The Uyghur ethnic in China

The Uyghur people are one of the largest ethnic minorities in China, being located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group and they speak a language very similar to Turkish. Today’s Uyghur population in China reaches a little over 10,000,000 but you can also find Uyghurs in neighboring areas like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia.


We don`t know exactly when the Xiongnu tribe came from the current Mongolia region, and occupied this land, but we do know that during the Chinese Qing Dynasty, the last Dynasty in China, Chinese invaded the region in 1884 and named it Xinjiang.

Religion and Language

In ancient times Uyghurs beliefs were split between Shamanism, Tengrism, and later came Manichaeism, Buddhism and the Church of the East. After the 11th century they have gradually turned to Islam. Today the majority of Uyghurs are Muslims, representing the second largest Muslim ethnic group in China after the Hui minority.

The ancient Uyghur people were speaking different languages such as Saka, Tocharian and Gandhari. But with time, influences change and today’s modern Uyghur language comes from the Karluk branch of the Turkic language family.

Food and Cloth

Uyghur food has influences from both Chinese and Central Asian cuisine. One of the traditional Uyghur dishes is “polu” (also knows as “pilaf”) dish found in the entire Central Asia. This dish is made with carrots and mutton (or chicken) which are fried in oil, later adding water and rice and letting everything finally steam. Another common dish is “leghmen”, adish inspired by the Chinese “la mian”. It’s a noodle dish mixed with stir-fried mutton or vegetable topping.

Most of the Uyghur traditional clothes are made out of colorful cotton. Women like wearing one-piece dresses while men wear gowns. Women love decorations, so you will see them wearing ear rings, bracelets and necklaces. But the most important part of the Uyghur traditional clothes is the headwear. A colorful cap called “doppa” that no man goes out without.

Some interesting facts…

  • An old tradition of the Uyghurs is shaving the heads of their babies or carving their hair in various wild designs as it is said to ward off evil baby-stealing spirits.
  • A classical folk performance called Meshrep has been proposed for the intangible cultural heritage status by UNESCO.
  • Uyghurs are known for smoking Hashish, a drug made out of resin and trichomes extracted from Cannabis.
  • The Xinjiang – Tibet highway is known to be the highest road in the world, reaching the height of 6000 meters.

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