Cultural Change and Continuity in Central Asia (1992)

Edited by Shirin Akiner

This book is about Central Asia in general, but there are a few chapters on Uyghurs (and the other chapters sound really interesting anyway). You can read part of the book on Google Books.


Central Asia has undergone dramatic material and cultural change in this century. Traditional Muslim societies have come under socialist rule and been forced to adapt to new political and economic systems. The emancipation of women, the introduction of universal education and the immigration of large numbers of foreigners into the region are some of the factors that have contributed to the new face of Central Asia.

However, the old ways have not been obliterated. In some cases a synthesis has been achieved between old and new, in others the old survives alongside the new. There has been change, but there is also continuity. This is vividly illustrated in such fields as literature, music, dress and family life.

This collection of nineteen studies by international scholars from a wide variety of disciplines explores themes connected with popular Islam, the role of ritual in family life and linguistic and cultural change. The majority of the studies concentrate on Soviet Central Asia, but some are concerned with cultural change in Afghanistan and Xinjiang.



1 Zaynab and Aman: Love and Women’s Liberation in the 1930s, a Story Poem Hamid Alimjan, David C Montgomery
2 Uighur Literature: The Antecedents, Eden Naby
3 A Late Piece of Nazira or A Symbol Making its Way through Early Uzbek Poetry, Ingeborg Baldauf
4 Religious Themes in the Novels of Chingiz Aitmatov, Irena Jeziorska
5 Script Changes in Xinjiang, Ildiko Beller-Hann
6 Census and Sociology: Evaluating the Language Situation in Soviet Central Asia, Simon Crisp
7 Russian Language Teaching Policy in Soviet Central Asia 1958-86, J M Kirkwood
8 Ritualism of Family Life in Soviet Central Asia: The Sunnat (Circumcision), Ewa A Chylinski
9 Professional Beliefs and Rituals among Craftsmen in Central Asia: Genetic and Functional Interpretation, C Jasiewicz
10 Women and Power: A Perspective on Marriage among Durrani Pashtuns of Afghan Turkistan, Nancy Tapper
11 Golden Tent-Pegs: Settlement and Change among Nomads in Afghan Turkistan, Richard Tapper
12 Ethnic Games in Xinjiang: Anthropological Approaches, C M Hann
13 Continuity and Modernity in the Costume of the Muslims of Central Asia, Jennifer M Scarce
14 Musical Change in Herat during the Twentieth Century, John Baily
15 Tradition and Change in Central Asian Architecture Today,  F Ashrafi
16 The Baha’i Community of Ashkhabad, Its Social Basis and Importance in Baha’i History,  M Momen
17 Islam in China: Western Studies,  Jacques Waardenburg
18 Change and Tradition in Eighteenth-century Kazakhstan: The Dynastic Factor, Alan Bodger
19 The Role of the Hui Muslims (Tungans) in Republican Sinkiang, Andrew D W Forbes


Situating the Uyghurs Between China and Central Asia (2007)

By Ildikó Bellér-Hann, M. Cristina Cesàro, Joanne Smith Finley


Drawing together distinguished international scholars, this volume offers a unique insight into the social and cultural hybridity of the Uyghurs. It bridges a gap in our understanding of this group, an officially recognized minority mainly inhabiting the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, with significant populations also living in the Central Asian states. The volume is comparative and interdisciplinary in focus: historical chapters explore the deeper problems of Uyghur identity which underpin the contemporary political situation; and sociological and anthropological comparisons of a range of practices from music culture to life-cycle rituals illustrate the dual, fused nature of contemporary Uyghur social and cultural identities. Contributions by ‘local’ Uyghur authors working within Xinjiang also demonstrate the possibilities for Uyghur advocacy in social and cultural policy-making, even within the current political climate.

Here are some reviews of the book by Pawan (2009) and Gammer (2009). And you can read parts of the book on Google Books.


Part 1

The Historical Perspective: ‘Us and them’ in 18th and 19th century Xinjiang, Laura J. Newby

The Uyghurs as a part of Central Asian commonality: Soviet historiography on the Uyghurs, Ablet Kamalov

Part 2

Uyghur Culture: Issues of Music, Literature and Language: Cultural politics and the pragmatics of resistance: reflexive discourses on culture and history, Nathan Light

Situating the 12 Muqam: between the Arab world and the Tang court, Rachel Harris

Uyghur literary representations of Xinjiang realities, Michael Friederich

Hybrid name culture in Xinjiang: problems surrounding Uyghur name/surname practices and their reform, Asod Sulayman

Part 3

Socio-Cultural Practices: Situating Uyghur life cycle rituals between China and Central Asia, Ildiko Beller-Hann

Shrine pilgrimage and sustainable tourism among the Uyghurs: Central Asian ritual traditions in the context of China’s development policies, Rahila Dawut

The emergence of Muslim reformism in contemporary Xinjiang: implications for the Uyghurs’ positioning between a Central Asian and Chinese context, Edmund Waite

