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Regions with significant populations
 China (Xinjiang) 10,001,302 (2010 census)[1]
 Kazakhstan 223,100 (2009)[2]
 Uzbekistan 55,220 (2008)
 Kyrgyzstan 49,000 (2009)[3]
 Turkey 19,300 (2010)
 Russia 3,696 (2010)[4]
 Pakistan 3,000 (2009)[5]
 Ukraine 197 (2001)[6]
 United States ≤100?
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Karluks, other Turkic peoples, and more distantly to other Altaic peoples

The Uyghurs (Uyghur: ئۇيغۇر‎, ULY: Uyghur ;[7] ; Old Turkic: ;[8] simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Wéiwú'ěr) are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia. Today, Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China (referred to by most of them as East Turkestan), where they are officially recognized as one of the 56 ethnic minorities. An estimated 80% of Xinjiang's Uyghurs live in the southwestern portion of the region, the Tarim Basin.[9] Outside Xinjiang, the largest community of Uyghurs in China is in Taoyuan County, in south-central Hunan province.[10] Outside of China, significant diasporic communities of Uyghurs exist in the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Smaller communities are found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Canada, the United States, and Turkey.[11]


  • Name 1
  • Identity 2
    • Origin of the modern ethnic concept 2.1
  • Gallery 3
  • History 4
    • Early history 4.1
    • Uyghur Khaganate 4.2
    • Uyghur kingdoms 4.3
    • Islamization 4.4
    • Qing rule 4.5
    • Modern era 4.6
  • Uyghurs of Taoyuan, Hunan 5
  • Genetics 6
  • Culture 7
    • Religion 7.1
    • Language 7.2
    • Literature 7.3
    • Music 7.4
    • Dance 7.5
    • Art 7.6
    • Education 7.7
    • Medicine 7.8
    • Cuisine 7.9
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Uyghur is often pronounced by English speakers, though an acceptable English pronunciation closer to the Uyghur people's pronunciation of it would be .[12] Several alternate romanizations also appear: Uighur, Uygur, and Uigur. The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region provincial government recommends that the generic ethnonym [ʊjˈʁʊː], adopted in the early 20th century for this Turkic people,[13] be transcribed as "Uyghur".[14]

The meaning of the term Uyghur is unclear. Most Uyghur linguists and historians regard the word as coming from uyughur (uyushmaq in modern Uyghur language), literally meaning 'united' or 'people who tend to come together'. The Turkic runic inscriptions record a word uyɣur,[15] which was transcribed into Chinese as Huíhé (回紇) in Chinese Tang dynasty annals.[16] Later, in response to an Uyghur request, this was changed to Huíhú (回鶻) in 788 or 809. Chinese history Jiu Wudai Shi interprets the term Huíhú literally as the "rapidity with which they turned around and swooped down like a falcon".[17][18] Modern etymological explanations have ranged from "to follow, accommodate oneself" and "non-rebellious" (from Turk. uy/uð-) to "to wake, rouse, stir" (from oðğur-), none of which is thought satisfactory because the sound shift ð/ḏ > y did not appear to have taken place by this time.[17] The etymology therefore cannot be accurately determined, and historically the groups it denoted were not ethnically fixed, since it denoted a political rather than a tribal identity,[19] or was used originally to refer to just one group among several, the others calling themselves Toquz Oghuz.[20]

The earliest record of an Uyghur tribe is from the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). At that time the ethnonym Gaoche (in Uyghur: Qangqil, قاڭقىل) (Chinese: 高車; pinyin: Gāochē; literally: "high carts") was used, and later, Tiele (Chinese: 鐵勒; pinyin: Tiělè; Turkic: Tele).[21] The first use of Uyghur as a reference to a political nation occurred during the interim period between the First and Second Göktürk Khaganates (630-684).[22]

The term Uyghur disappeared from historical records in the 15th century, but the Bolsheviks reintroduced the term Uyghur to replace the previously used Turk or Turki.[23][24] In modern usage, Uyghur refers to settled Turkic urban dwellers and farmers of Kashgaria or Uyghurstan who follow traditional Central Asian sedentary practices, as distinguished from nomadic Turkic populations in Central Asia.


A Uyghur girde naan baker
Uyghur blacksmiths at work. Yengisar, Xinjiang.

Throughout its history, the term Uyghur has taken on an increasingly expansive definition. Initially signifying only a small coalition of Tiele tribes in Northern China, Mongolia, and the Altay Mountains, it later denoted citizenship in the Uyghur Khaganate. Finally it was expanded into an ethnicity whose ancestry originates with the fall of the Uyghur Khaganate in the year 842, which caused Uyghur migration from Mongolia into the Tarim Basin. This migration assimilated and replaced the Indo-Europeans of the region to create a distinct identity, as the language and culture of the Turkic migrants eventually supplanted the original Indo-European influences. This fluid definition of Uyghur and the diverse ancestry of modern Uyghurs create confusion about what constitutes true Uyghur ethnography and ethnogenesis.

