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The Tatar Ethnic Group

Living Areas:
Tatar ethnic people mainly inhabit northern Xinjiang, though a smaller number are found in the southern part of the region.

Population:  There are 4,900 Tatar residents in Xinjiang, according to the 2003 census, which is 0.03 percent of the region's population.

Language: The Tatar language belongs to the Turkic group of the Altaic language family. The written language of the Tatars is based on Arabic script.

History: The earliest record of the word "Tatar" appears in tablet inscriptions found in the Yenisey area. Between the 7th and 10th centuries, a tribe under the reign of the Turkic Khanate of northern Asia called them the "Tatars." As the Khanate later fell, the Tatars rose into a significant power in the area. After the Mongolian Kipchak Khanate's decline in the mid-15th century, the Tatars established their Kashan Khanate on the middle reaches of the Volga River. This was later conquered by the Russians. By the time the Kashan Khanate was founded, the local Tatars and Turkic Mongolians had mixed with the Kipchakians and Bulgarians into a great Tatar nation. The present Tatars in Xinjiang are descendents of migrants from areas such as Kashan, Shemlech and Zaysan in the 19th century.

  Most of the Tatars in Xinjiang are merchants. They also engage in crop and livestock farming.

Diet: Tatar cuisine features baked pancakes, rice with mutton and carrots, pita bread, noodles with meat and vegetables and meat pies. On grand occasions, they serve feasts of Gubaidiai, rice cooked with cheese and dried apricots, and Yitebailixi, rice with pumpkin and meat.

Culture:  Music is an important part of Tartar customs. The song known as Girlar enjoys great popularity.

Holidays: The most important Tatar holiday is the Plough-Head Festival, celebrated each spring. The community gets together to sing and dance and enjoy outdoor sports.

Religion: The Tatars are Muslims.

Costume: In summer, Tatar men commonly wear white shirts with cross-stitched patterns, along with black vests. Women wear dresses and black or dark caps, which are embroidered with bright flowery patterns.

Marriage: Monogamy is a rule among the Tatars. Historically, marriages were arranged by parents. But today, young people enjoy free choice of spouses. According to tradition, a wedding should be held at the bride's parental home. The newly-weds stay with the bride's family for a certain period, some even till the wife gives birth to their first baby, before they live with the husband's family.

Residence: Usually, Tatar homes are wooden framed adobe bungalow houses.

(China.org.cn August 25, 2005)

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