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2015年10月3日 星期六

An Uyghur Wedding (一個維吾爾族的婚禮)

  On our  way to the Black Oil Mountain ( 黑油山) after our breakfast at the hotel, we stopped at a park originally as a piss stop but unexpectedly ran into part of an Uyghur wedding celebration.

The Uyghurs are a central Asian ethnic group living in Xinjiang, numbering more than 10 million in 2009, when for every 39 Han Chinese, there were 46 Uyghurs. They are one of China's largest ethnic minorities. There are also Uyghurs in neighboring Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Uzbekistan and some in Turkey. The Uyghur (or Uighur or Uigur) language is a Turkic language very similar to Turkish and the term "Uyghur" means simply "united" or "allied" .


In an
cient times, Xinjiang was called Western Region (西域) and the region was populated by nomadic tribes. During the Han Dynasty, (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.), Han Chinese fought with the Xiongnu (匈奴) tribes who originated from current-day Mongolia on and off until 60 B.C. when the Chinese won. The Uyghurs were the first Turkic group to shift from being nomads into settled farmers. During the late Tang Dynasty, (618-907 AD)  when the Buddhist Uyghur Empire was at its height, the Chinese enlisted their help to fight off other border tribes in return for trade and marriages between Chinese nobility and Uyghur leaders but by the mid-800s AD, the  Uyghurs Empire had declined and in the 10th century, were converted to Islam but even today there is still a group of them called "Yellow Uyghurs" or "Yogurs" who maintain their Buddhist belief.

During the Qing Dynasty, led by the Manchus, Chinese forces took control of the region and in 1884, renamed the  region  Xinjiang. In the period after the Nationalist Republic of China was established in 1911, the Uyghurs have staged several uprisings and in 1933 and again in 1944, established an Eastern Turkestan Republic Republic but both were overthrown by the Soviet Union.

During the civil war between the KMT and the CCP, the region came under Communist control which they have retained until now. Because of massive state-encouraged Chinese migration in the late 1950s and since 1978, voluntary economic migration, there are now rising tension between Han Chinese and Uyghurs, some of whom,  trained by Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have resorted to terrorism like the 1992 Urumqi bombings, the 1997 Ürümqi bus bombings, the 2010 Aksu bombing, the 2011 Hotan attack, 2011 Kashgar attacks and the 2014 Ürümqi attack.  As a result of such terrorist activity, security relating to our entry into Urumqi Airport was very strict: we had to take off everything, including our shoes, belts and jackets. But again, these are activities of extremists. The Uyghurs we met at this wedding were very friendly indeed.


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This pair of best man and bridesmaid were obviously happy to be dancing together




It looks a bit like a cowboy dance 


The bridegroom and the bride too were doing the same dance


They gladly posed for me



I asked for the bridesmaid and the best man to join in.



and for the bridesmaid to pose alone.



The musicians used modern accordion and guitar.



After the initial number, the bride and groom had to walk hand in hand under the arch formed by the hands of the guests to receive their blessings.



The bride and bridegroom emerging from the tunnel of blessings



after which the two dance another dance.



The happy dancing bride



After the dances, all gather together for the group photo


They stick their fingers out with the V-sign
What we saw is only a small part of the ceremony. According to internet sources, the Uyghurs regard marriage not as a matter between two individuals only, but a matter for the community as a whole because a marriage is considered to be an addition of a new family to their community.As a rule, a ritual of asking in marriage precedes the wedding: the father of the groom with other senior relatives and respected men, whom it is difficult to refuse to, would go to the bride's house as the matchmakers, inform them of their intention. Usually, the bride's parents would not give their consent immediately and would do so only after persuasions, and sometimes, in the following visits. The groom must get not only the consent of the bride's parents but as a sign of his homage to them, also those the bride’s close relatives who seldom refuse such consent. 

The rituals of the marriage ceremony for Uyghurs vary from city to city in the Xinjiang : some in the south, where 90% of the Uyghurs live, have a private marriage ceremony on the day before the public wedding celebration, those living in northern cities hold the marriage ceremony by an Muslim imam in the early hours of the wedding day normally about 6 a.m.in the bride’s house where only the close relatives of the bride and groom are invited . Before the ceremony, the bride’s family cleans their house and prepares a meal that includes bread, marmalade, fruits, sugar and pastry for guests and the bride says her goodbyes to her family while asking for their blessing.

At the wedding ceremony, the Imam would asks both the bride and groom whether they accept each other as spouses. While the groom has to loudly announce his answer, the bride only has to do so quietly when asked the third time. After that, the bride and groom would share a salty bread as a symbol of their love, loyalty and the beginning of their new life and have to fight to be the first because the one who takes the bread first is considered more loyal. After the marriage ceremony, the groom and his family would return home to complete the last preparations for the wedding ceremony.

The most interesting part of the ceremony occurs when the groom goes to the bride’s house, accompanied by his friends and play the tambourine, the “suona” (a large metal horn) and the “rawap” (a long stringed instrument) while chanting. The bride’s family would block the group’s entrance to the house while the groom and his friends would have to push their way through. The groom would be allowed to enter into the house only after he has given gifts to them. Then the entertainment would begin.Like the Miu tribe, the bride would leave her parent’s house crying. Then newly-weds with their wedding entourage would go back to the groom’s house where the groom’s family, relatives and friends would all come to look at the bride. When the groom lifts the bride’s veil, the groom's family, relatives and friends would sing various songs in praise of the bride’s beauty and wishing happiness for the couple.After that, the wedding feast starts. At the beginning tea, sugar, dried nuts and fruits and pastries are served. Bread, boiled lamb and pilaf with meat are the most popular foods of Uyghur wedding ceremonies. Following the feast, a nighttime dance party starts.

