Uyghurs Love China…Dishware, That Is
This store would be a mother’s worst nightmare.
All four walls are stacked from floor to ceiling with glass teapots, bowls and dishes leaving just a tiny square in the middle from which to browse the collection. It feels as if the whole display is only one sneeze away from total chaos. The local Muslim woman who manages the store is part of the Uyghur minority here in Xinjiang and she moves around the confined space effortlessly, apparently unaware of any potential disaster.
This is an ordinary Uyghur dishware store. It’s size is misleading because it underscores the important role this dishware holds in a modern Uyghur home. When receiving guests, the main table is usually packed with glassware and dishware each filled to the brim with fruits, raisins, candies or other snacks. The guests are served tea from ornately decorated bowls, decorations which display little – if any – Chinese influence.
Some of the dishes are made of glass with jagged edges that play with the light while others are shiny porcelain. In some areas such as Kashgar’s Old City you can still find hand-made earthenware sold along the remaining narrow streets, although now-a-days this isn’t bought for daily use in the home. Each type of dishware is relatively cheap but make for a difficult souvenir because of its weight and tendency to break.
In English we would normally refer to this dishware in the same way we refer to the country in which Uyghurs call home: “china”. Interestingly, the Uyghurs use the same name with a slightly different pronunciation: “chee-na”. In the Uyghur language, however, this word isn’t a homonym. The Uyghur word for the People’s Republic of China is zhong guo, the same name name used by the Chinese themselves, although again pronounced slightly differently.
So, technically, one could find unsettling irony in the phrase “Uyghurs love china”.