JiuGuan, as one in a string of famous and indispensable Oasis Cities on the Silk Road prides itself on its large variety of ethnic groups. Apart from the main ethnic group in China the Han, People of many different ethnicities, such as the Hui, Tibetans, Dongxiang, Yugu(r), Baoan, Hazake, Tu, Sala (or Salar), Manchu, and Mongolians, live in Jiuquan City Prefecture, which extends beyond Dunhuang to the Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region Border. At Jiuquan Town (The Old Suzhou District) however not all Nationalities are represented. Here, the majority Ethnic Groups are the Han and the Hui, with nearby a close-knit community of the Yugur Minority of Tibetan origin.
For an encounter with the rare Yugur Ethnic Minority group travelers must arrange their own transport and head out into the Gobi Desert some distance East of Jiuquan. The easiest route is to travel East on the new Lanzhou-Xinjiang Highway to twin cities Jiayuguan and JiuQuan, or fly yourself in through the Jiayuguan Airport.
Once in Jiuquan City -the old Suzhou District of the Han Dynasty- head out someways East from Jiuquan, in a direction away and North of the main Lanzhou-Xinjiang Highway to find the Town of Huangnibao. Huangnibao (simplified Chinese: 肃州区) tanslates as old yellow mud castle (or fortress) and refers to one of the many village strongholds of the far past Era's. During the Han and Tang Dynasty it was a reinforced farming village. Today this small dusty town of farms and farmers is known as the JiuQuan Huangnibao Yugur Autonomous Township, the second ethnic Home of the Yugur Nationality in China. Some 10% of all Ethnic Yugurs in China, about 1300 people, live in and around this Town. Most of the others live in Sunan at some distance south-west of Lanzhou in Gansu Province.
The Yugur Nationality originally derives from a Nomadic Tribe that was allied with the Chinese Han during the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD). These ancestors are known as the ancient nomadic Ouigurs.
When the Tang Dynasty went into decline, the original Yugurs came under attack from Kirgiz Tribes and, overwhelmed militarily, were forced to leave their homelands in Erhun River Valley of Central Asia. The migrants traveled in three seperate groups, retreated down the Silk Road path and ended up in China.
One of the groups eventually settled at the foothils of the Qilian Mountains in the wide region between Dunhuang in the West and Zhangye and Wuwei in the East where special circumstances created green pastures for the Yugur Life-stock. Once Setlled in this wide fertile area in the corridor between Mountains, they became the Hexi (Corridor) Yugurs who today can also be designated the Jiuquan Prefecture Yugurs.
The Hexi Corridor Yugurs experienced a different history than the other two groups, as after their arrival they fell under Rule of the Tubo, a Tibetan kingdom. During this period they adopted a variety of Tibetan cultural traits and habits, including the Buddhist Faith. Their main religions today are shamanism and buddhism.
In 1028 AD the Yugurs were included into the Western Xia (XiXia) Empire and again during a later Era, a rebellion occured in which Khanate was set up in these Western
A Full and complete Map of China (PRC) identifying all Language Areas big and small in all Provinces and Autonomous Regions of China.
Map includes Turkic Languages (Uygur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Salar & Uzbek), Mongolian Language and Sub-Divisions (Mongol, Tu, Daur and Dongxian), Tungusic Peoples (Oroqen, Evenki and Xibe) and Languages, Korean, Tajik (Tadzhik), Mon-Khmer (Kawa + Puman (or Pulang)), Hui, Uygur (Uighur), Tibeto-Bhurman Languages, Tai and Miao, Yao and She' Language Area's and Borders. Main Area's and sub-divisions of Han Languages (Northern Mandarin, Eastern Mandarin, South-Western Mandarin and Cantonese) further included. This color-coded ethno-linguistic Map (of 1967 AD) identifies at a glance most ethnic minority regions in China
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By the End of China's Long Revolutionary struggle, in the 1950's, the National Government held a National census among the Minorities, finding that the Yugur nearly perished. Due to wartime hardships, disease and impoverishment only some 3000 Yugurs remained in the Nation. A Government Policy to support the Minorities was immediately made operational.
Since April of the year 1954 AD, the group of Yugur known as the Hexi Yugurs has been recognized with their own autonomous township, officially known as the JiuQuan Huangnibao Yugur Autonomous Township of the Yugur Nationality. It was a turning point in the history of Yugur Minority. Today Huangnibao is the second largest Yugur Nationality Township in the Nation, after Sunan Yugur Autonomous County (Banner) near Zhangye.