Part 4

Negotiation of Multiple and Hybrid Uyghur Identities: Polo, LAghmAn, So SAy: situating Uyghur food between Central Asia and China, M. Cristina Cesaro

‘The dawn of the East’: a portrait of a Uyghur community between China and Kazakhstan, Sean R. Roberts

‘Ethnic anomaly’ or modern Uyghur survivor? A case study of the Minkaohan hybrid identity in Xinjiang, Joanne Smith Finley

Journey to Turkistan (1937)

By Eric Teichman



Journey to Turkistan is a detailed account of the practical aspects of traveling through Eastern Turkestan in the 1930s. The author, Sir Eric Teichman, gives comprehensive descriptions of roads, distances, transportation, vehicles, as well as necessary equipment and supplies, giving the reader a feeling of being a fellow traveler. The book has an appendix containing an itinerary of the motor route from Beijing to Kashgar.

In 1935 the British Consul Eric Teichman leaves his post in Beijing and sets out for Chinese Turkestan, before returning to England through India. His journey from Beijing to India lasts for four months. He crosses Suiyuan by train and travels through Inner and Outer Mongolia, the Gobi desert, Hami, Urumchi, Turfan, and Karashar on a motor truck, from Kashgar to Gilgit on horseback and on foot, and finally takes a plane to Delhi. A great number of photographs taken during this journey are to be found in the book.

Xinjiang and the Chinese State: Violence in the Reform Era (2018)

By Debashish Chaudhuri

Description from this link:

This book focuses on the nature of ethno-national conflicts and impacts of ideological orientation of the Communist Party of China (CPC) towards the national question in the context of Han nationalism and political, economic and security policies towards Xinjiang. Violence in Xinjiang since the mid-1990s is projected as one of the major national security challenges for China, along with issues pertaining to Tibet and Taiwan. The author argues that the post-Mao reformist model may have been a beneficial economic and political innovation, but failed in dealing with regional conflicts and unrests arising out of the demands for independence, freedom, greater autonomy and assertion of democratic and civic rights.

The book discusses Chinese nationalism and the construction of Uyghur national identity, consequences of economic modernisation in the region, ethnic conflicts and coercive measures, the security and social stability situation in Xinjiang, intensification of violence in Xinjiang under the new leadership, vision of the ‘Chinese dream’, key policies and programmes, post-riot fallouts and social contradictions manifest in discourses surrounding development, separatist violence, religious fundamentalism and international terrorism.

With its in-depth, accessible and comprehensive analyses, this book will be a valuable addition to scholars and researchers of Chinese studies, politics and international relations, security and strategic studies, sociology, social anthropology and ethnic studies.


A review of the book from The Wire

Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 1911-1949

Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 1911-1949
by Andrew D. W. Forbes

This book provides a detailed study of Sinkiang – China’s largest province, and of great strategic importance on the Russian border during the Warlord and Kuomintang Eras. It is an analysis of the internal warlord and Islamic politics of Sinkiang, as well as to take account of ‘great power’ interests in this region, during a period in which it was essentially a Han Chinese colony in the heart of Central Asia. The study is of relevance not only to the history of twentieth-century China, but also to the politics of Islamic reassertion in Central Asia; to the development of the Soviet Union as an imperial power in the Tsarist Russian mould; to an understanding of the cultural and political aspirations of China’s national minorities; and should serve – in a world preoccupied with ‘Western’ colonialism and imperialism – as a reminder that colonial kin and imperialism was not, and is not, an exclusively European preserve.



Pivot of Asia. Sinkiang and the Inner Asian frontiers of China and Russia

Pivot of Asia. Sinkiang and the Inner Asian frontiers of China and Russia
By Owen Lattimore


Short review by Taylor, G. (1951):


…only the first page is “public access” but there’s literally only 5 sentences on the next page so if you want to read the rest of it just ask me.


Kirkus Review:

The title gives the clue to Lattimore’s thesis, a provocative one, — that Sinkiang. China’s inner Asian province, is not a pawn of international politics, but rather a new center of gravity, dangerous because of its accessibility to Russia and the kinds of power Russia wields, rather than to America. “Sinkiang is China’s India” — here Lattimore puts a finger on its basic complexities. It is a land of many frontiers, not only geographical, but linguistic, cultural, religious, political, industrial. It inherits traditions of an ancient culture — how ancient only modern archeology has revealed. Lattimore explores three ancient traditions, a civilization predating the Christian era; he traces the drive of history, as Sinkiang became part of the agricultural barrier against the barbarian fringe that extended from Britain to the Pacific; as migrations of warrior bands brought it into the Chinese; as in the 19th century it assumed the role of province rather than possession, its political, national resurgence as an outgrowth of rebellion against Chinese misrule. For 100 years and more. Sinkiang has been a symbol of British vs Russian procedure — accumulation vs incorporation. As history repeats itself, Sinking is still disproportionately important, because of its strategic position in relation to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran. Lattimore analyzes the century of Anglo-Russian rivalry in this buffer state; China’s relations with Sinkiang are reviewed, from the period of feudal bureaucracy to the opportunism of Communist control in a country with no democratic roots. Personalities emerged during these years — their contributions are discussed. He then goes on to a scholarly survey of the peoples of the province, the anomalous position of the Chinese minority, the geographic and economic developments, the social structure, the relations with adjoining and surrounding territories, the evaluation of changes wrought by world revolution. In conclusion he assesses the probabilities, that the Chinese Communists will renounce no sovereignty in land claimed as Chinese, but that –to districts ripe for change, they will attempt to apply new policies stemming out of the Soviet, and to use Sinking in the role its unique position places it…. While unlikely to reach the public of his earlier books, this makes a signal contribution to better understanding of a vital factor in Asia — and in international politics — today. Don’t overlook it.

