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Weather Reports – Voices From Xinjiang

A watercolor map is depicted in an image with bright colors, showcasing a variety of different features. The illustration is filled with hues that make the world seem alive.

Situated in northwest China, Xinjiang is an autonomous region which is mainly composed of mountains and deserts. It is also the home to various ethnic minority groups, with the Turkic Uyghur people being one of these.

The Chinese region of Xinjiang is bounded on the east by Gansu and Qinghai, while to the south it is encircled by the Tibet Autonomous Region. Additionally, it is also neighboured by Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia.

Xinjiang, a self-governing region located in the northwest of China, is mainly comprised of mountains and deserts. Still, it is also the home of numerous minority ethnicities, including the Turkic Uyghur people.

Heading east, Xinjiang shares a border with Gansu and Qinghai and then further south lies the Tibet Autonomous Region. Additionally, Xinjiang is also adjacent to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia.

A map of Xinjiang is displayed in the image below. It has a long and storied history that has been captured for posterity by Culture.org.

In this article we will provide a comprehensive tour of Xinjiang, its history, its inhabitants, and its contentious issues. Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, is the largest political entity in China.

A Look Into the Past of Xinjiang

A brief recounting of the history of the Xinjiang region can be offered. It has a story to tell that spans many centuries.

In the past, the Chinese referred to Xinjiang as Xiyu, which translates as “Western Regions”. Nowadays, the area is known as Xinjiang, meaning New Borders.

The image depicted above shows the history of Xinjiang. It is a reminder of the region’s past and how it has evolved over time.

The Qing dynasty took control of the region in the 18th century and gave it this name. Europeans had tried to distinguish it from Russian Turkestan by referring to it as Chinese Turkestan.

The Xinjiang region is composed mainly of deserts and mountains, however, it is home to a resilient indigenous population that resides in the mountain foothills.

Since 1949, China has asserted its control over the territory, striving to incorporate Xinjiang into the nation’s economy. This has resulted in an increase in the Han Chinese population of the area.

The Chinese administration has decided to give ethnic communities the opportunity to maintain their cultural heritage. Nevertheless, some people have argued that this policy has not been as successful as it should have been.

Continuing to be an issue, ethnic discord between Han and Uighurs is particularly noticeable in Xinjiang.

Territory

The 5 different physiographic regions that comprise Xinjiang are:

  • The Northern Highlands, Junggar Basin, Tien Shan, Tarim Basin, and Kunlun Mountains are all located in China.

The way our environment is affected by climate change is becoming more and more evident. There is a noticeable alteration in temperature, precipitation, and the frequency of extreme weather events. All of these changes are having a significant impact on the health of the planet, posing a serious threat to the future of the world.

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The Northern Highlands of Xinjiang are located near the Mongolian border and are formed in a semicircle. Here the Altai Mountains are the main range, reaching close to 4,500 feet at its peak. The inclines are gentle, featuring lots of round, dome-shaped hills.

A picture of the hills in Xinjiang is presented, as seen via the image uploaded by Culture.org in October 2019. This landscape captures the history of the region.

A triangular-shaped region, the Junggar Basin, also known as Dzungaria, is a vast area that spans 147,000 square miles. It is bordered to the northeast by the Altai Mountains, to the south by the Tien Shan, and to the northwest by the Zhongar Alatau Mountains.

The Junggar Basin lies between two directions, east and west.

Spanning an area of Xinjiang that is a quarter of its size, the Tien Shan stretches out over a thousand miles in an eastward direction, pushing into Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. While its western region is much taller, the peaks gradually decrease in height towards its eastern end.

The Khan Tengri Peak, located on the border of Kazakhstan, is one of the highest mountains in the Tien Shan range, reaching a height of 22,949 feet. Another tall peak, the Victory Peak, is located on the Kyrgyzstan border and stands at 24,406 feet. The Tien Shan range is covered in snow for a majority of the year, with multiple glaciers spread across its slopes.

