Uyghur’sCulture and Visual Arts
TheUyghur are a Turkic indigenous people living in Central and EasternAsia. They are predominant in the Xinjiang Uyghur Independent Area inChina and are among the 55 officially known ethnic minorities. Around80 percent of Xinjiang`s Uyghur reside in the Tarim basin. Apart fromXinjiang, the biggest Uyghur community live in Taoyuan County. Thereare also several Uyghur communities outside China. They reside inUzbekistan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. A small portion alsolive in Canada, Germany, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Sweden, SaudiArabia, Russia, Australia, the United States, Belgium, Afghanistan,and Norway. Most of them practice Islam. However, they are a mixedcultural group extending from Western Eurasia to a more diversifiedrace in East Asia. The paper will illustrate how Uygur’s visual artrepresents their identity and culture. Visual art and culture is away of focusing on phenomena that are everywhere. The idea of ‘visualculture’ recognizes the universal nature of visible marvels andsignals frankness towards both the extensiveness of images andobjects and the array of theoretic and methodological perceptionsrequired to comprehend them effectively. Representing art and culturerequires critical visual literacy. One has to attend to the specificobjects, events, and images, before developing approaches that aresensitive to the particular works. Then investigate the nature of theviews i.e. how the meanings of the works are derived. Then assess therelationships with other individuals. In that regard, this paper willevaluate all the aspects of culture entailing the Uygur community. Inaddition to that, the article will focus on the historicalbackground, name, and identity of the group [ CITATION Edw05 l 1033 ].
Theconnotation of the word Uyghur is imprecise. Modern etymologicaldescriptions have extended from "to trail, non-rebellious andaccommodate oneself” to "to wake, stir, and rouse” with noneof them being reasonable since the sound changes could not haveappeared by this time. The etymology, therefore, cannot be preciselydetermined. In addition to that, historically the sets it representedwere not ethnologically permanent since it signified a politicalrather than an ethnic identity. It was also used initially to denotejust one cluster among several, the others referring themselves asToquz Oghuz. The word Uyghur became extinct from the ancient archivesduring the 15th century. However, the Bolsheviks reinstated it tosubstitute the formerly utilized Turki or Turk. In contemporaryusage, Uyghur denotes to established Turkic urban inhabitants andfarmers of the Tarim Basin. The group follows customary Central Asiansedentary practices, as opposed to nomadic Turkic people in CentralAsia [ CITATION Ann15 l 1033 ].
Allthrough its antiquity, the word Uyghur has developed a progressivelybroad meaning. Initially, it represented only a trivial alliance ofTiele tribes in the Altai Mountains, Mongolia, and Northern China itlater designated residency in the Uyghur Khaganate. It was finallyextended into a community whose heritage originates from the collapseof the Uyghur Khaganate in the year 842. The fall instigated Uyghurmovement from Mongolia towards the Tarim Basin. The relocationintegrated and supplanted the Indo-Europeans of the area to produce aunique identity. It now represented the culture and language of theTurkic immigrants who ultimately displaced the originalIndo-Europeans. The fluid account of Uyghur and the varied ancestryof contemporary Uyghurs generate misperception about what institutesaccurate Uyghur ethnogenesis and ethnography. Modern researchersconsider current Uyghurs to be the descendants of several ofindividuals, comprising the Iranian Saka tribes, the old Uyghur ofMongolia who entered the Tarim Basin after the collapse of the UyghurKhaganate, and other Indo-European people who occupied the TarimBasin before the entrance of the Turkic Uyghur. DNA assessments showthat populates of the central Asian region like the Uyghur are allmixed East Asian and Caucasian. Uyghur advocates recognize the Tarimcadavers, remains of ancient people who occupied the area. However,studies into the genetics of antique Tarim cadavers and theirrelations with present Uyghur remain contentious. They arecontroversial both to the Chinese administration officers concernedwith ethnic autonomy and the Uyghur campaigners concerned thatstudies could affect their rights of being indigenous to the area [ CITATION Dwy05 l 1033 ].
Theantiquity of the Uyghur people and their ethnic foundation is acontentious issue between the Chinese authorities and Uyghurnationalists. Historians perceived the Uyghur as the originaloccupants of Xinjiang with a lengthy history. As written by MuhemmedImin Bughra, who was an Uyghur historian and politician, the Turkshave a 9000-year or more historical account. On the other hand,Turghun Almas also a historian assimilated findings of Tarim cadaversto assert that Uyghur has over 6400 years of antiquity. Similarly,the World Uyghur Congress contend they have a 4,000-year past.Nevertheless, Chinese authority affirms that the Uyghur in Xinjiangmoved from the Tiele tribes. Additionally, they only became thedominant political and social force in Xinjiang in the ninth centuryafter migrating from Mongolia when Uyghur Khaganate collapsed andsupplanted the Han Chinese, who occupied the place since the HanDynasty. Most of the modern Western researchers, though, do notconsider the current Uyghur to be of straight linear ancestry fromthe ancient Uyghur Khaganate of Mongolia. Rather, they take them tobe progenies of several people, one of them being the ancient Uyghur.
