History of Xinjiang
According to J.P. Mallory, the Chinese sources describe the existence of "white people with long hair" or the Bai people in the Shan Hai Jing, who lived beyond their northwestern border.
The well-preserved Tarim mummies with Caucasoid features, often with reddish or blond hair, today displayed at the Ürümqi Museum and dated to the 3rd century BC, have been found in precisely the same area of the Tarim Basin. Various nomadic tribes, such as the Yuezhi were part of the large migration of Indo-European speaking peoples who were settled in eastern Central Asia (possibly as far as Gansu) at that time. The Ordos culture situated at northern China east of the Yuezhi, are another example.
Nomadic cultures such as the Yuezhi are documented in the area of Xinjiang where the first known reference to the Yuezhi was made in 645 BC by the Chinese Guan Zhong in his Guanzi Essays(管子). He described the Yuzhi (禺氏), or Niuzhi (牛氏), as a people from the north-west who supplied jade to the Chinese from the nearby mountains of Yuzhi (禺氏) at Gansu. The supply of jade from the Tarim Basin from ancient times is indeed well documented archaeologically: "It is well known that ancient Chinese rulers had a strong attachment to jade. All of the jade items excavated from the tomb of Fuhao of the Shang dynasty, more than 750 pieces, were from Khotan in modern Xinjiang. As early as the mid-first millennium BC the Yuezhi engaged in the jade trade, of which the major consumers were the rulers of agricultural China."
The nomadic tribes of the Yuezhi are also documented in detail in Chinese historical accounts, in particular the 2nd-1st century BC "Records of the Great Historian", or Shiji, by Sima Qian, which state that they "were flourishing" but regularly in conflict with the neighboring tribe of the Xiongnu to the northeast. According to these accounts:
The Yuezhi originally lived in the area between the Qilian or Heavenly Mountains (Tian Shan) and Dunhuang, but after they were defeated by the Xiongnu they moved far away to the west, beyond Dayuan, where they attacked and conquered the people of Daxia and set up the court of their king on the northern bank of the Gui [Oxus] River. A small number of their people who were unable to make the journey west sought refuge among the Qiang barbarians in the Southern Mountains, where they are known as the Lesser Yuezhi
The Tarim Basin in the 3rd century
Traversed by the Northern Silk Road, Western Regions or Xinjiang is the Chinese name for the Tarim and Dzungaria regions of what is now northwest China. At the beginning of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220), the region was subservient to the Xiongnu, a powerful nomadic people based in modern Mongolia. In the 2nd century BC, Han China sent Zhang Qian as an envoy to the states in the region, beginning several decades of struggle between the Xiongnu and Han China over dominance of the region, eventually ending in Chinese success. In 60 BC Han China established the Protectorate of the Western Regions (西域都護府) at Wulei (烏壘 near modern Luntai) to oversee the entire region as far west as the Pamir.
During the usurpation of Wang Mang in China, the dependent states of the protectorate rebelled and returned to domination in AD 13. Over the next century, Han China conducted several expeditions into the region, re-establishing the protectorate from 74 to 76, 91 to 107, and from 123 onward. After the fall of the Han Dynasty, the protectorate continued to be maintained by Cao Wei (until 265) and the Western Jin Dynasty (from 265 onwards).
A summary of Classical sources on the Seres (Greek and Roman name of Xinjiang) (essentially Pliny and Ptolemy) gives the following account:
The region of the Seres is a vast and populous country, touching on the east the Ocean and the limits of the habitable world, and extending west nearly to Imaus and the confines of Bactria. The people are civilised men, of mild, just, and frugal temper, eschewing collisions with their neighbours, and even shy of close intercourse, but not averse to dispose of their own products, of which raw silk is the staple, but which include also silk stuffs, furs, and iron of remarkable quality.
– Henry Yule, "Cathey and the way thither"
Ptolemy had quite good information on Xinjiang, taken from three different accounts.