Contemporary scholars consider modern Uyghurs to be the descendants of a number of people, including the ancient Uyghurs of Mongolia who arrived at the Tarim Basin after the fall of Uyghur Khaganate, Iranian Saka tribes, and other Indo-European peoples who inhabited the Tarim Basin before the arrival of the Mongolian Uyghurs.[25] DNA analyses indicate that the peoples of central Asia such as the Uyghurs are all mixed Caucasian and East Asian.[26] Uyghur activists identify with the Tarim mummies, but research into the genetics of ancient Tarim mummies and their links with modern Uyghurs remain controversial, both to Chinese government officials concerned with ethnic separatism, and to Uyghur activists concerned that research could affect their claims of being indigenous to the region.[27][28]

Origin of the modern ethnic concept

""The Uighurs are the people whom old Russian travellers called Sart (a name which they used for sedentary, Turkish-speaking Central Asians in general), while Western travellers called them Turki, in recognition of their language. The Chinese used to call them Ch'an-t'ou ('Turbaned Heads') but this term has been dropped, being considered derogatory, and the Chinese, using their own pronunciation, now called them Weiwuerh. As a matter of fact there was for centuries no 'national' name for them; people identified themselves with the oasis they came from, like Kashgar or Turfan."" — Owen Lattimore, "Return to China's Northern Frontier." The Geographical Journal, Vol. 139, No. 2, June 1973[29]

The term "Uyghur" was not used to refer to any existing ethnic group in the 19th century, but to an ancient people. A late 19th-century encyclopedia titled The cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia said "the Uigur are the most ancient of Turkish tribes, and formerly inhabited a part of Chinese Tartary (Xinjiang), which is now occupied by a mixed population of Turk, Mongol, and Kalmuck".[30] The inhabitants of Xinjiang were not called Uyghur before 1921/1934. Westerners called the Turkic speaking Muslims of the Oases "Turki", and the Turkic Muslims in Ili were known as "Taranchi". The Russians and other foreigners used the names "Sart",[31] "Turk", or "Turki"[32][33] for them. These groups of peoples identified themselves by the oases they came from, not by an ethnic group.[34] Names such as Kashgarliq to mean Kashgari were used.[35] The Turkic people also used "Musulman", which means "Muslim", to describe themselves.[35][36][37]

Rian Thum explored the concepts of identity among the ancestors of the modern Uyghurs in Altishahr (the native Uyghur name for eastern Turkestan or southern Xinjiang) before the adoption of the name "Uyghur" in the 1930s, referring to them by the name "Altishahri" in her article Modular History: Identity Maintenance before Uyghur Nationalism. Thum indicated that Altishahri Turkis did have a sense that they were a distinctive group separate from the Turkic Andijanis to their west, the nomadic Turkic Kirghiz, the nomadic Mongol Qalmaq, and the Han Chinese Khitay before they became known as Uyghurs. There was no single name used by them to refer to themselves, the various native names Altishahris used to refer to themselves were Altishahrlik (Altishahr person), yerlik (local), Turki, and Musulmān (Muslim), the term Musulmān in this stituation did not signify religious connotations, because the Altishahris would exclude other Muslim peoples like the Kirghiz when referring to themselves as Musulmān.[38] Dr. Laura J Newby has also noted that the sedentary Altishahri Turkic people felt themselves as a separate group from other Turkic Muslims since at least the 19th century.[39]

The name "Uyghur" reappeared after the Soviet Union took the 9th-century ethnonym from the Uyghur Khaganate and reapplied it to all non-nomadic Turkic Muslims of Xinjiang,[40] following a 19th-century proposal from Russian historians that modern-day Uyghurs were descended from the Turpan Kingdom and Kara-Khanid Khanate, which had formed after the dissolution of the Uyghur Khaganate.[41] Historians generally agree that the adoption of the term "Uyghur" is based on a decision from a 1921 conference in Tashkent, which was attended by Turkic Muslims from the Tarim Basin (Xinjiang).[40][42][43] There, "Uyghur" was chosen by them as the name of their own ethnic group, although the delegates noted that the modern groups referred to as "Uyghur" were distinct from the old Uyghur Khaganate.[31] According to Linda Benson, the Soviets and their client Sheng Shicai intended to foster a Uyghur nationality to divide the Muslim population of Xinjiang, whereas the various Turkic Muslim peoples themselves preferred to identify as "Turki", "East Turkestani", or "Muslim".[31]

On the other hand, the ruling regime of China at that time, the Peter Fleming, Ella K. Maillart, and Sven Hedin, all referred to the Turkic Muslims of the region not as Uyghur, but as "Turki", in their books. Use of the term "Uyghur" was unknown in Xinjiang until 1934, when the governor Sheng Shicai came to power in there. Sheng adopted the Soviets' ethnographic classification rather than that of the Kuomintang and became the first to promulgate the official use of the term "Uyghur" to describe the Turkic Muslims of Xinjiang.[31][41][48] After the Communist victory, the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong continued the Soviet classification, using the term "Uyghur" to describe the modern ethnic group.[31]