Figure1: An 8th-CenturyUyghur Khagan
Asper the historical findings, the Uyghur Khaganate overthrew theTurkic Khaganate to settle in the southern part of Lake Baikal. Thegroup lasted from 744 to 840 before being defeated by YeniseiKirghiz. During this time, civil war and famine hit the regionweakening them. After being displaced, most of the tribal groupspreviously controlled by the Uyghur dispersed and migrated fromMongolia.
Figure2: Uyghur king of the Turfan area attended by servants. Mogao Caves,409, 11th– 13thcentury
TheGanzhou Kingdom was the easternmost state that lasted between 870 and1036 before the Western Xia absorbed it. Its capital was near thecurrent Zhangye, Gansu, China. Current Yugurs claim to be progeniesof these Uyghur. Qocho kingdom is the second Uyghur state. Thekingdom lasted for around six centuries between the 9th and the 14thcentury. Its capital was in Qocho, currently known as Gaochang.Though the Uyghur were previously Manichaean, they changed toBuddhism. They would later join the rising Mongol Empire, where theyworked as civil servants. However, the kingdom was overthrown byChagatai Khanate in the 1390s. As illustrated in figure 2 above,Kings were well respected and accorded all their needs. The picturedemonstrates how servants attended to them. Most of the pictures werecarved in caverns like the Mogao Caves [ CITATION Vic06 l 1033 ].
Uyghur’sCulture and Visual Arts
Thecommunity’s cultural aspects entail music, clothing, cuisine, art,literature, and dance. They provide distinctive features about thecommunity. Assessment of the facets above will provide the visualcharacteristics of the Uyghur [ CITATION Muk02 l 1033 ].
Figure3: Auspicious song from the Tianshan Mountain
Uygurfolk music is unique in Xinjiang. It has inherited the excellentcustoms of the ancient music of Yutian, Qiuci, Yizhou, Gaochang,Yizhou, and Shule. Uyghur folk skill is a visual knack made byindividuals to meet common social essentials. The description of folkart is virtual to the definition of the power of royal palace, theknack of aristocracies, and scholars as well as skilled artists.Firstly, it is a shared art shaped by millions in the working class,not just a few career artists. It is the skill of workers, not justdiehard experts it is amateur, not specialized. Furthermore, itssocietal role makes it an art of inevitability, utilized in dailylives, ceremonies, rites, production, taboos, and beliefs. It was notenvisioned as a profitable product or service to serve politicaldesires [ CITATION Dwy05 l 1033 ].
Fromthe past ages of a primitive community, collective art was developedby the people together with the design of tools, shelter and otherrudimentary applications essential in the day-to-day life. However,the advent of social classes within the community detached the skillof an individual career artist from the folk art. Due to thesecategories, two core art techniques, as well as two culturalheritages, were formed. One is the shared architecture of thepopulaces that began during the prehistoric period. The other, an artdeveloped by individual experts and career artists. The paralleldevelopment and related effects of these two kinds of art have beenthe core driving force of Chinese national art. Regarding thesafeguarding of national culture, folk art is relatively stable. Itsignifies the belief of the ethnic group the psychological andemotional features of a country all through major phases in history.It is concurrent with the country’s culture and will not vanish aslong as the community exists. The traditional folk arts will continueto develop with time. In addition to that, cross-culturalinterchanges and progress will continuously add fresh life into folkart by passing novel ideas and materials [ CITATION Edw05 l 1033 ].
Becauseof Xinjiang’s precise geography as well as the continuousintercultural effects, musical panaches have grown along divergentpaths throughout the years. Each custom is characteristic of itszone. There exists three separate classes of Xinjiang songs i.e.Eastern Xinjiang, Daolang region and Southern Xinjiang. SouthernXinjiang tends to be immense. It also differs from one place toanother regarding the content. For instance, Hotan folk music ismodest, petite and primitive, replicating the land’s flavor. On theother hand, Kashgar folk music has a complex tempo, while the Kuqaones are boisterous, lively, and good for dancing [ CITATION Mic04 l 1033 ].
