People, History and Culture:
Xinjiang Uyghur Province, China

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Uyghur Language

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Uyghur Alphabet
The Uyghur Alphabet. Courtesy: Uygur World

Uyghur Numerals
The Uyghur Numerals. Courtesy: Uygur World

The Uygur language is defined by Linguists as being Altaic Turkic and has 13 dialects. Uyghur vocabulary is basically from Turkic stock, but like Uzbek has taken on a large quantity of loan words from Persian. Many internationalisms entered the Uyghur language via Russian, and there are some more recent loans from Chinese. It has many similarities to the Turkish language and is often mistaken for Arabic in it's spoken form. The language traditionally used the Arabic script since the 10th century. The Chinese government introduced a Roman script closely resembling the Soviet Uniform Turkic Alphabet in 1969, but the Persian-Arabic script was reintroduced in 1983, but with extra diacritics to distinguish all vowels of Uyghur. Cyrillic script has been used to write Uyghur in areas previously dominated by Russians, and another Roman script is used in Turkey and on the internet. UigurLanguage.Com provides an English/Uyghur online dictionary. This page also contains several tools for learning the language. Wikipedia's Uyghur Language page also provides several language & translation references.


Uygur Language - Uygur World
Uyghur Language - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Uyghur American Association

Uyghur Religion


The Uygur people going back to their earliest history were animist - that is they worshipped natural spirits and consulted Sharmans. They then converted to Buddhism and were the original Buddhists of the Turkic people in Central Asia. At the height of Buddhism Kashgar was the center for the religion and had many Buddhist temples and schools. We know from accounts such as that by the famous Chinese pilgrim Xuanzong in the middle of the seventh century that Buddhism was very strong with the Uygur. Important Buddhist monasteries were located in and around the oases of Turpan. Their wall paintings providing striking evidence of the transmission and transformation of Buddhist art along the roads leading from India into China. Buddhism became the religion of the Uighur elite in the Kocho kingdom, although Manichaeism and Nestorian Christianity were prominent as well. The German archaeologists who excavated the Uighur ruins in the early twentieth century took back to Berlin some striking Manichean manuscript fragments and other evidence of what had once been a vibrant and truly cosmopolitan urban culture. In 762 A.D., the Uygur King Bogu Khagan introduced Manichaeism as the state religion mainly as a political snub to the Chinese Buddhists.

The Uygur began their conversion to islam in the 11th century and the process was finished by the 15th century. The Uygur are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi School, which is a very liberal branch of Islam. Most of the mosques in Xinjiang were destroyed during China's "cultural revolution of the 1960's. However, Xinjiang today has over 15,000 mosques. While being almost exclusively Muslim and despite a re-awakening of Islamic awareness with the rise in separatism (East Turkistan or Uyguristan uprising) in the 1990's, the Uygur practice a very loose form of Islam: the women do not generally wear traditonal Islamic headweare, and the consumption of alcohol is not forbidden. In fact, the average Uygur family is fairly secular though they carefully observe all religious requirements.


Uygur Religion - Uygur World
Last Modified: April, 2006.
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