Another ethnic group, the Buddhist Yugur of Gansu, by contrast, have consistently been called by themselves and others the "Yellow Uyghur" (Säriq Uyghur).[49] Some scholars say that the Yugur's culture, language, and religion are closer to the original culture of the original Uyghur Karakorum state than is the culture of the modern Uyghur people of Xinjiang.[50] Linguist and ethnographer S. Robert Ramsey has argued for inclusion of both the Yugur and the Salar as subgroups of Uyghur (based on similar historical roots for the Yugur and on perceived linguistic similarities for the Salar). These groups are recognized as separate ethnic groups, though, by the Chinese government.[51]

Pan-Turkic Jadidists and East Turkestan Independence activists Muhammad Amin Bughra (Mehmet Emin) and Masud Sabri rejected the Soviet imposition of the name "Uyghur" upon the Turkic people of Xinjiang. They wanted instead the name "Turkic ethnicity" (Tujue zu in Chinese) to be applied to their people. Masud Sabri also viewed the Hui people as Muslim Han Chinese and separate from his own people.[52] The names "Türk" or "Türki" in particular were demanded by Bughra as the real name for his people. He criticized Sheng Shicai for his designation of Turkic Muslims into different ethnicities which could sow disunion among Turkic Muslims.[53]

In current usage, Uyghur refers to settled Turkic urban dwellers and farmers of the Tarim Basin and Ili who follow traditional Central Asian sedentary practices, as distinguished from nomadic Turkic populations in Central Asia. However, the Chinese government has also designated as "Uyghur" certain peoples with significantly divergent histories and ancestries from the main group. These include the Loplik people and the Dolan people, who are thought to be closer to the Oirat Mongols and the Kyrgyz.[54][55]



The history of the Uyghur people, as with the ethnic origin of the people, is a matter of contention between Uyghur nationalists and the Chinese authority.[56] Uyghur historians viewed the Uyghurs as the original inhabitants of Xinjiang with a long history. Uyghur politician and historian Muhemmed Imin Bughra wrote in his book A history of East Turkestan, stressing the Turkic aspects of his people, that the Turks have a 9000-year history, while historian Turgun Almas incorporated discoveries of Tarim mummies to conclude that Uyghurs have over 6400 years of history,[57] and the World Uyghur Congress claimed a 4,000-year history.[58] However, official Chinese view asserts that the Uyghurs in Xinjiang originated from the Tiele tribes and only became the main social and political force in Xinjiang during the ninth century when they migrated to Xinjiang from Mongolia after the collapse of the Uyghur Khaganate, replacing the Han Chinese they claimed were there since the Han Dynasty.[57] Many contemporary Western scholars, however, do not consider the modern Uyghurs to be of direct linear descent from the old Uyghur Khaganate of Mongolia. Rather, they consider them to be descendants of a number of people, one of them the ancient Uyghurs.[25][59][60][61]

Professor James A. Millward described the original Uyghurs as physically Mongoloid, giving as an example the images in Bezeklik at temple 9 of the Uyghur patrons, until they began to mix with the Tarim Basin's original eastern Iranian inhabitants.[62]

Early history

According to western scholars, the discovery of well-preserved Tarim mummies of a people Caucasian in appearance may indicates the migration of an Indo-European people into the Tarim area at the beginning of the Bronze age around 2,000 BCE. These people probably spoke Tocharian, and were suggested by some to be the Yuezhi mentioned in ancient Chinese text.[63][64] However, Uyghur activists claimed these mummies to be of Uyghur origin, based partly on a word, which they argued to be Uyghur, found in written scripts associated with these mummies, although other linguists suggest it to be a Sogdian word later absorbed into Uyghur.[65] Later migrations brought peoples from the west and northwest to the Xinjiang region, probably speakers of various Iranian languages such as the Saka tribes. Other people in the region mentioned in ancient Chinese texts include the Dingling as well as the Xiongnu who fought for supremacy in the region against the Chinese for several hundred years. The Dingling is seen by early Chinese history books to be the ancestors of the ancient Uyghurs.[66][67][68] Some Uyghur nationalists also claimed descent from the Xiongnu (according to Chinese history Weishu, the founder of the Uyghurs was descended from a Xiongnu ruler),[17] but the view is contested by modern Chinese scholars.[57]

The Yuezhi were driven away by the Xiongnu, but founded the Kushan Empire which exerted some influence in the Tarim Basin where Kharoshti scripts used by the Kushan Empire have been found in Loulan, Niya and Khotan. Loulan and Khotan were some of the many city states that existed in the Xinjiang region during the Han Dynasty, others include Kucha, Turfan, Karashahr and Kashgar. The settled population of these cities later merged with incoming Turkic people such as the Uyghurs of Uyghur Khaganate to form the modern Uyghurs.