A succession of peoples
The Western Jin Dynasty succumbed to successive waves of invasions by nomads from the north at the beginning of the 4th century. The short-lived kingdoms (both Han and non-Han) that ruled northwestern China one after the other, including Former Liang, Former Qin, Later Liang, and Western Liáng, all attempted to maintain the protectorate, with varying extents and degrees of success. After the final reunification of northern China under the Northern Wei empire, its protectorate controlled what is now the southeastern third of Xinjiang. Local states such as Shule, Yutian, Guizi and Qiemo controlled the western half, while the central region around Turpan was controlled by Gaochang, remnants of a state (Northern Liang) that once ruled part of what is now Gansu province in northwestern China.
Tang Dynasty and the Khanates
The Tang Dynasty was established in 618, and would prove to be one of the most expansionist dynasties in Chinese history. Starting from the 620's and 630's, Tang China conducted a series of expeditions against the Turks, eventually forcing the surrender of the western Turks in 657. Xinjiang was placed under the Anxi Protectorate (安西都護府 "Protectorate Pacifying the West"). The protectorate did not outlast the decline of Tang China in the 8th century. During the devastating Anshi Rebellion, Tibet invaded Tang China on a wide front from Xinjiang to Yunnan, occupied the Tang capital Chang'an in 763 for 16 days, and taking control of southern Xinjiang by the end of the century. At the same time, the Uyghur Khaganate took control of northern Xinjiang, as well as much of the rest of Central Asia, including Mongolia.
Both Tibet and the Uyghur Khaganate declined in the mid-9th century. The Kara-Khanid Khanate, which arose from a confederation of Turkic tribes scattered after the destruction of the Uyghur empire, took control of western Xinjiang in the 10th century and the 11th century. Meanwhile, after the Uyghur khanate in Mongolia had been smashed by the Kirghiz, branches of the Uyghurs established themselves in the area around today's Turfan and Urumchi in 840. This Uyghur state would remain in eastern Xinjiang until the 13th century, though it would be subject to various overlords during that time. Some scholars have argued, that the Kara-Khanids were likewise "Uyghurs," as some of the components in the Kara-Khanid federation were likewise from the ruling clans of the Uyghur empire. The Kara-Khanids converted to Islam, whereas the Uyghur state in eastern Xinjiang remained Manicheaean, while tolerating Buddhism and Christianity.
In 1132, remnants of the Khitan Empire from Manchuria entered Xinjiang, fleeing the onslaught of the Jurchens into north China. They established an exile regime, the Kara-Khitan Khanate, which became overlord over both Kara-Khanid-held and Uyghur-held parts of the Tarim Basin for the next century.
Arrival of the Mongols
After Genghis Khan had unified Mongolia and began his advance west, the Uyghur state in the Turfan-Urumchi area offered its allegiance to the Mongols in 1209, contributing taxes and troops to the Mongol imperial effort. In return, the Uyghur rulers retained control of their kingdom. By contrast, Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire conquered the Kara-Khitan in 1218. Because the Kara-Khitan had persecuted Islam, the Mongols were met as liberators in the Kashgar area. During the civil war of the Mongol Empire, the Empire of the Great Khan (Yuan Dynasty) vied for rule with the Chagatai Khanate in the area. After the break-up of the Mongol Empire into smaller khanates the region fractured and was ruled by various different Persianized Mongol Khans simultaneously, including the ones of Mogholistan (with the assistance of the local Dughlat Emirs), Uigurstan (later Turfan) and Kashgaria. These leaders engaged in numerous wars with each other and both the Timurids of Transoxania to the West and the Western Mongols to the East, the successor Chagatai regime based in Mongolia and in China. Although there were high points in Persian culture reached (e.g. the Dughlat historian Hamid-mirza), succession crises and internal divisions (Kashgaria split in two for centuries) meant that this region almost completely fades from the history books during the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 17th century, the Mongolian Dzungars established an empire over much of the region.
Dzungar (also Jungar, Zunghar or Zungar; Mongolian: Зүүнгар Züüngar) is the collective identity of several Oirat tribes that formed and maintained one of the last nomadic empires. The Dzungar Khanate covered the area called Dzungaria and stretched from the west end of the Great Wall of China to present-day eastern Kazakhstan, and from present-day northern Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia (most of this area is renamed to Xinjiang after fall the Dzungar Empire). It existed from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century.