Yugurs traditionally engage in hunting for their survival, however since 1958 AD they have been engaged in the breeding of life-stock. The first life-stock to be bred and domesticated on communal farms were the wild deer favored by the Yugur for hunting.
In the last few decades, wool shearing has been mechanized, animal stocks improved and steps taken to have the herdsmen settle down and pastures grazed by rotation. With a limited supply of fresh water available, reservoirs have been built to retain rain water, ponds dug and underground water tapped to irrigate large tracks of dry pastures and provide drinking water for animals. The situation of "worried herdsmen having sheep but no water, wandering from place to place" as the saying went in these regions has been fundamentally changed.
Other economic opportunities in this region are rare. In fact, the Hexi Corridor was traditionally ranked among the poorest regions within one of the underdeveloped Provinces of China. In Chinese, "Yugur" means "wealth and stability", however sadly it cannot be said the the Yugurs could count themselves lucky in either way.
Although the foundation of the Peoples' Republic of China had put and end to the many powerplays that have disturbed the Yugur throughout their history, poverty remained for a long time thereafter.
In the 1980's and 1990's poverty was still widespread in the region, and education levels were low on average. In this period alcoholism was a widespread problem.
It is only now that the situation is turning for Jiuquan and Huangnibao Town. Although ,as throughout China, small towns are seeing increased migration to the larger cities, a National Government backed stimulation plan for the Gansu economy is slowly paying off. Electricity now reaches all townships and most Yugur homes.
Today there is the mining industry, and one of the Nation's largest Steel and Iron Mills at nearby Jiayuguan.
Among its other industries, the area has farm and livestock-breeding machinery factories, carpet, fur, and food processing industries. Wool shearing, threshing and fodder-crushing machines are now in extensive use.
Other jobs lie in services, civil or other. Lately new opportunities have been developing. First and foremost, China's Space Industry has taken to Jiuquan long ago. Recent economic growth and technical expertise however have turned China's No.1 launch facility into a booming Center of activity with according economic boost for the area.
Already many new apartments and buildings have been constructed in both Jiuquan and Jiayuguan, attempting to create luxurious livings for the educated crews imported from China's now thriving and modern cities. The Hotel industry is doing well and more new work-places may be derived from the new initiative of "The Three Gorges in the Air", the worlds largest wind energy project already under construction in the region. This project however requires skilled technical crews and engineers, and thus many of the jobs go to migrants, educated Han & others from other parts of China.
Today's Huangnibao village also has a fledgling Tourism Industry based on the history and traditions of the Yugur People.
As For outside influences; today there are many as the wider region sees an influx of (mainly Han) migrants. Other influences are brought in with the modernization of China, better communications through the Internet, mobile telephones, the Lanzhou-Urumqi Highway and better railroad and air-connections.
Tourist and Foreigners are welcome, thus the religion of Christianity has reached the village of Huangnibao. As recorded some of the towns inhabitants converted to Christianity after watching a western made film going by the title "Jesus". Christian Missionary organizations report a number of 50 Christian believers by the year 2000 AD.
However, the same sources report that Christian missionaries and those who distribute pamphlets and the like are not welcomed by the Town's Autonomous Government. Several organizations had sent "gospel Workers" to Huangnibao in the 1980's and 1990's, but on all occasions they were arrested and their activities halted. As proven, the Town's authorities take the protection of their cultural heritage seriously, but no problem should arise for visitors who show respect for local Culture, tradition and Customs.
Find the Yugur Culture on display during the Tourism Season at Hotels in both Jiayuguan and JiuQuan Cities. Or go for the genuine experience and Travel around the small village of Huangnibao to enjoy whatever sights may be seen that day. Many Yugurs have adopted to modern day times but those who adhere strongest to their culture can still be found living in Yurts made of Yak-Felt. Most of the Town however has taken up residence in more permanent and modern homes.
The ethnic identity among the Yugur's of Huangnibao remains particularly strong a situation which is stimulated by the Town Council. Thus many still wear authentic or "National" dress and look flamboyant in their colorful ware.
All Yugurs are proud of their Nationality. Enjoy the rough semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Hexi Yugurs in which even today life-stock and horses have a special place.
Visit the small village cultural museum to review the rich past and culture of the original minority members and go explore the community before heading back to Base at your chosen Hotel.