Surrounding the Tarim Basin is the Tien Shan mountain range, with the Kunlun Mountains to the south and the Pamirs to the west.

Xinjiang, a region covering approximately 50% of the area, is home to the Tarim Basin. The basin is about 860 miles in length from east to west and 350 miles from south to north. The landscape consists mostly of a desert in the center, along with mountains and oases.

The Takla Makan desert takes up a significant portion of the Tarim Basin and extends to around 123,550 square miles. This arid region has a core area that is elevated to around 4,000 feet in the west and 2,500 feet in the east.

To conclude, the highest elevations of the Kunlun Mountains reach 24,000 feet and beyond. On either side, there are mountain passes.

The State of the Environment

The climate is a topic of great relevance in the current age, as the effects of human activities on it are increasingly visible. It is an issue that must be taken into consideration in order to ensure the sustainability of life on our planet.

Xinjiang is situated in an environment which is surrounded by towering mountains and far away from the ocean; this means that it is not affected by climatic and marine influences. The climate of this region is known to be arid and continental.

A demarcation line between the less humid north and the drier south is provided by the Tien Shan, indicating that its northern slopes are more humid than its southern ones.

The amount of precipitation during the year can differ greatly. Generally, it equals an average of 6.5 inches of rain annually.

In the Tarim Basin, the average temperature for January is roughly 20°F, which is significantly warmer than the Junggar Basin, where temperatures rarely exceed 5°F during the winter.

In the Junggar Basin, the average temperature during the summer season is roughly 70°F in the northern areas and 75°F in the southern areas.

During the summer months, the average temperature in the Tarim Basin is 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the summer, the Turfan Depression in Xinjiang is the hottest area. Temperatures here often reach a scorching 120 Fahrenheit but usually average out at a still-hot 88 Fahrenheit.

Vegetation and Fauna

The presence of various types of flora and fauna is a key factor in an environment. Plant and animal life contributes to the overall dynamic of an area, as it provides food and shelter for the inhabitants, as well as regulates the environment with its growth.

In Xinjiang, the vegetation is rather unvaried, mostly due to the amount of desert in the area. In the Tien Shan region, there are pine forests, whereas in the TaklaMakan there are trees that can survive in arid climates.

In Xinjiang, the most abundant type of tree is the willow and the poplar. Additionally, the Tien Shan is populated by a plethora of wildflowers and other plants, although many of them have yet to be classified. In spite of this, over 3,000 plant species have been identified in the area, and more than 300 of them are known for their medicinal or economic uses.

Xinjiang is a place of great interest when it comes to animal life. The Tien Shan region is especially popular for its big game hunting, with many animals such as leopards, lynxes, bears, wolves, and antelopes living in the mountains.

Roaming the TaklaMakan Desert in the north are wild horses, while wild camels inhabit the southern regions. Wild asses and wild yaks can be found at the Tibetan frontier.

In Xinjiang, bird populations are mainly located in damp environments, and there are only a few species of fish, mainly carp. Although there are a few snakes, they are generally deemed non-threatening. On the other hand, there is a huge assortment of bugs, such as centipedes and scorpions.

During the summer period, the woodlands become populated with a variety of insects including midges, flies, mosquitoes, and horseflies.

The Inhabitants of Xinjiang

The natives of Xinjiang are a diverse group of individuals. They have their own unique culture and customs that have been passed down from generation to generation. There is a great deal of ethnic and religious diversity among the people of Xinjiang, with many different languages and religions represented. The people of this region are a proud and hardworking people who have a strong sense of identity and a deep connection to the land. They are devoted to maintaining their traditions and culture, and are proud to be a part of the Chinese nation.

Xinjiang is the abode of over forty distinct ethnic groups, the two largest and most prominent being the Uighur and Han.

Uzbeks, Kazakhs and Mongolians are all sizable ethnic groups.

