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Celebrating Qurban in Urumqi, Xinjiang

April 8 | No Comments

It’s Qurban Festival in Xinjiang (aka “Corban” or “古尔邦节”) and I decided to take a walk through my local neighborhoods here in Urumqi to capture some photos and a video.

Some cute Uyghur kids dressed up for Corban Festival in Urumqi, Xinjiang

You can watch the video below or scroll further down to read a more thorough description of Xinjiang’s Qurban Festival accompanied by a few photos.

Hopefully you enjoy!

Please Note: this video, although not graphic, may not be suitable for all audiences. If you’re squeamish about the thought of an animal dying, just scroll on down to see the photos instead.

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Qurban (Corban) Festival in Xinjiang

Unlike other parts of China – even other majority Muslim regions like Ningxia, Gansu and others – Xinjiang recognizes Qurban as an official holiday.

When you consider that we’re getting a few days off for Qurban, a few days off for China’s Mid-Autumn Festival and then the October holiday, in total we’re getting about 12-14 straight “official” holidays.

Every year during this time, thousands upon thousands of sheep are hauled into cities all across Xinjiang and sold for sacrifices. Sheep can cost anywhere between 25-50RMB per kilogram, which is a pretty wide range.

Sheep brought in from inland China are considered the cheapest and worst while sheep from Kashgar or Altay regions are the most expensive.

Sheep all gathered in their sheep pen in Urumqi, Xinjiang for the Corban Festival
Sheep sellers gather in Urumqi, Xinjiang to sell during Corban
A sheep pen in Urumqi, Xinjiang during Corban

Every family should purchase their own sheep that they can either slaughter themselves or have slaughtered by a local butcher.

Despite the dirty mess, kids and adults alike get dressed up for the occasion.

Strange thing is, the sheep seem to understand what is going on. Seldom do you see a sheep calmly accepting its fate. Rather, it’s quite humorous to watch the new owners attempt to pull, shove and drag the sheep back home.

Uyghur men dragging a sheep in Urumqi, Xinjiang during Corban
Sheep and Uyghur woman being transported by trailer in Urumqi, Xinjiang

Once the sheep arrive back at the house, the process of slaughtering begins. It’s a bloody mess but is surprisingly quite an efficient process. Very little of the sheep is discarded.

It begins by cutting the throat of the sheep and letting the blood drain (I won’t disgust you with pictures of that, though). They then cut a tiny incision in the leg where they fill the carcass with air.

This can be done with an electric pump, a foot pump or – as in this case – by mouth.

Using the mouth to blow air into a sheep carcass in Urumqi, Xinjiang

In a matter of 10 minutes they can have the sheep skin removed from the body and they then hang the carcass to properly butcher the sheep.

A Uyghur man cuts a sheep carcass in Urumqi, Xinjiang
Uyghur men butchering sheep in Urumqi, Xinjiang

The skin is usually donated to the local mosque (who sell it for profit) and other portions of meat are given to the poor. The remaining portion goes to the house where it is cooked (even the lamb intestines are cooked!) and used as part of the festivities over the next few days.

Even though this is the most important holiday for the Uyghur and Hui Muslims in Urumqi, Xinjiang, I find that it is a very personal affair. Other than prayers in the morning, there’s not a big community gathering.

Families celebrate together on the first day and then go out to visit friends, co-workers and others in the days following.

A sheep being slaughtered in the alley in Urumqi, Xinjiang
Sheep butts in Urumqi, Xinjiang

The End (get it?)

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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