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Xinjiang Suffers from “Minority Complex”

September 29 | 12 Comments

Some people might call it an “inferiority complex”, but when you’re dealing with the sensitive ethnic issues that China’s far west province of Xinjiang faces, it’s best to call it what it really is. Xinjiang suffers from a “minority complex”.

mi·nor·i·ty com·plex  /məˈnôrətē kämˈpleks/
Noun: a feeling that the public’s perception of your treatment of minorities is inadequate, sometimes resulting in excessive overcompensation

How can we be for sure that officials in Xinjiang suffer from this minority complex? All it takes is a quick look at the headlines over the past 2 years.

If you’ve been following me for any period of time, you’ll recognize that these are real headlines from Xinjiang. It is a list of publicity stunts that turn simple Xinjiang minority symbols into a comical farce.

The World’s Largest Wooden Plate

Xinjiang boasts the world's largest wooden plate

At 2.4 meters in diameter, China claims that this is the largest wooden plate in the world.

It was built as part of a festival in Shawan county in Xinjiang to celebrate the famous DaPanJi (which literally means “big plate chicken”…hence the big plate) and actually broke a Guinness World Record.

The World’s Longest Tablecloth

Xinjiang boasts the world's longest Kazakh tablecloth

Chinese officials describe this as the world’s longest embroidered tablecloth. With a total length of 90 meters of Kazakh handiwork, this is yet another Xinjiang record that has been recorded by the Guinness Book of Records.

Missing from this record book? The world’s longest table. Kinda seems pointless, doesn’t it?

China’s Oldest Man

At the ripe old age of 123, a Uyghur man named Sadiq Sawut who lives in Kashgar, Xinjiang is considered to be China’s oldest living man. No doubt everybody is clamoring to find their way onto this annually published list by the Gerontological Society of China.

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The World’s Largest Naan Flatbread

30kg of mutton (lamb meat). 125kg of flour. 16kg of onions. 90kg of water. Combine those together and you’ll get the world’s largest Uyghur naan flatbread.

Xinjiang boasts the world's largest Uyghur flatbread (naan)

It took 12 men a total of 10 hours to get this thing mixed and baked. Wish I could have seen the oven!

Reports claim that this could feed 10,000 people, but one Facebook fan correctly noted that it obviously wouldn’t be 10,000 Uyghur people. They can pound Uyghur naan down!

The World’s Longest Horse Sausage

A long bit of horse sausage in Xinjiang, China

Ok, so this one doesn’t claim to break any records, but I can’t imagine this happens too often. At least I hope not.

It required a total of 38 horses for these Xinjiang chefs to make a 213-meter sausage that weighs 1,256kg. Appetizing, don’t you think?

The World’s Largest Minority Dance Group

A record-breaking group of Xinjiang dancers in China

During the same event where the longest tablecloth was unveiled (see above), organizers also decided to break another coveted record – the world’s largest group dance.

17,000 dancers – both professional and amateur, filled the fields of Altay during the kickoff for Xinjiang’s Ethnic Culture Tourism Festival. The effort was not in vain, as again yet another Guinness record was achieved.

The World’s Largest National Park

Finally, in 2007 China vowed to make the Kanas Lake Reserve in Xinjiang into the world’s largest national park. At the time the park only covered 1,000 sq km, but should soon cover over 9,000 sq km.

Why make this distinction in an autonomous region in Xinjiang? There’s no other explanation than the fact that Xinjiang has a minority complex.

Plain. And. Simple.

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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  1. That’s funny, all of those were news to me. I thought XJ was the province of seconds.
    Second largest shifting sands desert
    Second highest peak in the world
    Second lowest spot in the world (Turpan)
    Second biggest Mao Statue (Kashi)
    Second cleanest city in the country (Korla)

    Josh on September 30th, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Ha! I never thought about all of the “seconds” that there are here, but obviously it’s more than a few. Thanks for pointing that out :)

  2. Wow, it turns out I was right. The good people of Xinjiang did try to break another freakish and obscure record over the holiday: The World’s Largest Pizza! (although it debatable if Gox Nan is pizza) You were really on to something with this post…

    Josh on October 6th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Ha! I saw that today as well. It’s actually the same thing as the largest Uyghur bread I mentioned above. Why in the world they say that the locals call it “Uyghur pizza” is beyond me. I have never heard it called such…especially since most people in this area don’t even know what a pizza is!

  3. Hi, I read your blog regularly as someone with a long-standing interest in Xinjiang and Uighur culture. I have to say though I think you’re a bit off in this case. Most of the examples you have given seem to be pre-arranged ‘stunts’ or photo-opps which have been arranged by the Chinese government/local authorities in order to try and convey an appearance of normality and the sense that Uighurs are living happily and Uighur culture is thriving, when everyone knows that the opposite is true. So to accuse them of an inferiority complex (which they may indeed have given how their culture is treated) on the basis of these articles is a bit much. At the very least if the authorities were unhappy about these record attempts, they would shut them down straight away – therefore they must have at least a tacit blessing. Anyway, I enjoy your blog – particularly the photos- so keep up the good work. Thanks, Neil.

    Josh on October 20th, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Thanks for your comment and your kind words, Neil! This was a post more in jest than anything else, as you may have guessed.

    I have no doubt that Han Chinese authorities not only approved these stunts, they completely orchestrated them. That was essentially what I meant by “minority complex”: an attempt on the part of Han authorities to compensate for how they know the international community perceives their treatment of minorities.