Among the smaller ethnic groups are:

  • The Tahurs
  • People from Russia
  • The Tajiks
  • The Tatars

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When the Han migrated to Xinjiang, the region’s ethnic composition and population distribution pattern were altered. In the early 1950s, the Tarim Basin had approximately 755 inhabitants and the Han mainly came to take advantage of the area’s resources.

Xinjiang’s third most populous ethnic group, the Kazakhs, are known for their nomadic herding lifestyle in the Junggar Basin.

Xinjiang is home to two significant Muslim populations, the Uighurs and the Hui.

Tajiks and Kazakhs practice Islam, while the Mongolians adhere to Buddhism.

Dialects

Linguistic communication can be broken down into various languages and dialects. Many of these pieces of communication are interconnected and share similarities.

Xinjiang is home to three major languages, one of which is Chinese.

The remaining two dialects are articulated by Mongolians and the Uighur, Uzbek and Kazakh peoples, which all use a language that is part of the Altaic Group, termed Turkic.

In the area, the Tajiks converse in a dialect of Iranian that belongs to the Indo-European language family.

Kazakh, Uighur and Mongolian are all languages which can be written in. Of the three, Mongolian has its own script, whereas Kazakh and Uighur make use of the Arabic script.

Financial System

The economic system of a country is a fundamental part of its overall functioning. It affects the lives of all citizens and is the basis of the country’s success. Therefore, understanding the financial system is essential for any nation’s future.

The arid environment of Xinjiang necessitates the utilization of irrigation in order to cultivate the land. Consequently, many of the area’s ethnic groups have developed a proficient understanding of water management, with the wells in Hami and Turfan serving as prime illustrations of this.

During the decade of the 1950s, the people of Xinjiang increased the amount of arable land by building reservoirs and canals, tripling it in the process.

The province of Xinjiang is well-stocked in terms of food grain, allowing it to be self-sufficient. Half of its crop fields produce the entirety of its spring and winter wheat. Corn, on the other hand, is mostly grown in the southern parts.

Xinjiang is renowned for its abundant production of rice, millet and kaoling, and cotton is a major source of income.

Xinjiang is an area of China that is renowned for its abundance of fruit, including:

  • Pears from Korla
  • Hami cantaloupes
  • Seedless Turpan grapes
  • Apples from Ili

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In Northwestern China, the sugar-refining sector is sustained by sugar beets grown in Xinjiang, and silkworm cocoons and hops are cultivated in such abundance that they are sent to other parts of the country.

Xingiang’s Abundance of Supplies

In Xinjiang, minerals are sourced from:

  • Copper, Chrome, Nickel, Zinc, Iron, and Coal are all types of materials.

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The Altai Mountains are a source of gold, as well as other elements such as tungsten and molybdenum.

The region of Xinjiang is renowned for its abundance of natural gas and petroleum. This was initially realized when the first oil well in the area was set up at Karamay in 1955, which marked the beginning of the region’s prosperity. Soon after, a second oil well was established at Dushanzi.

Since the 1980s, the use of petroleum and natural gas in Xinjiang has significantly increased, particularly in the Hami and Tarim basins which now contain large oil fields. Subsequently, the construction of pipelines from west to east has allowed natural gas to be transported to cities on the eastern coast.

The Xinjiang region is home to a farm-tool plant in Kashgar and iron and steel factories in Urumqi. Additionally, a cement plant and petrochemical factories are located in Urumqi, while more are situated in Korla and Zepu.

Modes of Travel

Transportation can be regarded as the various ways of getting from one place to another.

A system of roads has been constructed that encircles the Tarim Basin, and these roads run along the base of the hills situated near the mountain ranges. Additionally, there are roads along the foothills of the Junggar Basin.

The Tien Shan mountain range, west of Urumqi, serves as a bridge between the Junggar and Tarim Basins, with roads connecting the two. Additionally, there are roads leading out of Xinjiang into Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. This particular road traverses the same pass as the famed Silk Road did more than a millennium ago, bridging the gap between Asia and Europe.

