and medicines
for iron implements, tea, silk and money. With the feudal system
further established, a land and animal owners' class came into being,
comprising Uygur khans and Bokes (officials) at all levels. After
Islam was introduced to Kaxgar in the late 10th century, it gradually
extended its influence to Shache (Yarkant) and Yutian, and later
in the 12th century to Kuya and Yanqi, where it replaced Shamanism,
Manichae, Jingism (Nestorianism, introduced to China during the
Tang Dynasty), Ao'ism (Mazdaism) and Buddhism, which had been popular
for hundreds of years. Western Region culture developed quickly,
with Uygur, Han, Sanskrit, Cuili and Poluomi languages, calendars
and painting styles being used. Two major centers of Uygur culture
and literature -- Turpan in the north and Kaxgar in the south --
came into being. The large number of government documents, religious
books and folk stories of this period are important works for students
of the Uygur history, language and culture.
In the early 12th century, part of
the Qidan tribe moved westward from north-east China under the command
of Yeludashi. They toppled the Hala Khanate established by the Uygurs,
Geluolu and other Turkic tribes in the 10th century, and founded
the Hala Khanate of Qidan (Black Qidan), or Western Liao as it is
now referred to by historians. The state of Gao Chang became its
vassal state. After the rise of the Mongols, most of Xinjiang became
the territory of the Jagatai Khanate. In the meantime, when many
Hans were sent to areas either south or north of the Tianshan Mountains
to open up waste land, many Uygurs moved to central China. The forefathers
of the Uygurs and Huis in Changde and Taoyuan counties in Hunan
Province today moved in that exodus. The Uygurs exercised important
influence over politics, economy, culture and military affairs.
Many were appointed officials by the Yuan court and, under the impacts
of the Han culture, some became outstanding politicians, military
strategists, writers, historians and translators.
The Uygur areas from Hami in the east
to Hotan in the south were unified into a greater feudal separatist
Kaxgar Khanate after more than two centuries of separatism and feuding
from the late 14th century. As the capital was moved to Yarkant,
it was also known as the Yarkant Khanate. Its rulers were still
the offspring of Jagatai. During the early Qing period, the Khanate
was a tributary of the imperial court and had commercial ties with
central China. After periods of unsteady relations with the Ming
Dynasty, the links between the Uygurs and ethnic groups in central
China became stronger. Gerdan, chief of Dzungaria in northern Xinjiang,
toppled the Yarkant Khanate in 1678 and ruled the Uygur area. The
Qing army repelled in 1757 (the 22nd year of the reign of Emperor
Qian Long) the separatist rebellion by the Dzungarian nobles instigated
by the Russian Tsar, and in 1759 smashed the "Batu Khanate"
founded by Poluonidu and Huojishan, the Senior and Junior Khawaja,
in a separatist attempt.
The Qing government introduced a system
of local military command offices in Xinjiang. It appointed the
General in Ili as the highest Western Regional Governor of administrative
and military affairs over northern and southern Xinjiang and the
parts of Central Asia under Qing influence and the Kazak and Blut
(Kirgiz) tribes. For local government, a system of prefectures and
counties was introduced.
The imperial court began to appoint
and remove local officials rather than allowing them to pass on
their titles to their children. This weakened to some degree the
local feudal system. The court also encouraged the opening up of
waste land by garrison troops and local peasants, the promotion
of commerce and the reduction of taxation, which were important
steps in the social development of Uygur areas.
Xinjiang was completely under Qing
Dynasty rule after the mid-18th century. Although political reforms
had limited the political and economic privileges of the feudal
Bokes (lords), and taxation was slightly lower, the common ethnic
people's living standards did not change significantly for the better.
The Qing officials, through local Bokes, exacted taxes even on "garden
trees." The Bokes expanded ownership on land and serfs, controlled
water resources and manipulated food grain prices for profit.
Harsh feudal rule and exploitation
gave rise to the six-month-long Wushi (Uqturpan) uprising in 1765,
the first armed rebellion by the Uygur people against feudalism.