Regions under leadership of the Yugurs. During this episode the rebellious Yugurs. captured the City of Zhangye, at the Time known as Ganzhou, hence the Hexi Corridor Yugurs are also known historically as Ganzhou Yugurs. The Ganzhou then went on to become allies of the Han Chinese during the Song Dynasty Era and beyond but nevertheless had to yield to the Mongol Armies of Gengis Khan. The Yugurs of the Hexi Corridor were finally included into China in the year 1368 AD to 1372 AD, when the last Battles drove the Mongols out of China via the Jiayu Pass (at Jiayuguan) and the Ming Dynasty Emperor accepted the loyal Yugurs back into the Chinese Empire. The roughly 300.000 Yugurs of that Time settled mainly outside of the Great Wall, which is more West than their current home location.
Ever since the Ming, the Yugurs have been nominally included into China, although during the Ching Dynasty Era (1644 AD - 1911 AD) and in the 19Th Century there were several rebellions and declarations of independence involving the territory of Jiuquan and Huangnibao Town.
Lamaism grew to become the most dominant form of Buddhist religion in the Yugur area in the Ming and Qing dynasties. For centuries each Yugur tribe had its own monastery. The lamas worked closely with the chiefs in important tribal matters; some tribes practiced integration of religion and politics. The Yugurs had become an extension of the Cultures found on the Tibetan Plateaux.
As for the modern history of the Yugur Minority told by the Socialist Peoples' Republic, the Lamaist monasteries had their own feudal system of oppression and exploitation. There were courts, prisons and instruments of torture. The Government formed by the Lama's and Towns Heads could order compulsory donations and gratuitous forced labor, and could compel children to join the clergy (A similar situation however existed in Feudal China under the many Dynasties).
According to today's official views lamas extorted large amounts of money and property out of the common people by way of fortune telling and exorcism. They were land-owners and rent-masters. The fact that donations for religious purposes accounted approximately for 30 per cent of the annual income of a middle-class family is held as an example of the burden formed by the Buddhist Religion and Traditions, however hardly ever account is taken of the social and cultural values of such practices.
Most of the Ming Era Yugurs became part of ethnic communities outside the wall and merged with the Uygur main ethnic group. The small minority that took refuge within the safety of the Great Wall of China have become the Yugurs of Today.
The Jiuquan Huangnibao Yugur Autonomous Township itself is part of a larger Yugur Community which historically centered on Zhangye, which lies further East along the corridor. Other Saragh or Western Yugur Communities in this area are located in the Dahe and Minghua Districts of Zhangye City Prefecture.
Jiuquan Yugur Township, Home of the Saragh, YaoFuer, the Hexi Yugurs:
Aksay, the Kazakh community in Jiuquan Prefecture, located South of Dunhuang:
Although Aksay Town is nominally part of Jiuquan City Prefecture, the town is located due South-West of Dunhuang City at the far western end of the Hexi Corridor. Thus, the Kazakh Ethnic Minority of Jiuquan and their national home of the Aksay Kazakh Autonomous County are described with the "Ethnic Minorities of Dunhuang" - Click Here !
Travel to Dunhuang and from there to Aksay to visit the Kazakh Ethnic Minority in their native village.
Subei, the Mongol community in Jiuquan Prefecture, located South of Dunhuang:
Although Subei Town is nominally part of Jiuquan City Prefecture, the town is located due South-West of Dunhuang City at the far western end of the Hexi Corridor, just North of the Qinghai Province border and the Tibetan Plateuax. Thus, in all practicality the Mongol Ethnic Minority of Jiuquan and their national home of the Subei Mongol Autonomous County are described with the "Ethnic Minorities of Dunhuang" - Click Here !
Travel to Dunhuang and from there to Aksay and Subei to visit the both Ethnic Minorities in their native village. The Subei Mongol Autonomous County can be due South-East of Aksay Town with its Capital located along route S302 at Dangchengwan.
A Last tip for your visit: Do not wear anything colored bright red, as this may be held offensive by the Yugur population. Traditional beliefs say that one of Yugur Gods of Shamanism, the God of Hair dresses in bright red, and rides a red stallion. For this reason people dressed in red are not allowed inside a Yugur Home as it is feared the house may be jinxed by such an act.
Even when you are not planning to visit private homes in Huangnibao Town, it may be smartest to avoid trodding on local sensitivities and fears by adapting your clothing.
Not much more information on the Hexi Corridor Yugurs,the Saragh, can be found on the internet or through other sources. More backgrounds on the Hexi Yugurs will have to follow after a thorough scouting of the JiuQuan Yugur Nationality Township by China Report Staff.
You Tube Video - Yugur Costumes and Song.
This page was last updated on: July 29, 2017
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