Cultural Protection and Development in Xinjiang

Updated: Sep 16, 2019 Print
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II. The Spoken and Written Languages of Ethnic Groups Are Widely Used

Language, in both spoken and written forms, is an important carrier and a distinct symbol of culture. Xinjiang is a multilingual region, and historical experience shows that learning and using the commonly used standard Chinese as a spoken and written language has helped develop Xinjiang’s ethnic cultures. The Chinese government works hard to promote the use of the standard Chinese language, protects by law ethnic people’s freedom to use and develop their own languages, and advocates and encourages ethnic groups to learn spoken and written languages from each other, so as to promote language communication and ethnic unity among all Chinese people.

Promote standard Chinese by law. Learning and using standard Chinese helps different ethnic groups to communicate, develop and progress. When the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China was revised in 1982, the sentence “The state promotes the nationwide use of Putonghua (common speech based on Beijing pronunciation)” was added. On January 1, 2001, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Standard Spoken and Written Chinese Language took effect, clarifying the legitimate status of Putonghua and standardized Chinese characters as the standard Chinese language. The Educational Law of the People’s Republic of China (Revised in 2015) provides: “The standard spoken and written Chinese language shall be the basic language used by schools and other educational institutions in education and teaching…. Schools and other educational institutions dominated by ethnic minority students in ethnic autonomous areas shall, according to the actual circumstances, use the standard spoken and written Chinese language and the spoken and written languages of their respective ethnicities or the spoken and written language commonly used by the local ethnicities to implement bilingual education.” Regulations on the Work Concerning Spoken and Written Languages of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, revised in 2015, state the need to “promote the standard spoken and written Chinese language”. Ethnic people are enthusiastic about learning and using standard Chinese to adapt to economic and social development and increased communication.

We should strengthen education and teaching of standard Chinese. In the 1950s, in response to the call of the state, Xinjiang began Chinese courses for ethnic minority students at elementary and secondary schools. In 1984, Xinjiang proposed to strengthen Chinese teaching at ethnic minority schools to achieve the goal that students “master both standard Chinese and their own ethnic languages”. Currently, students at preschool institutions and elementary and secondary schools in Xinjiang have universal access to bilingual education, including teaching of standard Chinese and ethnic minority languages, ensuring that by 2020 all ethnic minority students will be able to master and use standard Chinese.

We should carry out various forms of training on the standard spoken and written Chinese language. In 2013, the “training program on the standard spoken and written Chinese language” was launched, a special program for ethnic minority youths participating in vocational or business training in counties or cities where people of ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities. In 2017, a program aimed to popularize standard Chinese by the year 2020 was launched.

Protect spoken and written ethnic minority languages in a scientific way. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy both clearly prescribe that all ethnic groups have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. Currently, 10 spoken and written languages are used among the various ethnic groups of Xinjiang. Ethnic minority languages are extensively used in such areas as judicature, administration, education, press and publishing, radio and television, internet, and public affairs. At important meetings such as those of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference documentation and simultaneous interpretation in Uygur, Kazak, Mongolian or other ethnic minority languages are provided. When performing official duties, Party and government organs of Xinjiang and lower-level autonomous prefectures and counties use at the same time standard Chinese and the languages of those ethnic minorities that exercise regional autonomy. All ethnic minorities have the right to use their own spoken and written languages in elections and judicial matters. Schools and other educational institutions where ethnic minority students are the majority highlight the study and use of ethnic minority languages in setting their curricula and in various entrance examinations. Xinjiang uses Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz and Mongolian languages for the annual national higher education entrance examination.

In 2015 the Chinese government organized and launched a program to protect the rich language resources of China, collecting and recording physical forms of linguistic data such as Chinese dialects, spoken and written languages of ethnic minorities, and oral language cultures. The largest of its kind in the world, this program has covered the whole country. Field surveys have been conducted in Xinjiang, covering more than 30 survey locations of ethnic minority languages, 10 locations of Chinese dialects, six locations of endangered languages, and two locations of language cultures. To date more than 80 percent of survey tasks in these locations have been completed, and some symbolic successes have been achieved.

Multilingual press and publication and radio and television are a major feature of Xinjiang. Xinjiang publishes newspapers, books, audio and video products, and e-publications in six spoken and written languages – Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, Mongolian and Xibe. Xinjiang TV broadcasts in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, and Kirgiz. Xinjiang People’s Broadcasting Station broadcasts in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, and Mongolian. Xinjiang Daily is printed in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak and Mongolian.

To enable ethnic minorities to share the achievements of the information age, the Chinese government has set national specifications of coded character set, keyboard, and type matrix for Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur, Kazak, Kirgiz, and some other languages. It has studied and developed different typesetting systems and intelligent voice translation systems for several written ethnic minority languages. The government supports the orderly development of websites and emerging media in spoken and written ethnic minority languages, and works to improve information processing and application capabilities in ethnic minority languages. Xinjiang has set up the Ethnic Language Work Committee and ethnic minority language research institutes at different levels, which are responsible for scientific research into ethnic minority languages, and which work to make them more standardized and apply them in IT.