With the aim of preserving their rule and getting rid of Qing control,
Uygur feudal owners made use of struggles between religious factions
to whip up nationalism and cover up the worsening class contradictions.
Zhangger, grandson of the Senior Khawaja, a representative of those
owners, under the banner of religion and armed with British-supplied
weapons, harassed southern Xinjiang many times from 1820 to 1828,
but failed to win military victory.
Uprisings and Foreign Intervention
Not long after the outbreak of the
Opium War, the Uygurs and Huis in Kuqa, influenced by rebellions
of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and the Nian Army uprisings by ethnic
minority peasants in Yunnan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, launched
an armed uprising in 1864. People in Urumqi, Shache (Yarkant), Ili,
Barkol, Qitai, Hami, Mori, Jimsar and Changji responded. Uprisings
against the Qing court swept Xinjiang, and several separatist regimes
came into being. However, a handful of national and religious upper
elements usurped the fruits of the uprisings under the cloak of
"ethnic interest" and "religion," and became
self-styled kings or khans. The warfare that ensued among them brought
still greater catastrophes to the local people.
Britain fostered Yukub Beg, the General
Commander of the Kokand Khanate in 1865, who invaded Xinjiang and
established the Zhedsar Khanate (Seven-City Khanate). Yukub Beg
was a tool in the hands of Britain and Tsarist Russia, who wanted
to split Xinjiang. He exercised cruel rule and, in the name of Allah,
killed 40,000 non-Muslims in southern Xinjiang. His persecution
was also extended to Islamic believers, who were tried at unfair
"religious courts." The local people had to shoulder the
war burdens, supplying warring factions with food grain, fuel, vehicles
and draught animals, and the local economy suffered catastrophic
damage. Bankrupt peasants fled, and some had to sell their children
for a living. The slave trade boomed at local bazaars.
To preserve Russia's vested interest
and maintain an equilibrium in influence with Britain in Central
Asia, the Tsar, behind the back of the Qing Court, signed illegal
commercial and trade treaties with Yukub Beg. Russia claimed that
it could not "sit idle" while there were uprisings in
the provinces in western China, and in the name of "recovery
and defense upon request," it sent troops to occupy Ili in
1871 and started a 10-year period of colonial rule. The Russian
troops forced people of the Uygur, Kazak, Hui, Mongolian and Xibe
tribes into designated zones in a "divide and rule" policy.
Many Uygurs had to flee their home towns, and moved to Huicheng
It was in the interest of all ethnic
groups to smash the Yukub Beg regime and recover Ili. So many local
people supported the Qing troops when they overthrew Yukub Beg and
recovered Xinjiang in 1877. However, not long after the Qing government
had signed the "Sino-Russian Treaty of Peking" and the
"Tahcheng Protocol on the Delimitation of the Sino-Russian
Border," whereby China was compelled to cede 440,000 square
kilometers of land to Russia, the Qing Court again concluded the
"Ili Treaty" with Russia in 1881. Although China recovered
Ili, it lost another 70,000 square kilometers of territory west
of the Korgas River, and was charged nine million roubles compensation.
On the eve of its withdrawal from Ili, Tsarist Russia coerced more
than 10,000 Uygur, Hui, Mongolian, Kazak and Kirgiz people to move
to Russia. Farmland, irrigation facilities, houses and orchards
were devastated and food grain and animals looted. Five of nine
cities in Ili became virtually ruins, and the Uygurs in the nine
townships on the right bank of the Ili River were reduced to poverty.
The Qing government decided to make
the Western Region -- formerly ruled by the general stationed in
Ili -- a province named Xinjiang, a step of important significance
for local development and the strengthening of the north-west border
defense against imperialist aggression. Ties between the area and
central China became closer, and there was greater unity between
the Uygurs and other ethnic groups in the common struggle against
imperialism and feudalism.
