Music has been my bridge for friendship with Chinese people and the proximity of the music shop to the local “Nationalities University” has exposed me to traditional music from Xinjiang. I am constantly amazed at the skill and beauty of the traditional music. The article, From Resistance to Adaptation: Uyghur Popular Music and Changing Attitudes among Uyghur Youth, focuses on how Uighur popular music has changed from the grinding heavy metal of the 90s separatist movement championed by Askar to the fluffy love songs of Arken both minkaohan (educated in Chinese) living in Beijing. I have heard neither of these artists and the article is a little out of date but outlines how the central government has manipulated the media to silence protest and homogenize the Uighur people. The article was published before the eruption of violence and protests in July of 2009 but it concludes a change in Uighur youth ideology from separatism and isolation of the Uighur nation to one of working within the current system to heighten the status of Uighurs in modern China.
This article from The Atlantic, gives a great overview of the tensions between Chinese Uighurs and the Han majority. Their mention of the minkaohan (Uighur students educated in Mandarin) and minkaomin (Uighur students educated in their native language) sheds light on an interesting divide within the students of Xinjiang as well as Uighur students studying outside of their home province.
Hong Kong University Press recently published a collection of essays on minority education in China, Minority Education in China: Balancing Unity and Diversity in an Era of Critical Pluralism. While I have been mostly exposed to Uighur culture through food and the local music scene, there are 55 officially recognized minority groups scattered around China. This book is an excellent resource on current trends, ideas and investigations into China’s education system.
I’ll start my web travels on the delectable side of Uighur culture in China. One of the many minority cultures within China and indigenous to the north west province Xinjiang. They have communities all over China and while they face a lot of discrimination, their restaurants and bbq stands remain very popular. The most authentic restaurants are alcohol free and all food is halal due to their Islamic beliefs.
I always find food to be a great way to capture the soul of someone. The blog, Far West China, by a writer living in Xinjiang offers not only the standard words on Uighur cooking (delicious), but a look into the language and a collection of recipes allowing you to get in touch with this culture from your home kitchen. While popular in China, the restaurants have not often managed to travel outside. If you’re skilled in the kitchen, this could be your best chance for an intimate encounter with the Uighur culture.