The Center for the Art of Translation produces translated collections of poetry and prose from all over the world through “Two Lines Press”, with notes and comments from the translators. In its 17th issue, the central theme was Uyghur poetry. The book includes a long foreword from its editors on Uyghur people and their history, then Dolkun Kamberi and Jeffrey Yang take the reigns in introducing, explaining, and translating Uyghur poems from various authors. I included their translation of “Oyghan” in my post about the poem, which seems like a simple poem but the more you read it the more difficult it becomes. The other translations are really fascinating to read, as they introduce old works from the Diwan Lughat al-Turk, medieval Uyghur Buddhist work from the Turpan Basin, as well as contemporary works from writers such as Dilber Keyim Kizi, Abdurehim Ötkür and Abduhalik Uyghur. A look online finds an “Introduction to Uyghur Poetry” by Kamberi and Yang:
The Uyghurs are an ancient people whose forebears are thought to be Turk-Tocharian, and have lived in Central Asia since the first millennium BCE. This area has played an important role since early times because of its favorable geographic location on the ancient trade routes between the East and the West, connecting Greco-Roman civilization with Indian Buddhist culture and Central and East Asian traditions. Burgeoning commerce and cultural exchange brought a cosmopolitan character to the region, marked by linguistic, racial, and religious tolerance.
Over hundreds of years, the Uyghurs have developed a unique culture and have made significant contributions in the history, literature, sciences, architecture, music, song, dance, crafts, and fine arts of Central Eurasian civilization. Most of the ten million Uyghurs today live in the Uyghur Autonomous Region that comprises roughly one-sixth of China’s territory, though diasporic Uyghur communities have settled all around the world. Uyghur religious beliefs are a mix of Shamanism, Buddhism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism, and Islam, which was adopted as the official religion in 960 CE, during the rule of King Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan.
The word Uyghur (also transliterated as Uighur or Uygur) means “unity” with undercurrents of “union,” “coalition,” and “federation.” The name’s earliest known appearance can be traced to the Orkhon Göktürk inscriptions carved on stone monuments in Central Mongolia, and can be found in medieval Uyghur, Manichaean, and Sogdian scripts, as well as Arabic-Persian scripts. Apart from these Inner/Central Asian designations, the name appears in diverse Chinese manuscripts throughout history, where it has been transliterated into more than one hundred forms: Die, Chidie, Hu, Saka/Scythian, Hun, Uysun, Dingling, Qangqil, Sogdian, Tokharian, Hugu, Huihe, Yuanhe, and on.
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