Kirgiz, the Kirgiz Ethnic Minority of China :
Kirgiz or Kyrgyz Ethnic Minority in China :
This page was last updated on: May 28, 2017
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The Kirgiz Ethnic Minority is the 31st Ethnic Minority Group in China, being granted Minority Status in the 1950's AD.
Kirgiz Ethnic Culture in China :
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The members of the Kirgiz Ethnic Minority of China nearly all live in Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region in West China. The majority, some 80% reside near Artux in the 72,500 square kilometer (27,992 square miles) Kizilsu (Kesilesu ; Chinese: 克孜勒苏柯尔克孜族自治州) Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture, which located on the Kyrgyzstan Border in the Tian Shan Mountain Range of West Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region of China (P.R.C.).
Other groups are found in the area West of Kashgar, in Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County South of Kashgar, and West of Urumqi near the city of Jinghe' on the Manas Lake. Manas lake was made
History of the Kyrgyz Ethnic Group in China :

The ancestors of the Kirgiz minority, the Jiancun People, lived on the upper reaches of the Yenisey River. In fact, the ancient Kirgiz people are an amalgamation of the Qidan, Turki, Mongolian and Uygur peoples who during the mid-sixth century AD fell under the rule of the Turkic Khanate. Eventually they became a new peoples, the Kirgiz tribe. After the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD) defeated the Eastern Turkic Khanate, the Kirgiz came into contact with the dynasty and in the 7th century the Kirgiz land near the Yenisei River was officially included in China's territory.

From the 7th to the 10th century, the Kirgiz had very frequent communications with the Han Chinese. Their musical instruments -- the drum, sheng (a reed pipe), bili (a bamboo instrument with a reed mouthpiece) and panling (a group of bells attached to a tambourine) -- showed that the Kirgiz had attained quite a high level of culture. According to ancient Yenisey inscriptions on stone tablets, after the Kirgiz developed a class society, there was a sharp polarization and class antagonism. Garments, food and housing showed marked differences in wealth and there were already words for "property," "occupant," "owner" and "slave."     

During the Liao and Song dynasties (916 AD - 1279 AD), the Kirgiz were recorded as "Xiajias" or "Xiajiaz". The Liao government established an office in the Xiajias area. In the late 12th century when Genghis Khan rose, Xiajias was recorded in Han books of history as "Qirjis" or "Jilijis," still living in the Yenisey River valley. From the Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD) to the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD), the Jilijis, though still mainly living by nomadic animal husbandry, had emigrated from the upper Yenisey to the Tianshan Mountains and become one of the most populous Turkic-speaking tribal groups. After the 15th century, though there were still tribal distinctions, the Jilijis tribes in the Tianshan Mountains -now the border between China and several Nations, had become a unified entity.

In the early Ching Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD), the Kirgiz, who had remained in the upper Yenisey River reaches, emigrated to the Tianshan Mountains to live together with their kinfolk. Many then moved over and through the Hindukush and Karakorum Mountains into Pakistan's North-West Frontier Region). Other Kirghiz ventured to find pastures more to the East crossing the current-day Border and ending up living near Kashgar and Aksu and in other regions within Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region. In 1758 AD and 1759 AD, the Sayak and Sarbagex tribes of Eastern Blut and the Edegena tribe of Western Blut, and 13 other tribes -- a total of 200,000 -- entered the Issyk Kul pastoral area and asked to be subjected to the Ching Imperial Throne.

Language :

Kirgiz have their own spoken and written Language, the Kirgiz language. However many Kirgiz can speak the Uygur language or when they live in the North, the Kazakh language as well. Integration into modern day China has brought the (Han majority) Chinese Language to far Western Xinjiang.
Due to their nomadic lifestyle and large cultural influences
Festivals of the Kirgiz Ethnic Group :
Social Life and Customs :

The Kirgiz in China still retain their tribal identities. To this very day one can distinguish the following tribes: Kipchak, Naiman, Taiyit, Kaisaik, Chongbash, Qielik, Kuqu, Salu, Salbash, Mengduzi, Mengguldar, Ketay, Buwu, and Sayak. The Tribes are intermingled but bound to locations throughout Xinjiang. The Tribe found in Heilongjiang Province in North-East China is entirely seperated.

