The Western Yugur People
The Yugur, or Yellow Uygur as they are traditionally known, are one of China's 56 officially recognized nationalities, consisting of 12,297 persons according to the 1990 census. The Yugur live primarily in Gansù Province, in Sùnán Yugur Autonomous County, within the Prefecture of Zhangyè.
The Yugur live in an area where four different language groups, Turkic, Mongolic, Chinese and Tibetan converge. The Yugur nationality itself consists in fact of four linguistically different groups.
The largest of these groups are the Turkic speaking Western Yugur, comprising about 4,600 persons; they mainly live in the western part of the County in Mínghua District, in the Townships of Liánhua and Mínghai, and in Dàhé District, in the centre of the County.
The Mongolic speaking Eastern Yugur number about 2,800; they mainly live in the County's eastern part, in Huángchéng District, and in Dàhé and Kanglè Districts, in the centre of the County.
A very small number of the Yugur reportedly speak Tibetan. They are most likely Tibetans who married into the Yugur community.
The remaining Yugur of the Autonomous County lost their respective Yugur language and speak Chinese. Another concentration of Chinese speaking Yugur lives outside of Sùnán Yugur Autonomous County, in Huángnibao Township, resorting under Jiuquán City.
Chinese is the language of contact between the different linguistic groups, and functions as written medium. Both Western and Eastern Yugur are unwritten languages.
The Western Yugur are considered to be the descendants of a group of Uygur that fled from Mongolia southwards to Gansù after the collapse of the Uygur Empire in 840 A.D. The Eastern Yugur are probably the descendants of one of the Mongolic speaking groups invading northern China during the Mongol conquests in the thirteenth century. From this it may be conjectured that the Yugur people have been living together for about seven centuries.
Today, the Yugur people are predominantly employed in animal husbandry, but as the economical conditions are strenuous, young people try to find a living in cities elsewhere, such as Zhangyè, Lánzhou and Beijing. As Zhong Jìnwén states in the People's Daily Online:"When I returned home each time in the past few years, I found things changed quite a lot. When I just entered the university, almost all of those who failed in the entrance examinations remained in their hometown. Now, except for those who join the army or take entrance exams, others have gone elsewhere to work or do business, and this is a common practice."
Read more on:
- The Fortunes of Life
- The Cycles of Life
- The Murder Plot
- The Woman Who Killed Her Husbands
- Hóngshíwo Elementary School
Have a look at some pictures (click on the pictures to see a larger image):
Back to the Western Yugur Steppe