After the Revolution of 1911 which
overthrew the Qing Dynasty, Qing rule was replaced by feudal warlords.
Sheng Shicai, who claimed to be progressive, usurped power in Xinjiang
in the "April 12" coup of 1933.
the same year, Britain encouraged Mohamed Imin, who dreamed of a
greater Turkey, to found the Hotan Islamic Republic, and Maula Shabitida,
an advocate of greater Islam, to set up the East Turkistan Islamic
Republic. Japanese imperialism in 1937 masterminded the plots by
Mamti and Raolebas to form an "independent" Islamic state,
and Mamti, in collaboration with Mahushan, rebelled. However, all
these separatist efforts failed.
In 1933, when China was at a crucial
point in history, the Chinese Communist Party began revolutionary
activities in Xinjiang aimed at peace, democracy and progress. Sheng
Shicai had to take some progressive steps, and declared six major
policies -- anti-imperialism, amity with the Soviet Union, national
equality, honest government, peace and national reconstruction.
In the same year, the "Anti-Imperialist Association of the
People of Xinjiang" was formed, and the journal, "Anti-Imperialist
Front," was published. Part of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants'
Red Army went to Xinjiang in 1937. Later Sheng Shicai turned to
the Kuomintang, persecuting the Communists, progressive people,
patriotic youth and workers.
The Kuomintang began to rule Xinjiang
in 1944, forcing sharper contradictions on the Uygurs and other
ethnic groups. It exacted dozens of taxes under all kinds of pretexts.
One example was the taxation on land. An average peasant had to
pay well over 15 per cent of annual income for it. The amount of
taxes in terms of money was eight times the sum in 1937. Local industry
and commerce virtually went bankrupt, and the situation for rural
Uygurs was even worse.
Uprisings took place in Ili, Tacheng
and Altay to oppose Kuomintang rule. They served to accelerate the
liberation of the region in the national liberation war.
Tao Zhiyue, the Commandant of the Kuomintang
Xinjiang Garrison, and Burhan Shahidi, Chairman of the Kuomintang
Xinjiang Provincial Government, accepted Chinese Communist Party's
peace terms, and revolted against the Kuomintang government in Nanjing,
and Xinjiang was peacefully liberated in October, 1949.
The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
was formally established on October 1, 1955. Five autonomous prefectures
and six autonomous counties were set up in the following months.
Ethnic minority autonomy became a reality.
Customs and Habits
In the past, many poor Uygur farmers
lived on a diet of narrow-leaved oleaster and dried apricot and
peach, mulberry and grain porridge. Now, wheat flour, rice and maize
are the staple foods. Uygurs in some areas like milk tea with baked
maize or wheat cakes. Some are made by mixing flour with sugar,
eggs, butter or meat and are delicious. Paluo (sweet rice), cooked
with mutton, sheep fat, carrots, raisins, onions and rice, is an
important festival food for guests.
The Uygurs' cotton growing and cotton
yarn spinning industry has a long history. Working people usually
wear cotton cloth garments. Men sport a long gown called a qiapan,
which opens on the right and has a slanted collar. It is buttonless
and is bound by a long square cloth band around the waist. Women
wear broad-sleeved dresses and black waist coats with buttons sewn
on the front. Some now like to wear Western-style suits and skirts.
The Uygurs, old and young, men and women, like to wear a small cap
with four pointed corners, embroidered with black and white or colored
silk threads in traditional Uygur designs. The women's favourite
decorations include earrings, bracelets and necklaces. Some paint
their eyebrows and fingernails on grand festive occasions. Girls
in the past combed their hair into a dozen pigtails, and regarded
long hair as part of female beauty. After marriage, they usually
wear two pigtails with loose ends, decorated on the head with a
crescentshaped comb. Some tuck up their pigtails into a bun.