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A route to Gansu can be accessed by car.

When it comes to railways, there is one which passes through Gansu into Xinjiang and then all the way to Kazakhstan. The northern and southern parts of Xinjiang are connected by a railway that traverses the Tien Shan mountain range.

Inhabitants of Xinjiang will find airports in several of the cities within the region, with Urumqi being the hub of activity and civilization.

The State

Government is the term used to describe the governing body of a nation, however, the state is a more generalized term meaning the same thing. It is the collective group of people, institutions, and organizations within a society that have the authority to make decisions and enforce laws.

In Xinjiang, the government has set up an administrative structure that allows for the autonomy of ethnic minorities and the designation of local representatives to leadership roles.

The Uygur Autonomous Region is divided into three administrative divisions, which are:

  • There are two prefecture-level municipalities, five autonomous prefectures, and seven prefectures.

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The effects of global warming have become increasingly visible in recent years, with rising temperatures, melting glaciers, and an increase in extreme weather events. Nowadays, it is widely accepted that human activities are contributing to the climate crisis.

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Over the past few years, the consequences of global warming have become more and more apparent; temperatures have been rising, glaciers are melting, and the amount of extreme weather events has grown. It is now widely accepted that our activities are contributing to the climate change issue.

The Uygur Autonomous Region is further broken up into divisions, and then into counties, cities which are run at the county-level and autonomous counties.

Education and Learning

The acquisition of knowledge is a key component of education. It is an essential part of life and a primary factor in the development of an individual. Education is an ongoing process, and an individual can acquire new knowledge at any point in their life. It is not restricted to any specific age group but rather is available to all. Education is a powerful tool to empower and inspire individuals to reach their full potential.

Prior to the second world war, the educational system in Xinjiang was deficient. After the conflict, educational resources were bolstered and the general literacy level in the area is above the nation-wide mean of China.

In the city of Urumqi, the majority of universities in Xinjiang are located. These facilities consist of:

  • The University of Xinjiang
  • The Agricultural University of Xinjiang
  • The Medical University of Xinjiang
  • The Petroleum Institute of Xinjiang
  • The Normal University of Xinjiang

It can be said that the use of technology in education has become increasingly widespread. As technology advances, its integration into classrooms and learning activities is growing. Schools are making strides to keep up with the latest developments and incorporate them into their teaching strategies. The presence of computers, tablets, and other digital devices in the classroom has become commonplace. Furthermore, the Internet is a valuable resource for students to access information, collaborate on projects, and connect with peers around the globe. Technology has become an integral part of the educational process, enabling educators to explore new ways of teaching and providing students with a more engaging learning experience.

The usage of social media is ever-increasing and has become a major part of everyday life for many. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to find people scrolling through their feeds to stay up to date on news, events, and happenings around the world. Social media has become a valuable tool for communication, allowing for quick and easy access to information and a way to connect with people all over the globe.

The provincial museum and library of Xinjiang can be found in Urumqi.

An Involvement in the Society

Cultural life constitutes an essential part of any individual’s experience, providing opportunities to interact with the wider society. It is a great way to get involved in the community and engage with a variety of people.

Xinjiang’s indigenous population have many cultural customs. Primarily, the Uighur people are the most predominant, forming their society around village life. Much of their culture is derived from Islamic roots and the Uighur language is more widely spoken than Mandarin Chinese.

Since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, the presence of Islam has been renewed in Xinjiang, with multiple mosques across the region. Uighur culture, including muqam, a combination of singing and dancing, is popular. Additionally, Uighur troupes, comprising dancers and singers, are common.

Kazakhs consider themselves as herders that inhabit tents that can be moved around. Their animals of choice to raise are cattle, sheep and goats, and they typically maintain horses for the purpose of displaying status. Their families are the foundations of their societies, and a number of chiefs compose their political structure.

