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Uyghur Literature

The Uyghur have a long and rich literary history befitting a people that once ruled a great empire in Central Asia. As soldiers and diplomats and as educators they have always been known as an educated people. The Uyghur have been printing their own books for many hundreds of years prior to the invention of the Guttenberg press. The earliest Uyghur literature revolved around the translation of religious texts both Buddhist and Manichean but also included narrative, epic and poetic works.

After converting to Islam the Uyghurs continued being cultural giants of Central Asia and Uyghur literature entered a golden era with it’s cultural centre being based in Kashgar. In the 11th century Yusuf Has Hajib wrote “Kutat-Ku Bilik” (Blessings and Wisdom) Other literature from that time include “Divan-i Lugat-it Turk” an encyclopedic dictionary and “Kitabu Cevahir-im nahr fi Lugat-it Turki” a work on grammar written by Mahmut Kasgari and “Atabetul Hakayik” by Ahmet Yukneki. All of these works came from Kashgar and confirmed Kashgar as being the centre of Uyghur culture and literature. The middle ages also witnessed the literature, poetry and music of the Chinese being significantly influenced by the Uighurs.

The ABC of Truth compiled by Ahmat Yuknaki in the 12th century is an outstanding poem in feeling and story.During the Mongol Yuan dynasty, the Uyghur nationality made great contributions to the unity of the country, the expansion of production and the flowering of culture and science. Notables of the period include military theorists Ark Hiya and BarqukArt Tikin; the statesmen; Bruhiya, Lion Xixian and Hisson, Guan Yunshi, also a noted poet and writer;Lianhuishan Hiya, a historian who compiled andrevised the History of Liao Dynasty; Lu Mingshan,agronomist and writer of The Fundamentals of Agriculture, Sericulture, Clothing and Food; Sinku Sail, a great translator who was a master of the Han, Weiwu, Mongolian, Tibetan and Sanskrit languages. After theYuan dynasty, the Uyghurs also produced many famous writers, historians and scientists. Notable writings in Uyghur include the poem “Flower and Spring” by Lutfin in the 15th century; the long lyrical “Love and LaborPoem” by Kirkiti (1634-1672); lyrics by Zalili; (1685-1759); Collection of Love Poems by Abdureyim Hizari (1770- 1848) who was brought up in Kashi, of which Rabiya–Saydin parhad–Xirin and layli–Majnunhave long been on the lips of people; Biography of Hojas, written between 1768 and 1769 by Muhammad Sadik Kaxkari; the History of Hamedee from the 19th century by Molla Msa Sayrami; and the History of Kaxkariya. The 18th century saw a pentalingual dictionary written with the Chinese title “Wuti Qinwen jian” which has 18,000 entries and covers the Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetean, Manchu and Uyghur Languages. Maulabilalibin Maulayusuf wrote also in that century the Epic „War on Chinese Land” a work describing the struggle in 1864 with the Chinese.

The 17th and 18th centuries also saw the beginnings of western interest in Uyghur literature particularly from the Russians thus giving rise to the Western Turkologist Gunnar Jarring a Swedish Turkologist gathered many significant collections particularly from Kashgar and Hotan during his visit to Kashmir 1929-1930. These works are very important to the classification of the general Turkish language. Among the works Jarring documented were historical, ethnological texts, proverbs and poetry, riddles and fairy tales. Uyghur fairy tales follow similar veins as Western fairy tales with heroes, strong characters, the triumph of love and tales of justice and injustice, avarice, cruelty and foolishness.

20th century authors include Ziya Samedi, Abdurrahaman Gur, Teyupcan LLiyup and Zunan Kadir (1912-1989).Samedi wrote a number of historical novels such as “Secrets of Years”, “Mr. Ahmadjan Khasimi”,”Mayimhan”, and “Gheni, the Brave”. In the 1980s, Samedi was honored with the Kazakhstan People’s Writer Award, recognizing his unprecedented contribution tothe Uyghur literature. Kadir was an influential writer whose main themes revolved around the Uyghur and their experiences resisting cultural domination and attempted to promote the maintenance of Uyghur cultural integrity.