What Does Uyghur Culture Look Like? | Xinjiang: Far West China

What Does Uyghur Culture Look Like?

October 18 | 5 Comments

Cover of Aphra Pia's Silken Threads from the Past: Uyghur People & Their Culture

One of the most frustrating realities for any Xinjiang enthusiast or activist is the relative obscurity of the province and its Uyghur people. Unlike their Tibetan neighbors to the south, international understanding of Uyghur culture is tainted by the only kind of news that makes it out of the province: bad news.

Unless one walks through the alleys of Kasghar’s Old Town, visits the home of a Uyghur family, or shops a Uyghur bazaar, where else can an introduction to Uyghur culture be made?

In the book Silken Threads from the Past: Uyghur People & Their Culture, photographer Aphra Pia travels along the Silk Road to capture the heartbeat of Xinjiang through her camera lens.

The more I look critically at this collection of Xinjiang photos, I am reminded about how odd some of these scenes must be to somebody who has never experienced Xinjiang:

  • An old man carrying a back-breaking load down a dirt road.
  • Young girls with the most bizarre haircut (shaved everywhere except the bangs).
  • A mode of public transportation I affectionately refer to as the “trog” (part truck, part hog) and all 20 people who pile onto it!
  • A teenager who works the family business, oblivious to all of the dead lamb carcasses hanging around her.

A type of motorcycle transportation typical for Uyghur in Xinjiang

A young Uyghur girl at the meat market in Xinjiang, China

A Xinjiang shoe repair man on the streets of Urumqi

All common scenes within the province, yet unique to anybody outside – even most Han Chinese. Aphra Pia gathered her most poignant photos of both the province and the people so that everyone has the opportunity to see past the negative news clips into what makes this place so special.

Uyghur people are like no other group that I’ve ever met, but that’s a very difficult sentiment to form into words. Silken Threads from the Past offers a wonderful collection of photographs giving more insight into Uyghur people than most any article or China travel book I’ve read.

I would like to note one mistake, however, that is common among many travelers to the Xinjiang province. While the Uyghur people do constitute the largest minority group in the province, they are not alone here. In a book whose subtitle reads “Uyghur People and Their Culture”, it was interesting to find a few pictures of Hui, Tajik, and I believe I saw one Kazakh. It’s a difficult distinction to make, I admit, but it’s something I wanted to point out.

If you want to see examples of more pictures, head on over to Aphra Pia’s website. There you can see examples of additional work and buy her book if you’re so inclined.

Further Xinjiang Reading

If this photo book interests you, you might also like to check out examples from these other Xinjiang books:

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. I bought the book – it’s wonderful. Fantastic photos that capture real life moments in this exotic (to me) part of the world.

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  2. China is the most RACIST country in the world…they have no soul…now why doesn’t the mainstream media cover the oppression of the Uyghur people? Why don’t hong kong chinese people or other chinese know about this??? This is crazy…I never knew about Uyghur people…and I feel for them.

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  3. wrong! America tops the chart, pookie, you mixed race buddhist! America wants the death of race and religion. america destroyed my jewish family. you don’t feel for no uyghur, including my mother, because she is an jewish uyghur. go back to nirvana, you buddha! i said that ugliness, since you probably love ebonics!

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  4. Great..everyone like to discuss. What i can say, the most country with super military power and influences either US, Jewish, Britain or China, all are capitalism. They will take any opportunity for money and earth resources by killing weak races. They won for nothing because all human will die when the time’s coming. Their wealth and crazy legacy will inherited by younger generation to continue kill weak races for money and ego. My question is, do we born to killing others? No.For those inhuman commit to do such bad thing.

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