(see this article for more info on Xinjiang) {Map of China) (Map of Xinjiang)


Xinjiang (Shinjiang) is the largest of the five autonomous regions of China.  The area is also known as Chinese Turkestan according to older English language maps.  Supporters of independence of the region call it East Turkestan.  Believed to be the cradle of the Turkic peoples, the area had been culturally influential to both Oriental and Western cultures.  Crossing the entire region from east to west, the Silk Road was the most important route between the East and the West before the major Chinese sea voyages in the 1300's, and the "Age of Discovery".  Upon entrance into the region, the Silk Road split into two, one diverted to the north and one to the south, in order to avoid going through the desolate Taklimakan Desert.  Uighur culture flourished as traders traveled across the vast semi-desert.

Xinjiang has always been multi-ethnic and multicultural, even before massive Han Chinese immigrations since the 1950's. Northern Xinjiang is populated mostly by Kazaks.  Extreme west of the region is populated by Kighiz, Uzbeks, and Tajiks.  The eastern part is settled by Mongols and Hui and Donggan.  Tajiks who speak Farsi, or Persian).  Hui and  Donggan (Chinese Muslims) speak Mandarin Chinese.  

Uyghurs, the largest nation, inhabits the centre, except the inhabitable Taklimakan Desert.  The Uyghur language is almost the same as the Uzbek language.  Like Uyghur, most languages spoken in Xinjiang, such as Kazak, Kyghiz, are "Turkic".  They belong to the same family as Turkish (Anatolian Turkish), Azeri-Turkish, Azerbaijani, Crimean Tatar, etc.  Turkic languages are a part of the larger "Ataic Family", which includes Manchu, Mongol, Korean, and Japanese.

After Xinjiang's inclusion into the People's Republic of China, massive immigration of Han Chinese has been encourgaed.  Now, 40% of Xinjiang's population is Han, mostly inhabiting in a few major cities including the capital Urumqi.  Despite western media's depiction of Xinjiang as a place of ethnic tension and repression, the peoples generally get along fine, and respect for Xinjiang's multicultural society is evident by people (commoners at least) of all nationalities.



Tengri Tagh Urumqi



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