The Uyghur (also spelled Uygur , Uighur , Uigur ) are a Turkic people of Central Asia. Today Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. There are also existing Uyghur communities in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Germany, and Turkey and a smaller one in Taoyuan County of Hunan province in south-central China.
Historically the term Uyghur was applied to a group of Turkic-speaking tribes that lived in the Altay Mountains. Uyghur 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.
The Uyghur farm areas are 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. 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 to reclamation.
The cotton growing and cotton yarn spinning industry has a long history. People usually wear cotton cloth garments. The Uygur, 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 costumes. Girls in the past combed their hair into a dozen braids, and regarded long hair as part of female beauty. After marriage, they usually wear two braids with loose ends, decorated on the head with a crescent-shaped comb. Some tuck up their braids into a bun.
The Uyghur believe in Islamism. 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.
The Uyghur language and script contributed to the enrichment of civilizations of the other peoples in Central Asia. Compared to the Europeans of that time, the Uyghur were far more advanced. Most of the early Uyghur literary works were translations of Buddhist and Manichean religious texts, but there were also narrative, poetic, and epic works. Some of these have been translated into German, English, Russian, and Turkish. After the general population’s conversion to Islam, world-renowned Uyghur scholars emerged and Uyghur literature flourished.
The Uygur are excellent at singing and dancing. The Twelve Mukams is an opera epic comprising more than 340 classic songs and folk dances. This musical treasure, which was on the verge of being lost, was collected, studied and recorded.
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. Dap is a sheepskin tambourine with many small iron rings attached to the rim. It is used to accompany dancing.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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