Thereare numerous types of customary Uygur music, with the most popularone being the archetypal Uygur melodic adaptation the "TwelveMuqam". It is the focal point in the creation of Uygur music.The arty gem combines dancing and folk songs and contains over 340classical tunes, folk melodies, and some dances as well asinstrumental music. For many generations, this kind has attractedindividuals in both Southern and Northern Xinjiang. The Muqam schemeadvanced among the Uyghur in Central Asian regions and northwestChina for over 1500 years since the Arabic maqamat modal arrangement.The system has resulted to numerous musical genres amongst populatesof North Africa and Eurasia [ CITATION Edw05 l 1033 ].
“Sanam”translated as “beauty” is another type of traditional music thatentails singing while dancing to crowds. It comprises of around sevento dozens of bits of song-and-dance composition. The tune beginsgradually and progressively, then gains haste, and lastly ends in aculmination of cheerful music and enthusiastic dances. “Maida,"Kuxak," and "Eytixish "are verbal tunes that aremutual within the Uygur community. Complemented by modest melodies,the utterer will talk through the song, normally about a woman and aman. Two individuals can also do the melodies. A range of devicessupplements Uygur music. During the Tang (618-907) and Sui (581-618)reigns, the five-stringed “pipa” which is a tagged thread devicewith Harp “konghou,”, and fretted fingerboard an antique tuggedstringed gadget, were prevalent in Qiuci among other regions. Themodern Uygur music advanced from antique melodic devices on theWestern parts, contemporary Chinese and foreign appliances itcomprises wind, numerous stringed, and drumming devices [ CITATION Edw05 l 1033 ].
Uyghurdances illustrate diligence, courage, openness and optimism. Wristand head movements differentiate folk dances. Their cleverharmonization is heightened by the characteristic stance of theslanted head, thrust chest and upright waist. The dances, especiallySanam, express the Uygur` moods and character.
Figure4: Uyghur dance
Figure5: Uyghur dance
Thequick turns of Uygur traditional dances accentuate haste and aretrailed by a sudden halt, similar to a soaring eagle that breaksabruptly. The different dances all have their turns. The dance endswith a turning contest. There are distinct beats for various Uygurfolk dances, but dotted rhythms and syncopation are strikingcharacteristics in many. The most famous folk dance amongst the Uyguris the Sanam. During celebrations, weddings among other celebrations,people always dance Sanam. Another dance, Dolan refers to an ancientUygur folk dance popular in some parts of Aksu and Kashgar. Dolan isa primordial term for Uygurs living in many places within the TarimBasin. It is said to designate hunting. Nevertheless, certain peoplesay this dance portrays a battle. Another form of dance is Sama. Itis a kind of group dance for Newruz (Uyghur New Year) and othercentenaries. It is popular in Kucha and Kashgar area. Initially, Samawas the term used to describe a primitive religion amongst primordialUygurs. People would pray to gods of nature for harvest and huntingby singing, thumping drums and dancing, receiving instructions fromtheir religious leader Sama. The ritual service slowly turned into agroup performance for Newruz and other ceremonies. Then it changedinto a solo executed on festive events. The dance and its musicalsupplement are included in the third section of the Twelve Muqam(Mukhpul).
Musicand dances are common means which people use to showcase their innerself. Uyghur’s unique music and dances promote the visualrepresentation of their culture. The movements while dancing,melodies while singing all depict a distinctive culture that is notimitable by other ethnic groups. Additionally, the immersion ofstriking rhythmic elements in the music and dances deliberately orinvoluntarily maintained their features and even stressed overstatedvisual practices to display the artistic elegances of their group.Boosted by this great cultural mind, some practices and conceptionapproaches from glamorous art are contained instinctively in theirethnic group [ CITATION Muk02 l 1033 ].
Uygurs’visual art in Cuisine
Uyghurfood depicts both Chinese and Asian elements. A characteristic Uyghurdish is polu. The standard version of this dish comprises of carrotsand chicken or mutton. They are first cooked in oil with onions, thenwater and rice are added before the whole dish is steamed. Driedapricots and raisins can also be added.
Figure6: Uyghur polo
Anothercommon meal is grilled meat or kebab.
Thelamb kebabs are soaked in a mixture of onion, pomegranate juice, andgarlic that add a kick of tartness to the lamb. A combination ofcumin and salt are also added. Camel, carrots, goose, mutton, beef,chicken, tomatoes, peppers, onions, fruits, celery, and differentdairy products typify the Uyghur food.
Throughoutthe globe, different cultures identify themselves with a unique food.The artistry used to make the foods differ particularly in theingredients. Judging from the visual exhibition of the foods, itappears that the enticing Uygur meals portray sweetness and flavorentailed in their culture. Though they value simplicity regarding thepreparation of foods, the entire process comprises of intricatelymixed ingredients that result to a sumptuous meal [ CITATION Wei02 l 1033 ].
