Uyghurs not Turk descendants: white paper

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/21 10:45:42

Graphic: GT

China on Sunday released a new white paper to clarify some important historical issues about its Northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, including Xinjiang as a multi-ethnic region and an integral part of the Chinese nation, and that the Uyghur ethnic group did not descend from the Turks.

Experts said that important historical issues on Xinjiang are matters of principle. Clarifying the right history on ethnic groups, culture and religions in the region is important to unifying different ethnic groups, maintaining stability and development of the region.

The white paper clarifies seven questions, including that Xinjiang has long been an inseparable part of Chinese territory; Xinjiang has never been the so-called "East Turkistan"; different ethnic groups living in Xinjiang constitute an integral part of the Chinese nation; the Uyghur ethnic groups came into being in the long process of migration and ethnic integration; Xinjiang ethnic cultures are an inseparable part of Chinese civilization; Xinjiang has long been a multi-religious region; and Islam is neither an indigenous belief of the Uyghur people, nor the sole one of the Uyghur people.

For a long time, terrorists and extremist forces have been beating the drum for separatist activities by distorting, fabricating and falsifying the history of Xinjiang. Their purpose is to split Xinjiang from Chinese culture and history. But history and truth cannot be falsified, experts said.

"The seven issues listed in the white paper are important ones related to religion, ethnic groups, culture and history in the Xinjiang region, which have also been distorted and hyped by Western media and East Turkistan separatists. The white paper was issued to clarify these issues," Xu Jianying, a research fellow at the Institute of China's Borderlands of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

The white paper is based on abundant, informative, accurate and solid research on the region's history, culture and religion. It represents the views of the academic circles in China and by refuting previous false theories on Xinjiang, it will also help with the unity and stability in Xinjiang and its future development, Xu said.

In its first part, the white paper offers a detailed timeline for Xinjiang being an inseparable part of Chinese territory - from the place being called Western Regions in ancient times and having close contact with the Central Plains to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region being established in 1955. 

In the long history, Chinese territory has experienced periods of division and unification, but unification and development have always been the overall trend, the white paper said. 

Small kingdoms or separatist regimes existed in the Central Plains in different periods; similarly, Xinjiang also witnessed several local regimes dividing the region. Nevertheless, no matter how long these regimes divided Xinjiang and however serious the situation was, the region was ultimately united, it said. 

"Xinjiang has been a multi-ethnic region since ancient times. A large amount of cultural relics found in ruins of two ancient cities in the current Xinhe county of Aksu Prefecture, which include seals with standard Chinese written on it, showed the Central Plains' rule in the place in the Han Dynasty," Muchi Yundengjiacuo, dean of the School on Ethnic and Religious Studies at Northwest University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times.

These cultural relics, which showed close exchanges and ties between the Xinjiang region and the Central Plains in history, have been displayed in the Museum of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The World Uyghur Congress and other separatist groups keep spreading rumors that the Han, Hui, Kazak and other ethnic groups are "foreign groups" coming to Xinjiang, which is groundless and has no historical basis. The truth is that they want to instigate isolation and hatred. The last thing they want to see is people of different ethnic groups unite and live in harmony in Xinjiang, Muchi said.

"Working together for a prosperous and better future has become the consensus of people living in Xinjiang. They are aware that without unity among different ethnic groups and social stability, there will be no development of each ethnic group," Muchi said. 

Not Turk descendant

The white paper also denied what domestic and overseas separatists usually claim that the Uyghur ethnic group is a descendant of the Turks as their language is Turkic.

The Uyghur ethnic group came into being through a long process of migration and integration; it is part of the Chinese nation, the white paper said. 

The main ancestors of the Uyghurs were the Ouigour people who lived on the Mongolian Plateau during the Sui and Tang dynasties.

Historically, to resist oppression and slavery by the Turks, the Ouigour people united with some of the Tiele tribes to form the Ouigour tribal alliance. In 744, the Tang court conferred a title on Kutlug Bilge Khagan, who united the Ouigour tribes. In 788, the then Ouigour ruler wrote to the Tang emperor, requesting to have their name changed to "Uighur," it said. 

In the Yuan and Ming dynasties, the various ethnic groups in Xinjiang further merged. The Mongols, especially those of the Chagatai Khanate, were fused with the Uighurs, adding fresh blood to the Uighur group. In 1934, Xinjiang issued a government order, stipulating that "维吾尔" would be the standard Chinese name for Uyghurs, which for the first time expressed the accurate meaning of "Uyghur" - to maintain unity among the people, according to the white paper. 

Scholars in Xinjiang have also reached a consensus on this view.

Yasheng Sidike, mayor and deputy Party chief of Urumqi, wrote an article published in the Urumqi Evening Post on August 20, 2018, saying, "The Uyghur people are members of the Chinese family, not descendants of the Turks, let alone anything to do with Turkish people." 

"The fallacies that claim 'East Turkistan is our country' and 'Uyghur as natives of Xinjiang' are ridiculous, ignorant and condemnable," read the article.

The history of Xinjiang shows that multiple religions have long coexisted there, with one or two predominant. The region's religious structure is characterized by blending and coexistence.

Xinjiang has long been a multi-religious region. The history of Xinjiang shows that multiple religions have long coexisted there, with one or two predominant. The region's religious structure is characterized by blending and coexistence. Islam is neither an indigenous nor the sole belief system of the Uyghur people, the white paper said. 

Cultural relics in many places in Xinjiang could prove the change of religions in history in Xinjiang. For example, the Kizil Cave-Temple Complex in Aksu Prefecture, which was built between the 3rd and 8th centuries, is believed to be the earliest Buddhist cave in China. 

Palida Pulati, a tour guide of the Kizil Cave site, told the Global Times that many faces of the figures on the wall paintings were destroyed by Muslim residents, which showed the clash between Buddhism and Islam around the 10th century.  

According to an introduction in the Aksu Museum on the evolution of religion in Xinjiang, in the middle of the 10th century, after Islam was accepted by the Karahan Khanate, the rulers launched a religious war lasting more than 40 years to force the people to convert to Islam.

"By the middle of the 14th century, people in Kucha, Shaya, Wensu and other places were forced to believe in Islam by means such as war. By the early 16th century, Xinjiang had formed a pattern in which many religions, mainly Islam, coexisted and continued until now," Niger Tusun, from the Aksu Museum, told the Global Times.  

However, not all the Buddhist elements have disappeared in local residents' life. Images of honeysuckle, which were widely used in Buddhist ornaments, were found in some caves in Aksu. These flower images have been printed on the hats of the Uyghur and Kazak ethnic groups, Palida said. 

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