Encourage ethnic groups to learn spoken and written languages from each other. The Chinese government encourages different ethnic groups in ethnic autonomous areas to learn languages from each other, urging ethnic minorities to learn standard Chinese while encouraging Han residents to learn ethnic minority languages. It emphasizes that grassroots civil servants, newly recruited civil servants, and employees in the public service sector should know two or more languages and provides facilities for their learning. Xinjiang conducts special training courses for Han officials to learn ethnic minority languages. Since the 1950s, the state has offered majors in ethnic minority languages and literature (Uygur and Kazak) at colleges and universities in Xinjiang; most graduates of these majors work in the fields of administration, education, and research on ethnic minority languages. For many years, it has been a common practice that different ethnic groups of Xinjiang learn languages from each other. More and more people are becoming bilingual or multilingual, which promotes communication and integration among all the ethnic groups.

III. Respecting and Protecting Religious Culture

Since antiquity Xinjiang has seen the coexistence of a variety of religions, whose rich cultures have become part of traditional Chinese culture. China’s government is committed to protecting its citizens’ freedom of religious belief while respecting and protecting religious cultures.

Many religious cultures blend and coexist. Xinjiang has long been a region where multiple religions are practiced and their cultures have met and blended. Primitive religion and Shamanism were practiced in Xinjiang before Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and other faiths were introduced into the region from the 4th century BC onward. Gradually there came into being a network of coexisting religions. This network further evolved with the introduction of Taoism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism, and Islam. A coexistence of multiple religions, with one or two predominant, was a basic characteristic of Xinjiang’s religious history. During their lengthy coexistence and interaction, the religious cultures in the region learned from one another and adapted to China’s social development. At present, the major religions in Xinjiang are Islam, Buddhism, Protestant and Catholic Christianity, and Taoism. Certain Shamanistic and Zoroastrian elements can still be observed in local customs today. The remains of Buddha niches, lotus patterns, and lotus seat sculptures in Kashgar, Hami, and Ili testify to the once widespread influence of Buddhism in the region.

Religious texts are published and distributed in accordance with the law. The state has translated, published and distributed Islamic, Buddhist, Protestant, and other religious texts to meet the diverse demand

of religious believers. The Koran and Irshad al-Sari li Sharh Sahih

al-Bukhari have been published in Chinese, Uygur, Kazak and Kirgiz languages. The New Collection of al-Wa’z Speeches series have been compiled

and published in both Chinese and Uygur languages. A website ( available in both Chinese and Uygur languages was set up for Xinjiang’s Muslim community. Ancient religious books, including Volume II of the Golden Light Sutra (Suvarnaprabhasa Sutra) and Maitrisimit Nom Bitig, have been published. Important scriptures such as the Koran, Bible, and Golden Light Sutra are available at stores specializing in selling religious publications.

Religious heritages are effectively protected. A total of 109 religious sites in Xinjiang, including Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Shengyou Lamasery in Zhaosu, and the Kizil Thousand-Buddha Caves have been designated as major cultural heritage sites under the protection of the autonomous region and the state. Among the 109 sites, 46 are key cultural heritage sites under the protection of the state and 63 are under the protection of the autonomous region. The central government has allocated special funds to renovate cultural heritage protection sites at the state and autonomous-region levels, including the Kizil Thousand-Buddha Caves, Bezkilik Grottoes, and Id Kah Mosque. Xinjiang has funded the repair of 28 religious venues, including the Emin Minaret in Turpan, Shengyou Lamasery in Zhaosu, and Red Temple (Taoist) in Urumqi. Elements of intangible cultural heritage relating to religion are also effectively protected and passed on.

Religions adapt to China’s realities. Adapting to local society is essential for the survival and development of any religion. With influence from such Chinese cultural traditions as being inclusive, seeking common ground while reserving differences, and pursuing harmony without uniformity, Buddhism and other foreign religions have all directed their efforts to localization after entering China. After Buddhism was introduced into Xinjiang, it has exerted a far-reaching influence on Xinjiang’s history and culture through proactive adaptation to local social norms and integration into the mainstream culture. Through extended fusion with local faiths and traditions, Islam gradually became part of Chinese culture and developed distinct regional and local ethnic features. The Catholic Church’s principles of independence and self-management of its religious affairs, and Protestantism’s compliance with the principles of self-propagation, self-governance, and self-support facilitated their adaptation to conditions in China. Xinjiang upholds the tradition of religious localization and provides guidance to religions on adaptation to China’s socialist system. Religious circles in Xinjiang are encouraged to promote social harmony and development as well as cultural progress with the aid of religious doctrines and rules, and elaborate on the doctrines and rules that contribute to China’s development and conform to China’s traditions.

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