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Protection and Development of Culture in Xinjiang
March 17,2023   By:en.humanrights.cn

Protection and Development of Culture in Xinjiang

Mahemuti Abuduwaili, Deputy Dean of Institute of History, Xinjiang Academy of Social Science

China is a unified multi-ethnic country. In more than 5,000 years of civilization development, all ethnic groups of the Chinese nation have jointly created a long history and splendid culture. Since ancient times, Xinjiang has been a place where many ethnic groups have lived together and a stage for the exchange and blending of various cultures. In the long history, the cultures of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang have taken root in the fertile soil of Chinese civilization, which has promoted the development of the cultures of all ethnic groups and enriched the Chinese culture.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese government has attached great importance to the exploration, inheritance and protection of the fine traditional cultures of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. It has pursued creative transformation and innovative development of cultures, encouraged all ethnic groups to learn the spoken and written languages of others, and promoted exchanges and integration among all ethnic groups. The Chinese government has also respected the freedom of religious belief of all ethnic groups, advanced the development of cultural programs and cultural industries, advanced the modernization of the cultures of all ethnic groups, strengthened cultural exchanges with other countries, and enhanced confidence in our own cultures through exchanges and mutual learning with other culture.

I. Xinjiang’s ethnic cultures are an integral part of the Chinese culture

Xinjiang’s ethnic cultures are an integral part of Chinese culture. Since ancient times, due to environmental diversity, Chinese culture has been rich and diverse. The cultures of different ethnic groups have exchanged and blended in the land of China, forming a magnificent Chinese culture. All ethnic cultures are the common spiritual wealth of the Chinese nation and have contributed to the development and progress of Chinese culture.

Xinjiang has always been characterized by the coexistence of multiple cultures. The historical evolution of China has determined the basic characteristics of intermingled distribution, economic interdependence and cultural inclusiveness of various ethnic groups. The unique natural and geographical environment of Xinjiang makes oasis farming and nomadic grassland culture complement each other. Ethnic groups with different production and living styles communicate and complement each other, migrate and live together, creating a vivid situation in which different cultures coexist.

About 20 languages have been found in Xinjiang. Even today, Sino-Tibetan, Altaic and Indo-European languages still exist in Xinjiang. It is the traditional feature of Xinjiang culture that all ethnic languages are used simultaneously in daily life. In the process of communication, exchange and integration among the ethnic groups in Xinjiang, the borrowing and use of different languages have become a common phenomenon. The Kizil Thousand Buddhas Caves, the Thousand Buddha Grottoes at Boziklik, and the Beiting Ancient City, among others, are models of ancient Chinese culture and art, combining various cultural elements of Han, Uygur, Tibetan peoples as well as ancient residents of Xinjiang.

Historically, Xinjiang has been the gateway and intermediary for the opening of Chinese civilization to the West. The opening of the Silk Road opened a new chapter in the cultural exchange between the East and the West. When the Silk Road was flourishing, advanced Chinese techniques such as paper making and silk weaving were spread to the West through Xinjiang, exerting a profound influence on world civilization. Buddhism, Manichaeism and Nestorianism spread to Xinjiang along the Silk Road and spread locally along with the local religions. In the long historical evolution, the coexistence of multiple religions in Xinjiang has never changed. Xinjiang’s cultural landscape has always been characterized by the coexistence and exchange of multiple cultures.

The cultures of different ethnic groups have been exchanging and integrating for a long time. Chinese culture is the spiritual bond that unites all ethnic groups. In the long history of production and life, the cultural exchange and integration of all ethnic groups have always been part of the process of the formation and development of Chinese culture. Influenced by the Central Plains culture, the sericulture techniques and silk weaving in Xinjiang made considerable achievements. The Uygur culture that took shape in Mobei was deeply influenced by the nomadic culture in northern China, the culture of the Central Plains, Buddhism, Manichaeism, etc. At all stages of history, different ethnic groups have learned from each other, and a number of politicians, writers, artists, historians, agronomists, translators, etc. have emerged, which has promoted the further development of Xinjiang’s ethnic cultures within the Chinese culture. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the cultures of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang entered a new period of development and prosperity. Classical songs such as Our Motherland Is a Garden and Our Xinjiang Is a Good Place have been very popular across the country. Outstanding films such as Visitors on the Iceberg and Uncle Kurban Visits Beijing have become well-known throughout the country and have become the spiritual wealth created and shared by all ethnic groups.

II. Spoken and written languages of all ethnic groups are widely used

Spoken and written languages are important carriers and distinctive symbols of culture. Xinjiang is characterized by multiple spoken and written languages. Learning to use national standard spoken and written language is a historical experience for the prosperity and development of Xinjiang’s ethnic cultures. The Chinese government vigorously promotes and standardizes the use of the commonly used spoken and written language of the country, protects the freedom of all ethnic groups to use and develop their languages and characters according to law, advocates and encourages all ethnic groups to learn languages and characters from each other, and constantly promotes the language communication and spiritual bond among all ethnic groups.

