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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Xinjiang, China, aka Uighur Autonomous Region

Below are some pictures my dad took while he was in Xinjiang last week. I thought I'd share them with you because Xinjiang is such an unique area in China. For one thing, the Xinjiangese or the Uighurs are not ethnically Chinese or East Asian at all.

Here is a brief history of Xinjiang: once upon a time, there was a group of people called the Han Chinese, and there was a group of people called the Uighurs, a nomadic Turkic people. They came into contact through trade via the Silk Road. The Hans eventually conquered the Uighurs and the situation in the region has been precarious ever since. According to my dad, although the two groups live in segregated quarters in Urumuqi, the capital of Xinjiang, they get along fairly well and he felt the Uighurs were hospitable people. However, southern Xinjiang is a different story. It is a very poor region and there has been strong separatist sentiments.

Downtown Urumuqi -- yep, definitely not Chinese

Kanas National Park

Kanas Lake

Some Kazakhs/Mongolians also live in the area. It seems a lot of ethnic groups converged in Xinjiang.

Interesting Landscape - the rock formation in the foreground is a result of wind erosion

Fire Wall Mountain -- Poor little camel waiting for tourists...

Uighur performers dancing for Han tourists under grapevines. Xinjiang is known for its raisins. Someone once told me that some Uighurs would travel to prodominantly Han areas and sell raisins. I felt really bad after hearing that -- raisins are cheap even in upscale Chinese supermarkets -- they must have very difficult lives to travel so far from home just to make a few bucks.