Over the centuries, many mosques, mazas
(Uygur complexes, nobles' tombs), theological seminaries and religious
courts were set up in Uygur areas. Over the past few hundred years,
religion has greatly influenced economic, judicial and educational
affairs and the Uygur family and matrimonial system. Some of the
rich people made use of religious rules to marry more than one wife,
and had the right to divorce them at any time. The marriage of the
ordinary Uygurs was mostly arranged by the parents. Male chauvinism
was practiced in the family, and Uygur women, humiliated and with
nobody to turn to, often retreated into prayer.
After 1949, feudal religious privileges
were abolished, and religion was taken out of the control of the
reactionary ruling class, and became a matter of individual conscience.
As science and knowledge spread, many of the old feudalistic religious
habits lost popularity. People can now decide for themselves whether
the Sawm should be observed during Ramadan, how many naimazi (services)
should be performed in a day and whether women in the street should
As these matters do not affect normal
religious belief, the Uygurs are beginning to enjoy a more genuine
religious freedom. The family, marriage and property are under the
protection of the law, and Uygur women enjoy equality with men.
Many are now working alongside men in modern industries.
There are now more than a dozen million
Moslems in the country, compared with eight million in the early
post-1949 period. In 1953, the Chinese Islamic Association was established
with Burhan Shahidi as its chairman. More than seven million people
in Xinjiang believe in Islam, accounting for well over half of the
national total. In the mid-1080s, there were 15,800 religious professionals,
about 2,000 of whom were either deputies to the People's Congress
or the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at various
levels, or worked in the regional or county branches of the Chinese
Islamic Association. The region now boasts a total of 15,500 mosques
or prayer centers, or one for almost every Moslem village.
Culture Since the Mid-20th
Uygur culture and art, which
have a long and rich tradition, has flourished. Uygur literature
is very rich in style and subject matter. Many folk tales, parables,
comedies, poems and proverbs praise the courage, wisdom and kindness
of the ordinary people, while satirizing the greed, cruelty and
foolishness of the exploiting classes. For instance, "The Tales
of Afandi" contain stinging satire about the Bayis and Imams
who bully the people.
Much of the written Uygur literature
has been passed down from the 11th century, such as the epic "Kutadolu
Biliq" (Blessings and
Wisdom) by Yusuf Hass Hajib, and The
Turkic Dictionary by Mohamu Kashgar, which are important works
for students of ancient Uygur history, culture and language. More
modern works include Maulabilalibin Maulayusuf's Wars
on the Chinese Land, an epic describing the 1864 struggle of
the Uygurs in Ili against the Qing government. Mutalifu, the patriotic
and revolutionary poet, composed poems such as "Chinese Guerrillas,"
"Militant Girls" and "Love and Hatred" during
the Anti-Japanese War. After 19949, much work has been done to collect,
compile and publish classic and folk Uygur literature.
The Uygurs are excellent at dancing.
The "12 Mukams" (opera) is an epic comprising more than
340 classic songs and folk dances. After liberation, this musical
treasure, which was on the verge of being lost, was collected, studied
and recorded. The "Daolang Mukams," popular in Korla,
Bachu (Maralwexi), Markit and Ruoqiang (Qarkilik), is another suite
with distinct Uygur flavor.
There is a wide variety of plucked,
wind and percussion Uygur musical instruments, including the dutar,
strummed rawap and dap. The first two are instruments with a clear
and crisp tone for solo and orchestral performances. The dap is
a sheep skin tambourine with many small iron rings attached to the
rim. It is used to accompany dancing.
The Uygur dances, such as the "Bowls-on-Head
Dance," "Drum Dance," "Iron Ring Dance"
and "Puta Dance," feature light, graceful and quick-swinging
choreography movements. The "Sainaim Dance" is the most
popular, while the "Duolang Dance," sometimes referred
to as a flower of Uygur folk culture, brims over with vitality.
It depicts the hunting activities of the ancient people of Markit.
The movements portray strength, wildness and enthusiasm. The "Nazilkum,"
popular in Turpan, Shanshan and Hami, fully reflects the Uygurs'
optimism and gift for humor.