Reason #1 to Live or Travel in Xinjiang: Cultural Diversity | Xinjiang: Far West China

Reason #1 to Live or Travel in Xinjiang: Cultural Diversity

November 12 | 6 Comments

*This post is part 2 in a series of posts entitled “Why Live and Travel to Xinjiang”.  If you haven’t already, it might be a good idea to read over Part 1 of this series before continuing.*

Cultural Diversity in China

A crowded and busy Chinese street

Any traveler who has made their way around different parts of this country can tell you that although China is by no means boring, it is not well-known as a very ethnically diverse land.  Of course if that person is familiar with Chinese history they will also tell you this is only a matter of perception – and they’re right – but from a western point of view when you walk down the streets of most any province in China it’s hard to see anything other than Han Chinese (the ethnic group we as westerners associate as being “Chinese”).

Things are Different in Xinjiang

A Uyghur man selling watermelon in XinjiangOnce you cross the border into Xinjiang though, it doesn’t take a detective to see that things are very different here.  No other province in China boasts as many different ethnic groups as Xinjiang: Han, Hui (Chinese Muslims), Kazakh, Uyghur, Russian, and Pakistani are just a few of the small, more well-known ethnic groups which call this their home.  The difference in appearance, though subtle at times, is distinct and the languages are worlds apart.

It might be the vast amounts of oil under the desert floors here that attracts all these different groups to stay here, but more than likely it has to do with the fact that Xinjiang borders the most countries of any other province in Chinaa whopping 8 countries! (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirghiziastan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Mongolia, India and Afghanistan)

Why Does it Matter?

Uyghur people wander around a Friday market in XinjiangSome may wonder why cultural diversity would be such a good reason to visit or live in Xinjiang, and that’s a valid question.  You must remember, though, that each ethnic group comes with its own baggage – both good and bad.  Fortunately for us as visitors, we get to benefit mostly from the good.  Each group has its own history, its own food, its own music, and its own clothes – discovering all of them would take more time than you could spend here.

What this means is that while here you can eat Kazakh food while listening to Uyghur music and wearing traditional Chinese clothes – and nobody will think twice!  Ok, maybe not exactly like that, but all of this can be done within the same city among people of that particular ethnic group.  You’re experiencing more of the world without having to travel as much.  If you really think about it, traveling to Xinjiang is the most efficient way to travel.

In a place where the only western restaurant is a KFC, diversity is always welcome.  Believe me, Chinese food is good, but it can get old after a while.  Since we’re on the subject, reason #2 to come to Xinjiang is all about food…pretty much my favorite subject and one of the best parts of living here, hands down.

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Follow up with the rest of the series on “Why Live and Travel to Xinjiang?”:

Uyghur people wander around a Friday market in Xinjiang1. The Cultural Diversity

Dapanji, or "Big Plate Chicken" is great Xinjiang food2. Diversity of Food and Music

The Xinjiang-Tibet highway, the highest in the world3. Obscurity

Muztag Ata in Xinjiang, China4. Exotic, Natural Beauty

Paparazzi taking pictures5. Foreigner Curiosity and Excitement

Riding a camel in Xinjiang's Taklamakan Desert6. Hone Your Survival Skills

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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  1. hi,u have a very interesting entry here, love it. i am wondering, did they all uses mandarin language to interact with each other or they uses others? thanks

    [Reply]

    Josh on December 29th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    You can get by just using Mandarin, but it’s safe to say that the Uyghur people speak Uyghur with each other and Han Chinese speak Mandarin with each other.

    [Reply]

  2. Hey, Josh! I want to say that I’m happy for you living in Xinjiang Province! I, as a cultural enthusiast, understand that there are far more ethnicities and cultures in China than meets the eye. 55 other ethnicities, other than the Han people that we view as the real Chinese, live in this beautiful country, each with their own, unique, culture and customs.I can’t wait to go to China this summer, and at last, explore my most favorite culture in its native homeland! 我最喜欢中国!

    [Reply]

  3. Hi,Josh:) I am a native of Xinjiang. I wanna say thanks for your elaborate introduction about my hometown, so that the travellers from other country wound know more about this beautiful, fertile place.

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on June 6th, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    My pleasure. Thank you for stopping by, reading and leaving a comment, Chichi! :)

    [Reply]




The 2015 Xinjiang travel guide is here!