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The Uygur ethnic minority (8)

(People's Daily)

11:16, August 08, 2011

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 Century

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.

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