An 8th-century Uyghur Khagan

Uyghur Khaganate

The Uyghurs of the Uyghur Khaganate were part of a Turkic confederation called the Tiele,[69] who lived in the valleys south of Lake Baikal and around the Yenisei River. They overthrew the Göktürk Khaganate and established the Uyghur Khaganate.

The Uyghur Khaganate stretched from the Caspian Sea to Manchuria and lasted from 745 to 840.[22] It was administered from the imperial capital Ordu-Baliq, one of the biggest ancient cities built in Mongolia. In 840, following a famine and civil war, the Uyghur Khaganate was overrun by the Kirghiz, another Turkic people. As a result, the majority of tribal groups formerly under Uyghur control dispersed and moved out of Mongolia.

Uyghur king from Turfan region attended by servants. Mogao cave 409, 11th-13th century.

Uyghur kingdoms

According to Tang Dynasty history Xin Tangshu, the ancient Uyghurs who founded the Uyghur Khaganate dispersed after the fall of the Khaganate; some went to live amongst the Karluks, and some moved to Turpan and Gansu.[70] These Uyghurs soon founded two kingdoms, the easternmost state was the Ganzhou Kingdom (870–1036), with its capital near present-day Zhangye in the Gansu province of China. The modern Yugur people are believed to be descendants of the Old Uyghur people. The kingdom was absorbed by the Tanguts in 1036..

The second Uyghur kingdom, the Kingdom of Qocho (also known as Uyghuristan in its later period), was founded in the Turpan area with its capital in Gaochang (Qocho) and Beshbalik. The Qocho Kingdom lasted from the ninth to the fourteenth century, and proved to be longer-lasting than any power in the region, before or since.[25] The Uyghurs were originally Manichaean, but converted to Buddhism in Qocho. The Qocho Kingdom accepted the Kara-Khitans as the overlord in 1130s, and in 1209 submitted voluntarily to the rising Mongol Empire. The Uyghurs of Kingdom of Qocho were allowed significant autonomy and played an important role as civil servants to the Mongol Empire, but was finally destroyed by the Chaghataid Mongols in the 1390s.


In the tenth century, the Karluks, Yaghmas, Chigils and other Turkic tribes founded the Kara-Khanid Khanate in Semirechye, Western Tian Shan, and Kashgaria, and later conquered Transoxiana. The Karakhanid rulers were likely to be Yaghmas who were associated with the Toquz Oghuz, and some historians therefore see this as a link between the Karakhanid and the Uyghurs of the Uyghur Khaganate, although this connection is disputed by others.[71]

The Karakhanids converted to Islam in the tenth century, the first Turkic dynasty to do so, and modern Uyghurs see the Muslim Karakhanids as an important part of their history. However, Islamization of the people of the Tarim Basin was a gradual process. The Buddhist Kingdom of Khotan was conquered by the Muslim Karakhanids from Kashgar in the early 11th century, but Qocho remained mainly Buddhist until the 15th century, and the conversion of the Uyghur people to Islam was not completed until the 17th century.

The 12th and 13th century saw the domination by non-Muslim powers: first the Kara-Khitans in the 12th century, followed by the Mongols in the 13th century. After the death of Genghis Khan in 1227, Transoxiana and Kashgar became the domain of his second son, Chagatai Khan. The Chagatai Khanate split into two in the 1340s, and the area of the Chagatai Khanate where the modern Uyghurs live became part of Moghulistan, which meant "land of the Mongols". In the 14th century, a Chagatayid khan Tughluq Temür converted to Islam. His son Khizr Khoja conquered Qocho and Turfan (the core of Uyghuristan) in the 1390s, and the Uyghurs there became largely Muslim by the beginning of the 16th century.

From the late 14th through 17th centuries the Xinjiang region became further subdivided into Moghulistan in the north, Altishahr (Kashgar and the Tarim Basin), and the Turfan area, each often ruled separately by competing Chagatayid descendants, the Dughlats, and later the Khojas.[72]

Islam was also spread by the Sufis, and branches of its Naqshbandi order were the Khojas who seized control of political and military affairs in the Tarim Basin and Turfan in the 17th century. The Khojas however split into two rival factions, the Aqtaghlik Khojas (also called the Afaqiyya) and the Qarataghlik Khojas (the Ishaqiyya). The legacy of the Khojas lasted until the 19th century. The Qarataghlik Khojas seized power in Yarkand where the Chagatai Khans ruled in the Yarkent Khanate, forcing the Aqtaghlik Afaqi Khoja into exile.

