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The Uygur ethnic minority (7)

(People's Daily)

11:16, August 08, 2011

Post-liberation Development

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 wear veils.

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  1. The Uygur ethnic minority
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