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The Salar ethnic minority (2)

(People's Daily)

15:38, August 28, 2011

Culture

The language of the Salars, which belongs to the Tujue (Turkic) branch of the Altaic language family, is almost identical with the languages of the Uygurs and Ozbeks, with whom they share the same religion. It contains quite a number of words taken from the Chinese and Tibetan languages as a result of long years of mutual contacts. Nowadays, most young and middle-aged Salars know how to speak Chinese, which is also accepted as the written language of the Salar ethnic group.

The Salar people have a rich and colorful tradition of folklore. Many of the legends, stories and fairy tales sing the praises of the courage and wisdom of the laboring people, and lament the hard lives of the Salar women in the past, as well as their struggle against feudal oppression. The typical folk tune genre is the "Hua'er (flower)," a kind of folksong sung sonorously and unrestrainedly in the Chinese language. However, in most cases it is presented with a sweet, trilling tone due to the influence of Tibetan folk songs. The singers are all able to fill in impromptu words according to whatever happens to strike a chord in their hearts. Significant reforms have been introduced to this form of art since 1949. The Salars now sing to express their rejoicing over their new life. Amateur theatrical troupes, and song and dance groups are flourishing among the Salar people.

Customs

Deeply influenced by Islam, the customs and habits as practiced among the Salars are roughly the same as those of the Huis that live nearby. Women like to wear kerchiefs on their heads and black sleeveless jackets over clothes in striking red colors. They are good at embroidery and often stitch flowers in five different colors onto their pillowcases, shoes and socks. Men wear flat-topped brimless hats of either black or white colors, and wear sheepskin coats without linings and woolen clothing in winter. Young men living along the banks of the Yellow River love to swim. Some of the customs and habits of the Salars have changed over the years as a result of social and economic development. Polygamy, for instance, has been abolished, and cases of child marriage have been greatly reduced. The extravagant practice of slaughtering cattle in large numbers for weddings, funerals and festivals has been changed.

Women of the Salar ethnic minority in the past suffered tremendously under religious strictures and feudal ethics. Unmarried girls were not allowed to appear in public, while married women had to hide their faces in front of strange men. They had to turn their faces sideways when answering an inquiry and make a detour should they meet a strange man coming their way. But, in recent decades, Salar women have broken away from such practices and the traditional concept of men being superior to women is slowly disappearing. Salar women are now taking an active part in all local production endeavors.


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