Standard spoken and written language is promoted in accordance with the law. Learning and using standard spoken and written language will help promote exchanges and integration among all ethnic groups and advance their development and progress. In 1982, "The state promotes the use of Putonghua (Mandarin) as a national language" was written into the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. On January 1, 2001, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Standard Spoken and Written Language came into effect, further clarifying the legal status of Putonghua and standard Chinese characters as standard Chinese language.

Scientific protection of the spoken and written languages of ethnic groups. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Regional Ethnic Autonomy both clearly stipulate that all ethnic groups have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. At present, the ethnic groups in Xinjiang mainly use 10 spoken and written languages, which are widely used in the fields of justice, administration, education, press and publishing, radio and television, Internet, and social and public affairs. Important meetings held by the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference provide manuscripts and simultaneous interpretation in the Uygur, Kazakh, and Mongolian languages, among others. In performing their official duties, organs at the Xinjiang regional (provincial) level and in the autonomous prefectures and counties use both standard Chinese and the spoken and written languages of the ethnic groups exercising regional autonomy. Members of all ethnic groups have the right to use their language for election or litigation. Schools and other educational institutions that focus on minority students attach importance to the study and use of ethnic minority languages in their curricula and various entrance examinations. In the annual national college entrance examination, test papers in Xinjiang have five versions written in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz and Mongolian. Multilingual press, publication, radio and television are major features of Xinjiang. Xinjiang publishes newspapers, books, audio-visual products and electronic books in six languages, namely, Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, Mongolia and Xibo. Xinjiang TV has TV programs in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak and Kirgiz. Xinjiang Radio and Television Station broadcasts in five languages: Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz and Mongolian. Xinjiang Daily is published in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak and Mongolian languages.

III. Achievements in the protection and inheritance of cultural heritage

Xinjiang is rich in cultural heritage. The central government of China and the local government of Xinjiang have continuously strengthened the legal system building to promote the protection of cultural heritage. The Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Intangible Cultural Heritage and other laws and regulations provide important legal guarantees for the protection of Xinjiang’s diverse and colorful cultural heritage.

The protection of famous historical and cultural cities, towns, villages and streets in Xinjiang has achieved remarkable results. Five state-level famous historical and cultural cities, three towns, four villages, two streets, 17 traditional Chinese villages and 22 villages with Chinese ethnic minority characteristics have been established. Over the years, the Chinese government has repaired and protected a large number of cultural relics and historic sites, such as the Kocho Ancient City Site, Beiting Ancient City Site, Huiyuan New and Old Ancient City Site, and rescued and restored more than 3,000 pieces of precious cultural relics.

The achievements of archaeological excavations have attracted worldwide attention. By 2017, eight archaeological excavations, including the Niya Site in Minfeng, Yingpan Cemetery in Yuli, Xiaohe Cemetery in Ruoqiang, Jin Dynasty and Sixteen Kingdoms-Style Brick Tomb in Kuqa, Dongheigou Site in Balikun and Tongtiandong Cave in Jimunai, had been listed among the top ten new archaeological discoveries in China that year. National treasure-level cultural relics such as the brocade arm guard with the line "Five stars out of the East benefiting China" and the brocade quilt with the line "The King enjoys life for thousands of years and benefits his descendants" have been unearthed.

The Chinese central government supports the translation, collation and publication in the Chinese and Uygur languages of ancient books in Xinjiang, such as The Wisdom of Happiness and The Great Turkic Dictionary, which were on the verge of being lost. The Chinese government has organized experts in ancient books to carry out academic research and provide consulting services, and invited domestic and foreign ancient book protection workers, researchers and managers to exchange ideas. In 2011, the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region jointly hosted the "Heritage of the Western Regions: Exhibition of Xinjiang’s Historical Documents and Ancient Books Protection Achievements". More than half of the exhibited ancient books were the only existing copy, which was highly praised by all sectors of society.

The Uygur Muqam Art of Xinjiang, Kirgiz epic The Epic of Manas and Fervent Uygur Folk Dances have been listed in the UNESCO "Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" and "List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding." In Xinjiang, there are 83 items on the representative list of intangible cultural heritage at the national level and 294 at the autonomous region level. There are 112 representative inheritors of intangible cultural heritage at the national level and 403 at the autonomous region level.

In short, Chinese culture is jointly created, inherited and developed by the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and is the spiritual link for ethnic and national unity. Facts have proved that the ethnic cultures of Xinjiang are part of the Chinese culture, which has always been the emotional support and spiritual home of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, as well as the driving force for the development of ethnic cultures in Xinjiang.


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