Qing rule

In the 17th century, the Buddhist Oirat Mongol Dzungar Khanate grew in power in Dzungaria and conquered the last independent Chagatai Khanate, the Yarkent Khanate of Altishahr in the Dzungar conquest of Altishahr after the Aqtaghlik Afaq Khoja went to Lhasa in Tibet and asked the 5th Dalai Lama and the Dzungars to help him in his struggle against the Qarataghlik Khojas. The Khojas in the Tarim Basin then became vassals to the Dzungars, who extracted heavy taxes and tribute from the Tarim Basin cities. The expansion of the Dzungars into Khalkha territory in Outer Mongolia brought them into direct conflict with the Qing Empire in the late 17th century, and in the process also brought Chinese presence back into the region a thousand years after the Tang Dynasty lost control of the Western Regions.[73]

The Qing's Dzungar–Qing War and the final campaign against the Dzungars in the 1750s ended with the genocide of the Dzungars. During the Dzungar conflict, two Aqtaghlik brothers, the so-called Younger Khoja Hojijan (zh) (also known as Khwāja-i Jahān) and his sibling, the Elder Khoja, Buranidun (zh) (also known as Burhān al-Dīn) rebelled against the Qing, an action which prompted the invasion and conquest of the Tarim Basin by the Qing in 1759. The Uyghurs from Turfan and Hami (Kumul) such as Emin Khoja were allies of the Qing in this conflict, and these Uyghurs also helped the Qing to rule the Altishahr Uyghurs in the Tarim Basin.[74][75] After the Dzungar genocide, the Uyghurs moved into Zungaria. In Beijing, a community of Uyghurs was clustered around the mosque near the Forbidden City, having moved to Beijing in the 18th century.[76]

During the Dungan revolt of 1864, Andijani Uzbeks from the Kokand Khanate under Buzurg Khan and Yakub Beg expelled Qing Dynasty officials from parts of southern Xinjiang and founded an independent Kashgaria kingdom, called Yettishar (English: "country of seven cities"). Under the leadership of Yakub Beg, it included Kashgar, Yarkand, Hotan, Aksu, Kucha, Korla, and Turpan.

Large Qing dynasty forces under Chinese General [80][81]

Modern era

In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China. By 1920, Pan-Turkic Jadidist Islamists had become a challenge to Chinese warlord Yang Zengxin (楊增新) who controlled Xinjiang. Uyghurs staged several uprisings against Chinese rule. Twice, in 1933 and 1944, the Uyghurs successfully gained their independence (backed by the Soviet Communist leader Joseph Stalin): the First East Turkestan Republic was a short-lived attempt at independence around Kashghar, and it was destroyed during the Kumul Rebellion by Chinese Muslim army under General Ma Zhancang and Ma Fuyuan at the Battle of Kashgar (1934). The Second East Turkestan Republic was a Soviet puppet Communist state that existed from 1944 to 1949 in what is now Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture after the Ili Rebellion.

Map of population of Xinjiang according to the Chinese source of 2001, the prefectures with Uyghur majority are in blue.

Mao declared the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949. He turned the Second East Turkistan Republic into the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, and appointed Saifuddin Azizi as the region's first Communist Party governor. Many Republican loyalists fled into exile in Turkey and Western countries. The name Xinjiang was changed to Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where Uyghurs are the largest ethnic group, mostly concentrated in the southwestern Xinjiang.[82] (see map, right)

Uyghur identity remains fragmented, as some support a stan" state, such as the East Turkestan independence movement. As a result, "[n]o Uyghur or East Turkestan group speaks for all Uyghurs, although it might claim to", and Uyghurs in each of these camps have committed violence against other Uyghurs who they think are too assimilated to Chinese or Russian society or are not religious enough.[83] Mindful not to take sides, Uyghur leaders such as Rebiya Kadeer mainly try to garner international support for the "rights and interests of the Uyghurs", including the right to demonstrate, although the Chinese government has accused her of orchestrating the deadly July 2009 Ürümqi riots.[84]

Uyghurs of Taoyuan, Hunan

Around 5,000 Uyghurs live around Taoyuan County and other parts of Changde in Hunan province.[85][86] They are descended from Hala Bashi, a Uyghur leader from Turpan, and his Uyghur soldiers sent to Hunan by the Ming Emperor in the 14th century to crush the Miao rebels during the Miao Rebellions in the Ming Dynasty.[10][87] The 1982 census records 4,000 Uyghurs in Hunan.[88] They have genealogies which survive 600 years later to the present day. Genealogy keeping is a Han Chinese custom which the Hunan Uyghurs adopted. These Uyghurs were given the surname Jian by the Emperor.[89] There is some confusion as to whether they practice Islam or not. Some say that they have assimilated with the Han and do not practice Islam anymore, and only their genealogies indicate their Uyghur ancestry.[90] Chinese news sources report that they are Muslim.[10]

The Uyghur troops led by Hala were ordered by the Ming Emperor to crush Miao rebellions and were given titles by him. Jian is the predominant surname among the Uyghur in Changde, Hunan. Another group of Uyghur have the surname Sai. Hui and Uyghur have intermarried in the Hunan area.[91] The Hui are descendants of Arabs and Han Chinese who intermarried, and they share the Islamic religion with the Uyghur in Hunan.[91] It is reported that they now number around 10,000 people. The Uyghurs in Changde are not very religious, and eat pork.[91] Older Uyghurs disapprove of this, especially elders at the mosques in Changde, and they seek to draw them back to Islamic customs.[91]