The large "toy" (the “tatliq çai “ - the sweet tea ceremony, (sometimes the  “maqul çeji” - the consent tea ceremony, the “tazym çeji”, “kiçik çai” – the small tea ceremony preceding the festivities), in which gifts are presented to the bride’s parents for the consent, and the parties arrange conditions and terms of "toy", and that is of specially importance, set the "seliq" – so-called redemption for the bride. The "seliq" consists of gifts to the bride, her parents and relatives. It also includes the "aniliq" - gifts from the groom to the bride’s mother, as gratitude for her taking care about her daughter. The “seliq” seems to replace bride-price, existence of which in antiquity is reflected in the Chinese annals... ». Besides the gifts, the "seliq” covers all expenses associated with the wedding festivities in the bride parents’ house. Amount and quality of the "seliq" always were different and were defined by well-being of the groom.At present, a large role in social life of Uyghur community belongs to “zhigit beşi” – the head of the men. It is an elective position, to which the assembly of a community appoints a respected man who perfectly knows all rites and traditions and possesses necessary managerial skills. In many communities, in the presence of the matchmakers, “zhigit beşi” announces amount of the “seliq” set by the parties, and can, under some circumstances, solve certain arguable issues in favor of the groom and bride. Even nowadays, sometimes one can observe an old form of marriage by elopement of the bride – the “qyz apçeqış”. This phenomenon takes place when the bride’s parents would not give their consent for marriage. However, as frequently it happens in life, the parents soon after their daughter’s elopement would come to consent and celebrate wedding.

The wedding lasts three days. The day before wedding the groom’s party delivers foodstuffs for festivities in the bride’s house – the “mal-gürüç" – cattle-rice. Along with foodstuffs they bring a bull-calf, with a white kerchief tied round his horns. The bride should have the same kerchief on the wedding day.

During the day the groom’s relatives are shown around in the bride’s house and hand over the brought foodstuffs. Close relatives and friends are invited in the house of the groom and the bride to cut carrots - the “sävzä qaläm” for a dish called “polo” – pilaf. The festivity and ceremony of the parties’ introduction – the “täg malisi” take place in the evening. At the beginning of the festivity the bride’s relatives lay down the table for their new relatives, and later on the groom’s relatives assume the rights of the hosts and attend to the bride’s party.

The day before the wedding the bride’s girlfriend and her mother would come to the bride’s parents. They would bring two trays of sweets and take the bride to their home on the bride’s parents’ consent. In their house in the wedding day they have hen party – the “qiz mälisi”. The groom has a bachelor party in his friend’s house.

In the morning of the wedding day, the guests arrive, first men, and then - women. Music, dances and plentiful feast accompany the wedding. After the festivities, the groom’s party would begin the "sanduq eçis" or dowry chest opening" ceremony during which the contents of the chest including groom’s dowry and gifts from his relatives are shown to the guests. Afterwards contents of the bride’s chest are shown. On the part of the bride, a highly respected woman appointed for the  function would  displays her dowry. After the ceremony, the gifts and chests with contents are handed over to the groom’s mother.

The crucial moment of any wedding is the ceremony of wedding – the "neka". Although formerly, the bride need not be present in the ceremony, nowadays, both the groom and the bride would take part in it. Therefore, the ceremony of neka is preceded by the bride pricing of the bride from her girlfriend’s house by the groom’s friends with the help of "yanga", the wife of the groom’s brother or uncle, most glib and eloquent woman.The bride and groom are taken into the bride’s house, where in the presence of the proxies, the Muslim wedding - neka takes place. Mullah carries out the neka. The bride and groom are given to drink from a bowl with mixed water, salt, bread and sugar. The salt is a symbol of strength of their feelings. Sugar is a symbol of sweet life, the bread - welfare. That who has eaten up bread first, believed to be ruling their family. Only after the neka would the bride betaken into the groom’s house. She says good-bye to her parents and the latter bless her for the family life.

The brightest moment of the wedding ceremony is the kindling of a campfire in front of the groom’s house before new wife enters the house of her spouse. Newly-weds, hand in hand, go around the fire thrice. The purging by fire means to protect from adversity and bring happiness to the new family. The rite is similar to the ancient rite of many Turkic nomads to walk a newly wife around the fire for three times in the yurt of her husband. The fire as the aversive force is used by many peoples of Central Asia.

The day after the wedding festivities, the groom’s parents receive the new wife’s relatives and friends. The custom has different names. Some call it “uzaşqa", others - "çilaq". It enables the relatives of the newly wed to get more acquainted with each other. The young husband with his friends would visit his wife’s senior relatives – the “salamğa keliş”. The latter give him presents and things necessary in use.There is  another interesting traditional custom: the visiting of the new wife’s parents by the newly weds on the first Friday after the wedding. The Uyghurs have been observing this custom from time immemorial. After the wedding the young married woman visited her mother every Friday. On this day the mother would comb the daughter’s hair and braid it. The roots of the tradition could be traced to matrilocality.

The wedding car with a yurt in front



This is the park where all the communal matrimonial felicities took place that day