Currently there are 10 Islamic Ethnic groups that remain in China (P.R.C.). Some of these groups are very small while others count millions of members.
First and Foremost are the Uyghurs, most of whom are Chinese Muslims originating from Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region, and a minority from Hunan and Henan Provinces. There are currently about 7.2 million Uyghurs in China.
The greater majority of Chinese Muslims, if not all, fall under the Sunni definition of Islam, it's culture and its beliefs although especially the Dongxiang practice aspects of Sufism and some sects have adopted aspects of buddhism as well.
The Uzbek's, or Uzbeki's are one of the smallest Ethnic Minority Groups in China today. In 1990 there were 14,592 Uzbeki reportedly living in China. According to the Year 2000 AD National Census there were only 12.400 Uzbeki. A drop of more than 2000 mainly due to remigration into Russia across the Xinjiang Border.
Uzbeki traditionally are famous for their handicraft work and their commercial skills, which make up their main occupations of trade and commerce.
Some Uzbeki are engaged in a different lifestyle of small scale agriculture and animal husbandry. These Uzbek's live in North Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region where they live a semi-nomadic lifestyle together with the Kazak ethnic group. Less than 30% of the Uzbek's are farmers or herders however.
The name Uzbek first originated from the Uzbek Khan, one of the local rulers under the Mongol Empire in the 14th century. The Uzbeki ancestors were the famed traders of silk, porcelain, tea, jade and other treasured goods on the Silk Road. During and after the Mongolian invasions that established the Yuan Dynasty in 1271 AD many came with the migrations from Central Asia and some Uzbeki traders settled in towns and cities. After the fall of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 AD they would find
A Schematic Map of the Eurasian Trade Routes existing in the 13Th Century (Yuan Dynasty).
Clearly depicted on the Map are the land-bound trading routes through Central Asia known as the Silk Road (the path of Marco Polo and others) and the Maritime Trade Routes that operated between the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Ocean and Coastal Cities, the Straights of Malacca and South-China Sea's. As shown Maritime Trade to China mainly entered through Southern Harbors, then was distributed internally by use of the Grand Canal, the Yangzte River and the Yellow River.
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themselves under different circumstances as the Mongolians had grown hated in the Han Chinese cultural realm and the Uzbeki were felt to be closely associated with the Mongolians by the majority of the Chinese population. It was both bad for business and bad for one's health.
Uzbeki traded in their long-distance trading for local jobs as silk weavers, farmers, craftsmen, and, eventually again entrepreneurs and tradesmen. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Uzbek trading caravans from Buchara and Samarkand used Yarkant in Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region as a staging area and meeting point of caravans for the purpose of making business deals in silk, tea, chinaware, fur, rhubarb and other such products. Migrations of Uzbeki to China continued through the 19Th and early 20Th Century. Currently remigration across the Russian Border or into Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is more frequent.
The Uzbeki, as do many of the minorities have a spoken language but no written version of it. Due to their geographical location and their centuries of coexistence with other ethnic groups of the region, many Uzbeki speak the Uyghur Language and/or Kazakh. As a matter of fact, the Uzbeki have adopted much of the ways and lifestyles of the Uyghur People. Most notably, they use the Uyghur written language which is essentially Arabic.
Strictly speaking the Uzbek language belongs to the Turkic Group of the Altaic Family and it is closely related to Uyghur, explain the affinity between these ethnic groups. Due to current and historic influences the modern Uzbek language has many loanwords from Farsi - A Language historically spoken by Uzbek intellectuals, Russian - brought along by the Czarist Russian Empire, and Chinese.
Due to the close ethnic and lingual resemblances between the groups, Uzbek's regularly inter-marry with Uyghurs and Kazakh's.
The Uzbek however still retain many features of their own nationality. For instance, both Uzbek Women and Men wear colorful embroidered caps, the main sign of their ethnic group. Uzbeks wear round hats, while Uigur wear square hats. Uzbek women are traditionally good at embroidery and their products are fit on caps, scarf's, items of clothing and even every day use items.
As in other traditional cultures in Asia and China, the elderly are highly respected and important in traditional Uzbek culture. As the Uzbeki form a small community children have an especially important place too. Whenever a child is born among the Uzbeki, there will be a grand ceremony and afterwards a feast for the guests.
Uzbeki in China are Muslims. Their Religious orientation originates from the 14Th Century Islamic Conversion of the Uzbek (Or Ozbek) Khanate under the political and military leadership of Uzbek Khan. No Pork or Alcohol are allowed to them. Their main Festivals are as with the Salar, the lesser Bairam and the Qurban. Burials among the Uzbek have a special tradition of mourning for an entire week. Men who attend funerals tie a strip of white cloth around the waist, and women wear a piece of white cloth on their heads. The Then three times afterwards on the 40th, the 70th , and the 100th day after death, the ahung or Mullah (Muslim priest) must perform memorial services and rituals.
Uzbeki festivals are celebrations of their culture and involve a lot of music, singing and dancing. As with many ethnic groups, they have a strong oral tradition and therefor there are many folk songs, ballads, tales and saga's to be found among the small Uzbek Community in China (P.R.C.).
The musical instruments of the Uzbeki are mainly percussion instruments and snared instruments used for plucking. Ozbek dances are famous for their vivacity, grace and variety. The Uzbek style of dance has been exported to all other ethnic groups in the region. Most dances are solos, with the dancer (female) waving her arms while turning round and round.
Uzbeki today are among the most successful ethnic groups in China. Their literacy is the highest of all minority groups in the Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region. Many Uzbek's are engineers, factory mechanics and tradesmen. Young Uzbek's no longer receive education through religious schools (madrassas) but receive a Chinese program initiated and supported by the Central Government. Strict adherence to the Islamic faith, albeit strong is diminishing among Uzbek Youth.