The Qing, established by the Manchus in China, gained control over eastern Xinjiang as a result of a long struggle with the Zunghars (Dzungars) that began in the seventeenth century. In 1755, the Qing attacked Ghulja, and captured the Zunghar khan. Over the next two years, the Manchus and Mongol armies of the Qing destroyed the remnants of the Zunghar khanate.
The Dzungars were deliberately exterminated in a brutal campaign of ethnic genocide. One writer, Wei Yuan, described the resulting desolation in what is now northern Xinjiang as: "an empty plain for a thousand li, with no trace of man." It has been estimated that more than a million people were slaughtered, and it took generations for it to recover.
After the defeat and extermination of the Dzungars, the Qing attempted to divide the Xinjiang region into four sub-khanates under four chiefs. Similarly, the Qing made members of a clan of sufi shaykhs known as the Khojas, rulers in the western Tarim Basin, south of the Tianshan Mts. In 1758–59, however, rebellions against this arrangement broke out both north and south of the Tian Shan mountains. The Qing was thus forced, contrary to its initial intent, to establish a form of direct military rule over both Zungharia (northern Xinjiang) and the Tarim Basin (southern Xinjiang). The Manchus put the whole region under the rule of a General of Ili (伊犁将军 Yīlí Jiāngjūn), headquartered at the fort of Huiyuan (the so-called "Manchu Kuldja", or Yili), 30 km west of Ghulja (Yining).
After 1759 state farms were established, "especially in the vicinity of Urumchi, where there was fertile, well-watered land and few people." From 1760 to 1830 more state farms were opened and the Chinese population in Xinjiang grew rapidly to about 155,000.
By the mid-19th century, the Russian Empire was encroaching upon Qing China along its entire northern frontier. The Opium Wars and Taiping and other rebellion's in China proper had severely restricted the dynasty's ability to maintain its garrisons in distant Xinjiang. In 1864 both Chinese Muslims (Hui) and Uyghurs rebelled in Xinjiang cities, following an on-going Chinese Muslim Rebellion in Gansu and Shaanxi provinces further east. Qing control of the region was swept away. In 1865, Yaqub Beg, a warlord from the neighbouring Khanate of Kokand, entered Xinjiang via Kashgar, and conquered nearly all of Xinjiang over the next six years. In 1871, Russia took advantage of the chaotic situation and seized the rich Ili River valley, including Gulja. By then, Qing China held onto only a few strongholds, including Tacheng.
Yaqub Beg's rule lasted until General Zuo Zongtang (also known as General Tso) reconquered the region between 1875 and 1877 for Qing China. In 1881, Qing China recovered the Gulja region through diplomatic negotiations (Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881)).
In 1884, (1882 according to some sources), Qing China established Xinjiang ("new frontier") as a province, formally applying onto it the political system of China proper, and dropping the old name of Huijiang or 'Muslimland'.
Republic of China and First East Turkestan Republic
In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China. Yuan Dahua, the last Qing governor of Xinjiang, fled. One of his subordinates Yang Zengxin (杨增新), took control of the province and acceded in name to the Republic of China in March of the same year. Through Machiavellian politics and clever balancing of mixed ethnic constituencies, Yang maintained control over Xinjiang until his assassination in 1928.
Multiple insurgencies arose against his successor Jin Shuren (金树仁) in the early 1930s throughout Xinjiang, involving Uyghurs, other Turkic groups, Russians and Hui (Muslim) Chinese. In the Kashgar region on 12 November 1933, the short-lived self-proclaimed East Turkistan Republic (ETR) was declared, after some debate over whether the proposed independent state should be called "East Turkestan" or "Uyghuristan." The ETR claimed authority over territory stretching from Aksu along the northern rim of the Tarim Basin to Khotan in the south. Xinjiang was eventually brought in 1934 under the control of northeast Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai (盛世才), who ruled Xinjiang for the next decade with close support from the Soviet Union, many of whose ethnic and security policies Sheng instituted in Xinjiang. Sheng invited a group of Chinese Communists to Xinjiang, including Mao Zedong's brother Mao Zemin, but in 1943, fearing a conspiracy, Sheng executed them all, including Mao Zemin.