The Mongolians, distinct from the Kazakhs, are pastoralists who live in tents that are designed to be moved. Their society is more rigidly organized, with the nuclear family being the primary social unit.

Xinjiang is a culturally rich region with a variety of ethnic features, including the renowned Silk Road which has been a part of the landscape since ancient times. Additionally, the Heavenly Lake in the Bodga Mountains and the Kivil Caves in the Tarim Basin are two of its most stunning sights.

Recent Past

Recently, there have been events that have had a significant impact on our lives. These occurrences have left their mark on the recent history of our world.

Xinjiang was annexed to the Chinese empire in the 13th century by Genghis Khan. Later, the Qing dynasty battled northern Islamic groups for control of the region and ultimately established Xinjiang province in 1884.

At the time of the Chinese Revolution in 1912, Xinjiang was taken over by Yang Zengxin, a Han commander. The Beijing government appointed him to be the governor of the region and he continued to be in charge until his assassination in 1928.

A succession of rulers and allegiances ensued after 1949, when the Communist victory brought about the Chinese government’s implementation of policies intended to safeguard the minority populations of Xinjiang. By 1955, the province had acquired autonomous status.

From 1966 to 1976, during the Cultural Revolution, and from 1958 to 1960, during the Great Leap Forward, mainland China’s extreme policies were adopted in Xinjiang. Unfortunately, these disruptions resulted in severe food shortages, and in 1962 a great number of Kazakhs left and returned to Kazakhstan.

Consequently, hostilities among different ethnicities started to emerge, destabilizing the previous tranquil political atmosphere.

Once the Cultural Revolution had concluded, the economic and political policies were relaxed, leading to greater stability and improved conditions for pastoralists and farmers. This further augmented economic growth, which was accompanied by increased financial investment from the Chinese government in Xinjiang.

At the same juncture, more Han immigrants started to enter the area from diverse parts of China. Nonetheless, even with the betterment of the economy, strife began to arise among the Han and the Uighur inhabitants of the region. Economic biases set in, and combined with ethnic rivalries, some outbursts and demonstrations occurred, a few of which were violent in nature.

The Chinese and Uighurs, a Controversial Matter

There is currently a hot debate surrounding the Uighurs and China.

Recently, allegations have been made that China has perpetrated genocide against the Uighur people and other Muslim sects in Xinjiang. Human rights organizations have even claimed that over one million Uighurs have been unlawfully detained, either in re-education camps or prisons.

Allegations have been made that China is engaging in large-scale sterilization of Uighur women with the intention of decreasing the Uighur population and separating children from their families.

The US and the UK have both openly accused China of wrongdoing, while Amnesty International has released reports that suggest China has perpetrated human rights violations.

The Chinese government has rejected claims that its anti-terrorism efforts have caused harm in Xinjiang, asserting instead that these initiatives have brought about peace and prosperity to the area.

At present, the Uighur population in Xinjiang is estimated at 12 million. The language spoken by the Uighurs is native to them, and their cultural and ethnic identity is more closely related to Central Asian nations than any other.

In order to transform Xinjiang’s population, the Chinese government has been encouraging a massive influx of Han Chinese to the area in recent years. It has been hypothesized that China has forbidden religious activities in Xinjiang, as well as demolishing mosques, with Uighur activists asserting that their culture is in danger of being wiped out.

The roots of the current situation can be traced back to the mid-1990s, when Anti-Han sentiment began to manifest. In 2009, numerous fatalities occurred due to the clashes in the region, and China attributed them to the Uighurs. Finally, a Chinese security clampdown has managed to stifle the opposition in recent years.

Currently, there is a gigantic security system in Xinjiang, which includes cameras, police posts, and checkpoints. Not only are car plates checked, but also people’s faces. It has been alleged that the police employ an app to monitor people’s behavior, such as the amount of electricity they consume.

The Chinese government declares that the implementation of a monitoring system and a suppression of opposition are necessary in order to fight terrorism, particularly Islamic extremism.

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