Three Poems by Exmetjan Osman

Translated and introduced by Joshua L. Freeman

Exmetjan Osman (b. 1964) is widely acknowledged as the founder of the gungga (“hazy”) movement in Uyghur poetry, a modernist school which blossomed after Exmetjan’s first Uyghur-language abstract poems were published in Xinjiang’s Tengri Tagh journal in 1986. As a teenager in Ürümqi during the early days of China’s reform period, Exmetjan developed a strong interest in international literary trends, and in 1982 joined one of the first cohorts of Xinjiang Uyghurs to study abroad after the Cultural Revolution. Completing first a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s degree in Arabic literature at Damascus University, Exmetjan acquired Arabic with such fluency that in 1988 he was able to publish his first Arabic-language poetry collection, The Second Stumble. His first Uyghur-language collection followed three years later, and the years since have seen the publication of six more volumes in Arabic and Uyghur, to great acclaim in both the Syrian and the Uyghur literary worlds. Continue reading

A Japanese Xiangfei

Hashimoto Kansetsu 橋本関雪, a Kyoto-based painter, lived from 1883 to 1945. His home in Kyoto was a carefully cultivated assemblage of pavilions and greenery, now open to the public for a small fee, with a gallery displaying some of his works. His paintings deal mostly with natural subjects, some of which can be seen here. One picture is of a more historical nature, though. It is a copy of one of the portraits of the Qianlong Emperor’s famous concubine from Xinjiang, who was known variously as Rong Fei 容妃, Xiang Fei 香妃 (the “Fragrant Concubine”), or among Uyghurs as Iparkhan. The original, which belongs to the National Palace Museum in Taiwan, is attributed to the Jesuit artist Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining 郎世寧). There are, in fact, quite a few different pictures thought to be the Castiglione portrait, as James Millward has discussed (“An Uyghur Muslim in Qianlong’s Court: The Meanings of the Fragrant Concubine,” Journal of Asian Studies 53, no. 2 [1994]: 427-58.). To this collection, then, we can add this slightly Japanese-looking Xiang Fei, now hanging in the National Diet of Japan:


Xinjiang in the Turco-Tatar press: a partial bibliography

Hopefully one day scholars of Central Asia will have access to the same kinds of online indices and databases of periodicals that exist for people who study other parts of the world. Until that time, making use of the source material in the Turkic-language press of the Russian Empire requires leafing slowly through copies held in only a few libraries in Russia or Central Asia, or spending large amounts of time in front of a microfilm reader. In the course of my research I have had experience of both. To make things slightly easier for future researchers with similar interests, I make my bibliographic notes available here. This is a list of articles relating to Chinese Muslims, Xinjiang, and the Uyghur diaspora in Russian Turkistan, primarily Semireche, in pre-revolutionary periodicals published in Turkic-speaking parts of Russian Empire. Continue reading

The return of the return of the Torghud


Reposted from the China Heritage Quarterly.

The last decade has seen a lot of new anniversaries cropping up in Central Asia. Newly independent republics such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have swapped old Soviet holidays for new, nationally specific events, often dedicated to demonstrating the antiquity of the nations concerned. In 2007 Samarkand celebrated its 2750th birthday, and in 2009 Tashkent turned 2200. This year, along with the centennial of the Mongolian declaration of independence, Mongolians will mark the 2220th anniversary of the founding of the Xiongnu 匈奴 empire. Continue reading

Republished books on Republican Xinjiang

Two books have been republished recently that will be of interest to scholars of Xinjiang in the Republic:

  • Kadirî, Polat. Baturlar (Ülke tarihi): Doğu Türkistan Millî Mücadele Tarihi (1930-1949). Edited by Ömer Kul. Ankara: Berikan Yayinevi, 2009.
  • Forbes, Andrew D. W. Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 1911-1949. 2nd ed. Bangkok: White Lotus, 2010.

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The Chronicle of Mahmud Churas

Translated by David Brophy

Mahmud Churas’ untitled chronicle ranks as the most important historical composition from seventeenth century Xinjiang, a period for which we are relatively poorly served by local literature. Only one manuscript version of the text survives. At the beginning of the twentieth century this manuscript was in the possession of a wealthy Tashkent man, Baqi Jan Bay. The Russian Orientalist Bartold met Baqi during his trip to Turkistan in 1916, and obtained permission to remove the text to Saint Petersburg for copying. The Russian Revolution intervened and cut Turkistan off from the rest of Russia, and evidently the book was never returned to its owner. Instead it ended up in a library in Moscow. There it remained, largely unnoticed by scholars, until Oleg Akimushkin published an edition of the text, with Russian translation and extensive commentary, in 1976. Continue reading