In addition to eating pork, the Uyghurs of Changde Hunan practice other Han Chinese customs, like ancestor worship at graves. Some Uyghurs from Xinjiang visit the Hunan Uyghurs out of curiosity or interest.[91] Also, the Uyghurs of Hunan do not speak the Uyghur language, instead, they speak Chinese as their native language, and Arabic for religious reasons at the mosque.[91]


The Uyghurs are a Eurasian (mixed ancestry) population with Eastern and Western Eurasian anthropometric and genetic traits. Uyghurs are thus one of the many populations of Central Eurasia that can be considered to be genetically related to European and East Asian populations. However, various scientific studies differ on the size of each component.[92] One study, using samples from Hetian (Hotan) only, found that Uyghurs have 60% European ancestry and 40% East Asian ancestry.[93] A further study showed slightly greater European component (52% European) in the Uyghur population in southern Xinjiang, but slightly greater East Asian component (47% European) in the northern Uyghur population.[94] Another study used a larger sample of individuals from a wider area, and found only about 30% European component to the admixture.[95] A study on mitochondrial DNA (therefore the matrilineal genetic contribution) found the frequency of western Eurasian-specific haplogroup in Uyghurs to be 42.6%.[96]

The admixture may be the result of a continuous gene flow from populations of European and Asian descent, or may have been formed by a single event of admixture during a short period of time (the hybrid isolation model). If a hybrid isolation model is assumed, it can be estimated that the hypothetical admixture event occurred about 126 generations ago, or 2,520 years ago assuming 20 years per generation.[93][97]

According to the paper by Li et al.:

The paper further concludes:


An Uyghur mosque in Khotan.


The ancient Uyghurs believed in Shamanism and Tengrism, then Manichaeism, Buddhism and Church of the East.[98][99] Modern Uyghurs however are primarily Muslim, and they are the second largest Muslim ethnic group in China after the Hui.[100]

The majority of modern Uyghurs are Sunnis, although conflicts exist between Sufi and non-Sufi religious orders.[100] While modern Uyghurs consider Islam to be part of their identity, religious observance varies between different regions. In general, Muslims in the southern region, Kashgar in particular, are more conservative.[101] For example, women wearing the full veil (brown cloth covering the head completely) are more common in Kashgar but may not be found in some other cities.[102] There is also a general split between the Uyghurs and the Hui Muslims in Xinjiang, and they normally worship in different mosques.[103]


Map of languages in Xinjiang

The modern Uyghur language belongs to the Karluk branch of the Turkic language family. It is closely related to Äynu, Lop, Ili Turki, and Chagatay (the East Karluk languages), and slightly less closely to Uzbek (which is West Karluk).

The Uyghur language is an agglutinative language and has a subject-object-verb word order. It has vowel harmony like other Turkic languages, and has noun and verb cases, but lacks distinction of gender forms.[104]

Modern Uyghurs have adopted a number of scripts for their language. The Arabic script, known as the Chagatay alphabet, was adopted along with Islam. Political changes in the 20th century led to numerous reforms of the writing scripts, for example the Cyrillic-based Uyghur Cyrillic alphabet, a Latin Uyghur New Script, and later a reformed Uyghur Arabic alphabet. A new Latin version, the Uyghur Latin alphabet, was also devised in the 21st century.


Most of the early Uyghur literary works were translations of Buddhist and Manichaean religious texts,[105] but there were also narrative, poetic, and epic works apparently original to the Uyghurs. The literary works from the Kara-Khanid period are considered by modern Uyghurs to be an important part of their literary traditions. Amongst these are Islamic religious texts and histories of Turkic peoples, and important works surviving from that era are Qutatqu Bilik (Wisdom Of Royal Glory) by Yüsüp Has Hajip (1069–70), Mähmut Qäşqäri's Divan-i Lugat-it Türk- A Dictionary of Turkic Dialects (1072), and Ähmät Yüknäki's Atabetul Hakayik. Perhaps the most famous and best loved pieces of modern Uyghur literature are Abdurehim Otkur's Iz, Oyghanghan Zimin, Zordun Sabir's Anayurt and Ziya Samedi's (former minister of culture in Sinkiang Government in 50's) novels Mayimkhan and Mystery of the years.


An example of modern Uyghur music

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Muqam is the classical musical style. The 12 Muqams are the national oral epic of the Uyghurs. The muqam system developed among the Uyghur in northwest China and Central Asia over approximately the last 1500 years from the Arabic maqamat modal system that has led to many musical genres among peoples of Eurasia and North Africa. Uyghurs have local muqam systems named after the oasis towns of Xinjiang, such as Dolan, Ili, Kumul and Turpan. The most fully developed at this point is the Western Tarim region's 12 muqams, which are now a large canon of music and songs recorded from the traditional performers Turdi Akhun and Omar Akhun among others in the 1950s and edited into a more systematic system. Although the folk performers probably improvised their songs as in Turkish taksim performances, the present institutional canon is performed as fixed compositions by ensembles.