Uygurs’visual art in Clothing
TheUygur people adore clothes made of cotton. Uygur women usually wearone-piece dresses with baggy sleeves and bright vests. They heightenthese with silk scarves. The men also wear gowns harmonized with longveils round their waist. It is hard to see a Uygur without a cap.Caps are quite vital in their clothing. The women normally putdesigns on their caps, adding colorful embroidery and pictures. Theyalso like to decorate with bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Inaddition to that, the women keep their hair long. The braids candifferentiate single and married females. As married women wear onlytwo braids, single ladies are allowed to wear as many braids as theywant. Another distinctive element of Uyghur men is their knives.Their culture necessitates men to carry knives on their bodies as asign of masculinity. The clothes are weaved depending on the weatherconditions. In some parts, the group makes their attires by knittinghomegrown resources and using plants to dye the fabric. Due to thewarm and scorching conditions, the clothing is lightweight and comfy.The primary colors utilized are black, blue, and brown due to theaccessibility of dying resources. In the artistic model of
Uyghurs,the display of these formal rudiments is unswerving with suchpositive value judgment as beauty, kindness, vitality, etc. In thatregard, beauty is replicated in the plane decoration of theirattires, while the beauty of splendor and over-elaboration, commonlyrelated with decent life and distinguished eminence, has adopted intothe cultural cognizance of the indigenous group in correspondencewith their original quest for beauty and art [ CITATION Mic04 l 1033 ].
Uygurs’visual art in Education and Medicine
Archaeologically,the education standards of Old Uyghur people was higher than theother surrounding communities. According to Chinese surveys, Uyghurlanguage is the most spoken one for roughly10.6 million Uyghur peopleliving in East Turkestan and another 1.5 million Uyghur diaspora. Thegroup emphasizes on education though girls might be withdrawn fromschools after reaching certain levels. The aesthetic medicine isUnani. It is based on the ancient Greek theory that treated ailmentsthrough oases and deserts of Central Asia. The medicine is stillfound in many parts including the street stands. Like othertraditional medical cultures, diagnosis of illness is usually made bychecking the symptoms, pulse as well the history of the disease. Thenthe herbalist smacks various dried herbs to make personalizedmedicines as per the prescription. Contemporary Uygur medicalhospitals embraced current practitioners and science to constructevidence-based centers. In fact, the Uygur medical information hascontributed to the emanation of Chinese medicine. They used snakes,different plant types, and opium, to instigate the rise of Chinesemedicine [ CITATION Joh68 l 1033 ].
Thenatural disclosure of medical cognizance provides Uyghur visual artwith discrete traits from others. These are personifications of theircultural physiognomies: the constant sacred feelings etchedprofoundly inside the hearts of the group and assimilated into theheritage of their culture in the way of shared oblivion. Their uniqueview on culture is also seen on the religious beliefs. According tothe Uygurs, religious belief is not required by external forces butis an intrinsic trait of their culture [ CITATION Vic06 l 1033 ].
Visualarts and culture of the Uyghur is a broad topic due to the manyaspects involved. As portrayed by the historical backgrounds, theUyghur have a unique way of representing their culture. From theperspectives of religious, cuisine, traditional attires, music anddances, the distinctive nature of the community can be seen. Throughtheir music and dances, Uyghurs’ illustrate diligence, courage,openness and optimism. In the global perspective, different culturesuse music and dances to display their inner self. In other words,through dancing, they typify their cultures. In that respect, theUyghur’s unique music and dances promote the visual representationof their culture. The movements while dancing, melodies while singingall depict a distinctive culture that is not imitable by other ethnicgroups. Their eating habits also illustrate their uniqueness. Most ofthem take three meals per day just like many communities across theglobe. However, the three meals are delicately prepared todistinguish it from other cultures. It seems the enticing Uygur mealsdepict sweetness and flavor entailed in their culture. Clothing isanother core element of culture. Every community tends to havedifferent attires symbolizing various things. Apart from wearingbrilliant national colors, communities embrace their cultures byadorning traditional attires during countrywide events. Uyghurs valuebeauty. In fact, in their culture, beauty is shown through decoratedattires. On the other hand, the beauty of splendor andover-elaboration is entrenched in their culture. Such beauty iscommonly related to decent life and distinguished eminence. Educationand medicine are also core components of culture. Throughout theworld, communities have their way of treating illnesses as well asproviding education. The Uyghur community was historically moreeducated than any other group. Their medical activities led to theemergence of the Chinese medicine that includes yoga, use of snakesand opium among others. As illustrated above, the natural disclosureof medical cognizance provides Uyghur visual art with discretetraits. In general, the Uyghur community is embodied by its culture.
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