I write this post about the history of the Uighur people as a response to our regular troll Anonymous (aka Ferin), who has a habit of using pseudo-science to justify his discrimination against the majority of non-Han Chinese in this world, in a manner analogous to the CCP-inspired Darwinian view towards other ethnic groups. It is not my intention to write a comprehensive Uighur history. I am only answering a few questions raised in Ferin’s comment.
(As a disclaimer, I hereby declare that I am of Han Chinese heritage. However, in the strictest sense as would have been approved by Ferin, I may not be qualified to such a claim. My DNA results seem to indicate that my genetic makeup has as much African and European components as East Asian ones. That made me wonder where my Chinese ancestors actually came from.)
First of all, let me quote Ferin’s comment:
Natives? Read up on your history. The Uighur did not separate from the Gaoche until around 700 AD, before then the Han Dynasty already established itself across Xinjiang up to within a few hundred KM of its modern Western border.
Not to mention, the Uighur of today are Uzbeks or “Sart-Taranchis”, there is interesting information out on this as well.
The real natives of the Xinjiang would most likely be the Chinese and Tibetans, and then 2,000 years later the Tocharians (who are not related to the Uighur, but share some genetic material).
Islam definitely is not native to Central Asia or anywhere but Saudi Arabia.
The following is my reply:
1. You are the one who needs to read up on your history. Ethnicity is defined by history and culture; it is a matter of identity, not DNA. The way in which you misappropriate DNA information here shows that either you don’t understand the cultural history of the Uighur people or you intend to deny their identity, as Han chauvinists would often do.
2. You should also stop blindly regurgitating CCP racial propaganda. The CCP’s ways of using DNA make-up of population TODAY to define the HISTORY of different ethnic groups in China (and beyond) is not just problematic but also dishonest.
3. The word “Uighur” means “united”. It was a confederation of Turkic speaking ethnic tribes who came together to form an Empire in the 6th century. Their forefathers, however, were descendents of the Xiongnu. The name Xiongnu appeared in Chinese historical sources from as early as 3th century BC, even before the First Emperor established his unified empire of Qin. Xiongnu, according to Chinese historical records, formed a distinct cultural group and had for centuries occupied the interlocking desert, steppe, and forest regions from Heilongjiang and Jilin in the east to XIJIANG in the west before they came into contact with the Han Empire.
4. Throughout history, the Uighur had all along been culturally and ethnically diverse. It has been conquered many times, dispersed and mixed with local population. The name “Sart-Taranchis” means “farmers and merchants”. It was first used by the Uighur after the dissolve of the Mongolian Empire in order to avoid persecution. The Buddhist groups among the Uighur were known to be allies of the Mongolians. For the same reason, some members of the Uighur would refer to themselves by the place they dwelt (such as Kashgarlik or Turfanlik), instead of by their ethnic identity.
5. The indigenous religion of the Uighurs was Manicheanism. However, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity and Zoroastrianism were known to have been popular among the population. Later, Uighur groups that settled among the indigenous Iranian population in the Kashgar oasis region, southwest of the Tarim Basin, became absorbed into the Islamicized Kharakhanid domain from as early as the 10th to 13th centuries. Kashgar had became an important Islamic centre of learning influenced by Arabic and Persian civilizations ever since.
6. The claim that Han Chinese settlement in Xinjiang started from as early as 100AD is nothing short of wishful thinking. Traces of Chinese influence along the Silk Road only attested to the existing of trade relations. A bunch of Han people passing through Xinjiang doing business with local people did not amount to “settlement”. Large scale Han settlement in Xinjiang is definitely a 20th century phenomenon.
7. As for the so-called “real native” or the Tocharians, where have they gone? Archaeology and historical records seem to suggest that these very ancient nomadic inhabitants of the Tarim Basin did not disappear on the face of the earth after they were defeated by the Xiongnu in the 2nd century BC. A small group of them had fled to the northern part of India. But the majority of them had remained in the Tarim Basin and lived among other ethnic groups. They later became a part of the Uighur Empire, adopted Uighur identity, and practised Buddhism and Manicheanism. This again supported my earlier assertion that the Uighur are a diversified ethnic group with a long history of cultural and religious adaptation. Their cultural identity is further reinforced by religion and the use of a common language.
8. I totally agree with JR that the Uighur are more than qualified to be called “the natives” of Xinjiang.