The Uyghur Muqam of Xinjiang has been designated by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity.[106]

Amannisa Khan, sometimes called Amanni Shahan, (1526–1560) is credited with collecting and thereby preserving the Twelve Muqam.[107] Russian scholar Pantusov writes that the Uyghurs manufactured their own musical instruments; they had 62 different kinds of musical instruments and in every Uyghur home there used to be an instrument called a "dutar".

Wall painting at Bezeklik caves in Flaming Mountains, Turpan Depression.


Sanam is a popular folk dance among the Uyghur people.[108] It is commonly danced by people at weddings, festive occasions, and parties.[109] The dance may be performed with singing and musical accompaniment. Sama is a form of group dance for Newruz (New Year). Some dances may be alternate between singing and dancing, and Uyghur hand-drums called dap may be used as accompaniment to the dance.


During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, scientific and archaeological expeditions to the region of Xinjiang's Silk Road discovered numerous cave temples, monastery ruins, and wall paintings, as well as miniatures, books, and documents. There are 77 rock-cut caves at the site. Most have rectangular spaces with rounded arch ceilings often divided into four sections, each with a mural of Buddha. The effect is of an entire ceiling covered with hundreds of Buddha murals. Some ceilings are painted with a large Buddha surrounded by other figures, including Indians, Persians and Europeans. The quality of the murals vary with some being artistically naive while others are masterpieces of religious art.[110]

Xinjiang carpet factory


Historically, In the age of Karluk (Kara-Hanids) the education level of Uyghur people was higher than the other ethnics around them, Uyghurs were the major warfare engineers in Mongolian Empire and Uyghurs had a high status in the Mongolian empire. Education was provided for both boys and girls by separate schools (madrassah and maktap) attached to local mosques, some of which may also offer modern secular subjects in the early 20th century.[111][112][113] However, in more recent times, religious education is highly restricted in Xinjiang, and the Chinese authority had sought to eradicate any religious school they considered illegal.[114][115] Chinese Confucian schools were also set up in Xinjiang in the Qing era,[113] and Christian missionary schools in the late 19th century.[112] Beginning in the early 20th century, secular education became more widespread, and in the PRC era, Uyghurs may have a choice from two separate secular school systems, one conducted in their own language, and one offering instructions only in Chinese, the schools with bilingual education are insufficient for the Uyghurs.[116] Many Uyghurs link the preservation of their cultural and religious identity with the language of instruction in schools and therefore prefer the Uyghur language school.[112][117] However, from the mid-1980s onward, the Chinese government began to reduce teaching in Uyghur, and starting mid-1990s also began to merge some schools from the two systems. By 2002 Xinjiang University, originally a bilingual institution, had ceased offering courses in the Uyghur language. From 2004 onward, the government policy is that classes should be conducted in Chinese as much as possible, and in some selected regions, instruction in Chinese began in the first grade.[118] The level of education attainment among Uyghurs is generally lower than that of the Han Chinese; this may be due to the cost of education, the lack of proficiency in the Chinese language among many Uyghurs, and a poorer employment prospect for Uyghur graduates.[119] Uyghurs in China, unlike the Salar and Hui who are also mostly Muslim, generally do not oppose coeducation.[120] Girls however may be withdrawn from school earlier than boys.[112]


Today, traditional Uyghur medicine can still be found at street stands. Similar to other traditional medicine, diagnosis is usually made through checking the pulse, symptoms, and disease history, and then the pharmacist pounds up different dried herbs, making personalized medicines according to the prescription. Modern Uyghur medical hospitals adopted modern medical science and medicine and applied evidence-based pharmaceutical technology to traditional medicines. Historically, Uyghur medical knowledge has contributed to Chinese medicine in terms of medical treatments, medicinal materials and ingredients, and symptom detection. It introduced to Chinese medicine the medical use of snakes, opium and many new kinds of plants.[121]


Uyghur pilaf (پولۇ)

Uyghur food shows both Central Asian and Chinese elements. A typical Uyghur dish is polo (or pilaf), a dish found throughout Central Asia. In a common version of the Uyghur polo, carrots and mutton (or chicken) are first fried in oil with onions, then rice and water are added and the whole dish is steamed. Raisins and dried apricots may also be added. Also found here is kawaplar (i.e., kebabs or grilled meat). Another common Uyghur dish is läghmän (لەغمەن), a noodle dish with stir-fried topping usually made of mutton, tomatoes, onions, green peppers and other vegetables. This dish is likely to have originated from the Chinese lamian, but its flavor and preparation method are distinctively Uyghur.[122]

Uyghur food (Uyghurche Yemekliri) is characterized by mutton, beef, camel (solely bactrian), chicken, goose, carrots, tomatoes, onions, peppers, eggplant, celery, various dairy foods, and fruits.

An Uyghur-style breakfast consists of tea with home-baked bread, hardened yogurt, olives, honey, raisins, and almonds. Uyghurs like to treat guests with tea, naan and fruit before the main dishes are ready.

