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Encyclopedia > Uigur

Uyghurs (also called Uighurs, Uygurs, or Uigurs) (Chinese: 維吾爾 or 维吾尔 in pinyin: wiw'ěr) are a Turkic ethnic group of people living in northwestern China (mainly in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where they are the dominant ethnic group together with Han people), Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. An other group of Uyghurs lives in Taoyuan county of Hunan province in Southcentral China. Uyghurs form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.

Along with the so-called Kok Turks (aka Gokturks), the Uyghurs were one of the largest and most enduring Turkic-speaking peoples living in Central Asia. They existed as a tribal federation ruled by the Juan Juan from 460-545, and then by the Hephthalites from 541-565 before being taken over by the Gokturk Khaganate. Known as Huihe (回紇 huh) and Huihu in Chinese sources, they established a khanate in the 8th century when they displaced the Gokturks. Their ethnonym Huihu is the origin of the term Huihui (回回) used for Muslims which is now used for the Hui nationality in China.

Their Khaganate stretched from the Caspian Sea to Manchuria, and lasted from 745-840. when they were overrun by the Kirghiz, with the result that tribal groups from the Uyghurs migrated to a number of new areas, including modern Xinjiang and Gansu regions and Central Asian steppes. In Jungaria and the Tarim Basin they established the Idiqut kingdom which lasted until 1209 when they submitted to the Mongol under Genghis Khan.

Turks in the Western Tarim Basin began to convert to Islam in the 10th century, but most Uyghurs in the Besh Balik and Turfan regions did not convert until the 15th century expansion of the Yarkand Khanate, a Mongol successor state based in the Western Tarim. With conversion to Islam the traditional ethnonym Uyghur was dropped and the ancestors of modern Uyghurs identified themselves by the terms Turki and Musulman.

Before converting to Islam, Uyghurs included Manicheans, Buddhists and even some Nestorian Christians. Genetically and culturally, modern Uyghurs descend from the nomadic Turkic tribes as well as the many Iranian speaking groups such as Saka and Sogdians who preceded them in the Tarim Basin oasis cities, and the centum Indo-European-speaking Tocharians (or Tokharians). Today, one can still see light-skinned, -haired, and -eyed citizenry belonging to the Uyghur ethnic group.

A small number of Uyghurs also migrated to what is now Gansu provence in China around the late 9th Century, where they converted from Manicheism to Tibetan Buddhism - unlike their kinfolk further west, they did not later convert Islam (and are thus unusual amongst Turkic people). Their descendants still live there to this day where they are known as Yugurs (population approximately 10,000).

Famous Uyghurs include Abdurashid Khan, Amannisa Khan, Xiang Fei and Wu'er kaixi.


  • Mackerras, Colin. Ed. and trans. 1972. The Uighur Empire according to the T'ang Dynastic Histories: a study in Sino-Uighur relations 744-840. University of South Carolina Press.

See also: Uyghur language, East Turkestan, Uyghuristan, Kushan

External links

  • UyghurLanguage.com (http://www.uighurlanguage.com/)
  • Uyghur Language Discussion Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UyghurLanguage/)
  • The Uyghur American Association (http://www.uyghuramerican.org/)
  • Uyghur Information Agency (http://www.uyghurinfo.com/)
  • Uyghur Culture and History (http://homepages.utoledo.edu/nlight/uyghpg.htm)

Chinese ethnic groups (classification by PRC government)
Achang - Bai - Blang - Bonan - Buyi - Dai - Daur - De'ang - Dong - Dongxiang - Drung - Evenks - Gaoshan - Gelao - Gin - Han - Hani - Hezhen - Hui - Jingpo - Jino - Kazakh - Kirghiz - Koreans - Lahu - Lhoba - Li - Lisu - Manchu - Maonan - Monpa - Miao - Mongols - Mulam - Naxi - Nu - Oroqin - Pumi - Qiang - Russian - Salar - She - Shui - Tajik - Tatars - Tibetan - Tu - Tujia - Uyghur - Uzbek - Wa - Xibe - Yao - Yi - Yugur - Zhuang


  Results from FactBites:
Uigur language resources (1208 words)
Uigur is spoken in western China and in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Serbo-Croatian, Somali, Swahili, Tajik, Tamil, Tigrinya, Turkish, Turkmen, Uigur, Urdu, Uzbek, and Vietnamese.
Pashto, Serbo-Croatian, Somali, Swahili, Tajik, Tamil, Tigrinya, Turkish, Turkmen, Uigur, Urdu, Uzbek, and Vietnamese.
  More results at FactBites »



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