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|Friday, December 29, 2000, updated at 08:09(GMT+8)|
Ethnic Uygurs in Hunan Live in Harmony with Han ChineseSeven thousand people from the ethnic Uygur group living in Fengshu Township, in central China's Hunan Province, gathered together Thursday, December 28, inside a local mosque to attend a ceremony marking the Festival of Fast-Breaking.
In China, most ethnic Uygur people live in northwest China's injiang Uygur Autonomous Region. But, this small group of ethnic ygurs living in this central Chinese land have observed the traditions and folkways unique to people of ethnic Uygur background for 600 years.
The fast-breaking festival is an important event for Moslems. Like most Moslems living in Xinjiang and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the Moslems scattered in Fengshu Township also held various kinds of religious functions to celebrate the festival Thursday. Many people representing Han Chinese and other ethnic groups also attended the Moslems' religious activities. Moslem workers are given a one-day official holiday for the fast-breaking festival.
Situated by the Yuanshui River, a tributary of Dongting Lake, Fengshu Township is famous for a number of master pieces in classical Chinese literature, including "Li Sao" by Poet Qu Yuan, and "Peach-Blossom Springs", a poem by Tao Yuanming with a foreword which is an influential piece of writing that tells of an ancient Utopia.
Right among the densely distributed Han Chinese villages, the descendants of the largest group of Uygur Moslems outside Xinjiang have lived and prospered for tens of hundreds of years.
After the religious gathering, several imams came to the slaughter shelters to slaughter cattle and sheep to celebrate the festival.
Excited little Uygur girls, wearing their best costumes for the festivals, danced merrily to music in the open air ground before the village. Jian Dejiu, a Uygur villager in his 70s, said: "Our religious functions are the same as those activities held to mark the fast-breaking by our Uygur brothers in Xinjiang."
More than 600 years back, Hala Bashi, a Uygur noble, acted under orders from Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), to guard Fengshu and was given surname "Jian".
Up to now, this group of Uygurs have lived and prospered for 28 generations, with 10,000 people, who are now scattered in four townships including Fengshu. Uygurs of Xinjiang consider these townships as the first habitats of ethnic Uygur people in areas south of the Yangtze River.
In the areas where most residents are Han Chinese, the green mosques and growing number of restaurants serving Moslem food, let people feel a strong sense of ethnic Uygur culture.
"The government has helped us build several mosques," said Jian Dejiu. In the past 50 years, local governments have sponsored training of over 20 imams, two of whom have made pilgrimages to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Although ethnic Uygur people here seldom marry Han Chinese, they can speak Mandarin (Putonghua) in addition to their mother tongue Uygur language.
"Before the founding of New China, we were looked down upon, and there were fights with weapons between ethnic Uygur people and Han Chinese residents every year," recalled Jian Dejiu, "but now we ethnic Uygur people and Han Chinese friends live peacefully together just like people of one family."
Like previous years, more than 100 Han Chinese representatives were invited to attend religious activities hosted by ethnic Uygur people. A Han Chinese guest said they also often invite Uygur brothers to visit their villages. To treat them, Han Chinese hosts have prepared at their homes special bowls and chopsticks for the ethnic Uygur guests.
The younger generation of the ethnic Uygur Jian group, who have lived peacefully with Han Chinese, have developed a feeling quite
different from their parents.
Thirty-one-year-old Jian Yiming, head of Fengshu Township, said "what makes us ethnic Uygur people different from Han Chinese brothers is that the state policies are lopsided toward us Uygur people."
Local governments have encouraged ethnic Uygur residents to expand traditional slaughter and leather processing businesses, and ethnic Uygur residents have therefore led a far better-off life than Han Chinese in the areas.
"We also spread our business skills to Han Chinese brothers, so that we ethnic Uygur people and Han Chinese can become prosperous together," said Jian Yiming, also a graduate of the Central University of Nationality Studies.
Though ethnic Uygur people only account for 20 percent of Fengshu Township's total population, every leader of Fengshu Township has been selected from the ethnic Uygur group since Fengshu became an autonomous township of Uygurs in 1986. This group of ethnic Uygurs have a number of celebrities among them, including Jian Bozan, a well-known Chinese historian.
Jian Ningyi, a prominent Uygur businessman specializing in cattle hide processing, said that since the 1980s Uygur people of Fengshu, who have become prosperous, make trips to Xinjiang each year.
"With the support of the local governments, I and my Uygur brothers of Xinjiang invested more than five million yuan in expanding business to Southeast Asia," said the cattle hide businessman.
A Uygur scholar from Xinjiang who is now working with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences concluded, after having made in-depth study into the Uygur Jian group people, that Uygur Jian people, who now live in harmony with local Han Chinese, "is an miniature of prosperity of ethnic groups in China."
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