Sangza (Uyghur: ساڭزا) are crispy and tasty fried wheat flour dough twists, a holiday specialty. Samsa (Uyghur: سامسا) are lamb pies baked in a special brick oven. Youtazi is steamed multi-layer bread. Göshnan (Uyghur: گۆشنان) are pan-grilled lamb pies. Pamirdin are baked pies stuffed with lamb, carrots, and onions. Xurpa is lamb soup (Uyghur: شۇرپا). Other dishes include Tohax, a different type of baked bread, and Tunurkawab. Also, Girde is a very popular bagel-like bread with a hard and crispy crust that's soft inside.

See also


  •  This article incorporates text from The cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia: commercial, industrial and scientific, products of the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, useful arts and manufactures, by Edward Balfour, a publication from 1885 now in the public domain in the United States.
  1. ^ Stanley W. Toops (5 Dec 2013). "Chapter 4 - Where Inner Asia Meets Outer Asia". In Susan M. Walcott, Corey Johnson. Eurasian Corridors of Interconnection: From the South China to the Caspian Sea. Routledge. p. 65.  
  2. ^ Агентство Республики Казахстан по статистике :Итоги переписи населения Республики Казахстан 2009 года ... Численность населения Республики Казахстан по итогам переписи населения 2009 года на момент счета на 12 часов ночи с 24 на 25 февраля 2009г. составила 16004,8 тыс. человек . Доля уйгуров в общей численности населения страны составила – 1,4%.Численность казахов увеличилась по сравнению с предыдущей переписью на 26,1% и составила 10098,6 тыс. человек. Увеличилась численность узбеков на 23,3%, составив 457,2 тыс. человек, уйгур - на 6%, составив 223,1 тыс. человек. Снизилась численность русских на 15,3%, составив 3797,0 тыс. человек; немцев - на 49,6%, составив 178,2 тыс. человек; украинцев – на 39,1%, составив 333,2 тыс. человек; татар – на 18,4%, составив 203,3 тыс. человек; других этносов – на 5,8%, составив 714,2 тыс. человек.
  3. ^ Национальный статистический комитет Кыргызской Республики : Перепись населения и жилищного фонда Кыргызской Республики 2009 года в цифрах и фактах - Архив Публикаций - КНИГА II (часть I в таблицах) : 3.1. Численность постоянного населения по национальностям
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  • Austin, Peter, ed. (2008). 1000 languages: living, endangered, and lost (illustrated ed.). University of California Press.  
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Further reading

  • Chinese Cultural Studies: Ethnography of China: Brief Guide at
  • Beckwith, Christopher I. (2009). Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-13589-2.
  • Findley, Carter Vaughn. 2005. The Turks in World History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516770-8, ISBN 0-19-517726-6 (pbk.)
  • Güzel, Hasan Celal; Oğuz, C. Cem (2002). The Turks 2. Ankara: Yeni Türkiye.  .
  • Hessler, Peter. Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.
  • Hierman, Brent. "The Pacification of Xinjiang: Uighur Protest and the Chinese State, 1988–2002." Problems of Post-Communism, May/Jun2007, Vol. 54 Issue 3, pp 48–62
  • Human Rights in China: China, Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions, London, Minority Rights Group International, 2007
  • Kaltman, Blaine (2007). Under the Heel of the Dragon: Islam, Racism, Crime, and the Uighur in China. Athens:  
  • Kamberi, Dolkun. 2005. Uyghurs and Uyghur identity. Sino-Platonic papers, no. 150. Philadelphia, PA: Dept. of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Mackerras, Colin. Ed. and trans. 1972. The Uighur Empire according to the T'ang Dynastic Histories: a study in Sino-Uyghur relations 744–840. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 0-87249-279-6
  • Millward, James A. and Nabijan Tursun, (2004) "Political History and Strategies of Control, 1884–1978" in Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland, ed. S. Frederick Starr. Published by M. E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-0-7656-1318-9.
  • Millward, James A. (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3.
  • Rall, Ted. Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East? New York: NBM Publishing, 2006.
  • Rudelson, Justin Ben-Adam, Oasis identities: Uyghur nationalism along China's Silk Road, New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
  • Thum, Rian. The Sacred Routes of Uyghur History (Harvard University Press; 2014) 323 pages
  • Tyler, Christian. (2003). Wild West China: The Untold Story of a Frontier Land. John Murray, London. ISBN 0-7195-6341-0.
  • Islam in China, Hui and Uyghurs: between modernization and sinicization, the study of the Hui and Uyghurs of China, Jean A. Berlie, White Lotus Press editor, Bangkok, Thailand, published in 2004. ISBN 974-480-062-3, ISBN 978-974-480-062-6.

External links

  • Britannica Uighur people
  • London Uyghur Ensemble Uyghur Culture and History; multimedia site-links to cultural and historical background, current news, research materials and photographs.
  • Uyghur News News aggregator representing the views of Uyghur activists
  • Introduction to Uyghur Culture and History Links to cultural and historical background, current news, research materials and photographs.
  • Map share of ethnic by county of China
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