Uyghur Poetry Reader

Uyghur Poetry Reader
By Nicholas Kontovas & Gulnisa Nazarova


The purpose of this work is to introduce high-intermediate and advanced students of the Uyghur language to a small selection of Modern Uyghur poetry. By now, these students should already have an idea of the importance of poetry as a genre in the Modern Uyghur literary repertoire. As an expression of the poet’s internal world as constructed and cultivated by the external world in which he or she lives, the poetry of a person provides a unique window into the environment in which the poem was written. The subtlety of poetic language — either published in journals or circulated in song — has been and continues to be used among Uyghurs as a way of preserving and promoting their cultural and literary heritage in environments which at times have made it difficult to do so more explicitly. In recent years, the increasing availability of Internet access in Xinjiang and in Uyghur communities abroad has provided unprecedented space for these poems to expand in terms of readership, despite strict censorship of artistic production by the government of the People’s Republic of China.

This book will introduce short poems by six Uyghur poets, with reproductions of the original Uyghur texts, translations into English, vocabulary lists and grammar notes for words and grammatical structures (respectively) deemed beyond the mid-intermediate level.


This book features poetry from Abdurehim Otkur (Iz, Bahar Chillaymen, Khejle Kha-inlar Khejle), Teyipjan Ilyov (Jengchi Akamgha, Togimes Naxsha), Dolqun Yasin (Heslirim), Muhemmetjan Reshidin (He Dep Qoy, Yashisun), Kuresh Kosen (Yerni Satmanglar, Salam Denglar Weten’ge, Kuresh Olmeydu), and Yasin Mexsun (Zerikish).


This… is… so… good… T_T

Uyghurland: The Furthest Exile

Uyghurland: The Furthest Exile
by Ahmatjan Osman (Author),‎ Jeffrey Yang (Translator)


In Jeffrey Yang’s collaborative translations from the Uyghur and Arabic, Uyghurland, the Farthest Exile collects over two decades of Ahmatjan Osman’s poetry. Osman, the foremost Uyghur poet of his generation, channels his ancestors alongside Mallarmé and Rimbaud to capture the sacred and philosophical, the ineffable and the transient, in a wholly unique lyric voice. Born in 1964, Osman grew up in Urumqi, the capital and largest city of East Turkistan. In 1982, he became one of the first Uyghur students to study abroad after the end of the Cultural Revolution, spending several years studying Arabic literature at Damascus University in Syria. Uyghurland is the first-ever collection of poetry to be translated from the Uyghur language into English.


More commentary

Uighur Stories from Along the Silk Road

Uighur Stories from Along the Silk Road (1998)
by Cuiyi Wei

Uighur Stories from Along the Silk Road is an amazing collection of folktales, legends and myths collected in English for the first time. The Uighur people, who lived along the northern rim of the Tarim Basin encountered foreigners from Europe, Arabia, Persia, India, China, Mongolia and Japan who traveled through their land along the Silk Road, the major trading route between Europe and China. This interaction began a rich, multicultural heritage that gave birth to these tales and continued to flourish once the sea replaced the land route for trade. The stories encapsulate Uighur history in the words of the people who migrated from the Northern Mongolian Plateau to Central Asia. They reveal the effects of the gradual conversion to Islam, as well as those of earlier beliefs involving Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity and Manichaeism, on the personality of the people.


Sounds interesting…

Drinking and Driving in Urumqi

by Andrew Demetre

An arresting, evocative travelogue, Drinking and Driving in Urumqi is the debut nonfiction book by American author Andrew Demetre. A spirit of adventure and nimble prose carry the reader through a sudden, precarious night out into the obfuscated culture of the riot-scarred capital of Xinjiang, China’s remotest province, as Demetre becomes the unmonitored, unofficial guest of a local family and Uyghur minority Chinese Communist Party members. Within a narrative mixing elements of memoir and reportage, the author balances a journalist’s eye for detail with the sensibilities of a novelist and captures an evocative portrait of a place, a time, and its characters–most notably the troubled mood and texture of the wounded city, along with a captivating depiction of Rihangul, a liberated Uyghur woman straddling disparate worlds.


As usual I haven’t read the book but I did listen to an interview with the author and I think we have very similar tastes in music lol. But more importantly, he reads a little excerpt from the book which I really enjoyed, so you can check that out here.