Second East Turkestan Republic and PRC
A Second East Turkistan Republic (2nd ETR, also known as the Three Districts Revolution) existed from 1944 to 1949 with Soviet support in what is now Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture (Ili, Tarbagatay and Altay Districts) in northern Xinjiang. The Second East Turkistan Republic came to an end when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) entered Xinjiang in 1949. Also, five ETR leaders, who would negotiate the final status of East Turkistan with the Chinese, died in an air crash in 1949 in Kazakhstan airspace.
According to the PRC interpretation, the 2nd ETR was Xinjiang's revolution, a positive part of the communist revolution in China; the 2nd ETR acceded to and welcomed the PLA when it entered Xinjiang, a process known as the Peaceful Liberation of Xinjiang. However, independence advocates view the ETR as an effort to establish an independent state, and the subsequent PLA entry as an invasion.
The autonomous region of the PRC was established on 1 October 1955, replacing the province. The PRC's first nuclear test was carried out at Lop Nur, Xinjiang, on 16 October 1964. Although reports in western media report that between 100,000 and 200,000 people may have been killed in the testing, PRC media dispute these numbers, but without providing an alternate number.
The numbers of ethnic Han Chinese settlers in Xinjiang has risen from less than half a million in 1953 to 7.5 million by 2000.
Culture of Xinjiang
East Asian migrants arrived in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, based in modern-day Mongolia, around the year 842.
Xinjiang is home to several distinct ethnic groups of various religious traditions; however, the majority of the region's total population are adherents of Islam. Among ethnic groups who are of the Muslim faith, most notable are Muslim Turkic peoples including the Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tatars and the Kazakhs; there are also Muslim Iranian peoples including Pamiris and the Sarikolis/Wakhis (often conflated as Pamiris); and Muslim Sino-Tibetan peoples such as the Hui (i.e. Muslim Han Chinese). Other PRC ethnic groups in the region include Han Chinese, Mongols, Russians, Xibes, and Manchus. William Mesny said in 1896:
"The present inhabitants of Eastern Turkestan are more like Europeans than any other Asiatics I have seen. Blue eyes, curly hair and red beards are common among them."
The population of Xinjiang was estimated to be about 1,180,000 in 1880 rising sharply after that, due largely to "emigrations and banishments from China."
The percentage of ethnic Han Chinese in Xinjiang has grown from less than 7% in 1949 to an official tally of over 40% at present. This figure does not include military personnel or their families, or the many unregistered migrant workers. Much of this transformation can be attributed to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a semi-military organization of settlers that has built farms, towns, and cities over scattered parts of Xinjiang. The demographic transformation is held by Uyghur independence advocates as a threat to Uyghurs and other non-Han ethnicities in maintaining their culture, similar to the case of Tibet. In 1953 about three-fourths of the population lived south of the mountains in the Tarim Basin and the Han influx was directed mainly to the Dzungaria (north of the mountains in the Tarim Basin) because of its resource potential. The minorities of Xinjiang have been exempted from the one-child policy and many Uyghur people emigrated out of Xinjiang to other parts of China, and consequently the percentage of Uyghur people in the total population of China has increased steadily. According to one source, more than 2% of the population, most of them being members of Chinese house churches, are Christians. However, this can only be an estimate as there are no official figures to work from. A Christian website called "Christian Persecution Info", in a news item from February 12, 2008, states that: "Only a handful of China’s estimated 10 million Uyghurs are known to be Christians." The "Joshua Project website says: "Today about 50 known Uygur Christians meet in two small fellowships in China, although 400 Uygur believers have recently emerged in neighboring Kazakstan.
Major ethnic groups in Xinjiang by region, 2000 census.
Excludes members of thePeople's Liberation Army in active service.
Some Uighur scholars claim descent from both the Turkic Uighurs and the pre-Turkic Tocharians (or Tokharians, whose language was Indo-European), and relatively fair-skin, hair and eyes, as well as other so-called 'Caucasoid' physical traits, are not uncommon among them. In general Uyghurs resemble those peoples who live around them in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan. In 2002, there were 9,632,600 males (growth rate of 1.0%) and 9,419,300 females (growth rate of 2.2%). The population overall growth rate was 10.9‰, with 16.3‰ of birth rate and 5.4‰ mortality rate.