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Uyghur’s Culture

Toward the end of the 19th century and into the first decades of the 20th, scientific and archaeological expeditions to the region of Eastern Turkestan´s Silk Road discovered numerous cave temples, monastery ruins, wall paintings, as well as valuable miniatures, books and documents. Explorers from Europe, America and even Japan were amazed by the art treasures found there, and soon their reports caught the attention of an interested public around the world. These relics of the Uyghur culture constitute today major collections in the museums of Berlin
, London, Paris, Tokyo, St. Petersburg and New Delhi. The manuscripts and documents discovered in Eastern Turkestan [Xinjiang] reveal the very high degree of civilization attained by the Uyghurs. This Uyghur power, prestige and civilization, which dominated the Central Asia for over a thousand years, went into a steep decline after the [Manchu] invasion of their homeland.

Three Uyghur girls at a Sunday market in the oasis city Khotan (Hotan / Hetian), in the [Xinjiang] Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People´s Republic of China.

The local Uyghur people operate on “Xinjiang time”, the time of the sun. The Han Chinese operate on “Beijing time”, like the rest of the country. This can sometimes cause confusion when arranging meetings.LiteratureThe Uyghurs are known as an educated people. They have worked in chancelleries and embassies of different states, and have been teachers, military officers, and ambassadors in Rome, Istanbul, and Baghdad, scholars in [Tabriz]. There are hundreds of famous Uyghur scholars and the Uyghur literature is vast. Some Uyghur books have been translated into different western languages. The Uyghurs had been printing their books for hundreds of years before Gutenberg invented his printing press. In the 11th century the Uyghurs accepted the Arabic alphabet.

Most of the early Uyghur literary works were translations of Buddhist and Manichean religious texts, but there were also narrative, poetic and epic works. Some of these have been translated into German, English, Russian and Turkish. After embracing Islam, the Uyghur continued to preserve their cultural dominance in Central Asia. World-renowned Uyghur scholars emerged, and Uyghur literature flourished. Among hundreds of important works surviving from that era are “Qutatqu Bilik” (Beneficial Lore) by [Yusuf Balasaguni] (Yusup Has Hajip) (1069-70), [Kashgarli Mehmud/Mahmut Kashgari]´s Divan-i Lugat-it Turk- Turkic Languages Dictionary (1072), and Ahmat Yuknaki´s “Atabetul Hakayik”.

Perhaps the most famous and well loved pieces of modern Uyghur literature are [Abdurahim Otkur]´s “Iz”, “Oyghanghan Zimin”, and [Zordun Sabir]´s “Anayurt”. 


      Uyghur Medicine Stand, Kashgar.

The Uyghurs had an extensive knowledge of medicine and medical practice. Chinese [Song Dynasty] (906-960) sources indicate that a Uyghur physician named Nanto traveled to China and brought with him many kinds of medicine unknown to the Chinese. There were 103 different herbs for use in Uyghur medicine recorded in a medical compendium by Li Shizhen (1518-1593), a Chinese medical authority. Some scholars believe that acupuncture was originally a Uyghur discovery, not a Chinese discovery. Ref: Professor Rashid Rahmeti Arat, Zur Heilkunde der Uighuren (Medical Practices of the Uygurs), Berlin (1930 and 1932)Traditional Uyghur medicine today is sold at street stands. Similar to other traditional Chinese medicine, diagnosis is usually made through checking the pulse, symptoms and disease history, and then the pharmacist pounds up different dried herbs, making personalized medicines according to the prescription. Some medicines are pre-made, but most are made on the street. Modern Uyghur medical hospitals have adopted the Western medicine system, but also use advanced western pharmaceutical technologies to purify and produce traditional medicine that is considered effective for a few chronic and rare diseases.Art

The cave paintings at Bezeklik. 


The cave paintings at Bezeklik. Paintings at Bezeklik caves in Flaming Mountains, Turpan.

MusicUyghurs have over 62 different kinds of musical instruments; most Uyghur homes have a dutar. The 12 Muqam is perhaps the Uyghurs´ most well known music.Source:

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