The usual Kirgiz family is composed of three generations, with married sons living with their parents. Marriage used to be arranged by the parents, sometimes even before birth -- this was called "marriage arrangement at pregnancy." However in modern times, many things are changing within China. So is the practice of arranged marriage. Although still common, today modern couples can also choose their own partners.
A Traditional courtship starts when the bridegroom calls on the bride's family with a roasted sheep. The relatives of the bride then tie the couple to posts in front of the tent. They will be released only after the father and brothers of the bridegroom ask for "mercy" and present gifts. The wedding is presided over by an imam who cuts a baked cake into two, dips the pieces in salt water and puts them into the mouths of the newly-weds as a wish for the couple to share weal and woe and be together for ever. The bridegroom then takes the bride and her betrothal gifts back to his home.

There is distinct division of labor at home: the men herd horses and cattle, cut grass and wood and do other heavy household chores, while the women graze, milk and shear the sheep, deliver lambs, process animal by-products and do household chores.
Before 1949 AD, Men had the dominant role in the Family, and Men nearly exclusively decided all matters of inheritance and property distribution. When the son got married, he was entitled to a portion of the family property which was usually inherited by the youngest son.
Before the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China, Kirgiz Women did not have the right to inherit. The property of a childless male was inherited by his close relatives, again excluding the Wife. When there is a funeral, all relatives and friends attend, wearing black clothing and black kerchiefs.

The Kirgiz are very hospitable and ceremonial. Any visitor, whether a friend or stranger, is invariably entertained with the best - that means foods; mutton, sweet rice with cream and noodles with sliced mutton. Usually a pice of meat from the sheep's head is offered to the Guest in order to show them welcome. This small ritual is very important and a signal of the highest respect for the guest. In return the Guest is expected to share the meat and honor the Family and their Foods.
At the table, the guest is first offered the sheep tail fat, shoulder blade mutton and then the mutton from the head. The guest should in the meantime give some of what is offered back to the women and children at the dinner table as a sign of respect on the part of the visitor. Anyone who moves his tent is entertained by his old and new neighbors as tokens of farewell and welcome.

Much of the traditional lifestyle of the Kirgiz is reflected in their traditional dress. As clothing is particularly important in the Kirgiz semi-nomadic lifestyle, among the Kirgiz handicrafts embroidery and knitting are the most noteworthy.
As the favorite color of the Kirgiz People is red, signifying good luck, prosperity, positive feelings and love, many of their garments are decorated with red embroideries but any bright and fresh color will do. Embroidery is placed on just about any item, from pillows and bed covers, to boots, hats, vests and as adonrment for the house. Embroidery patterns include birds, animals and flowers.

Kirgiz paintings and carvings feature animal horn patterns for decoration on yurts, horse gear, gravestones and buildings. The Kirgizs like bright red, white and blue colors. So their decorative art is always brightly colored and eye-pleasing, and full of freshness and vitality.

The Kirgiz use many kinds of musical instruments in their traditional music. One of these, a three-stringed instrument is uniquely Kirgiz.

Modern Times have brought many changes in the lifestyle of the Kirghiz People. In the beginning efforts were focussed on improving agricultural efforts and the education of Kirgiz, mainly the children.
The Kirgiz moved with the season throughout the vast lands, the numbers of Kirgiz were smaller, many nuclear families or tribes living far away from any village, settlement, town or city. As a result, in the old times the kirgiz who wanted education had to -literally- to great lengths to get it.
Todays improved infra-structure, income levels and other circumstances have enabled new generations of Khirgiz to blossom, however, at some cost to their original lifestyles.
In modern times many Kirgiz no longer move to the mountain slopes in winter, but reside comfortably in their brick home in the Village. Pasture lands can be reached in various ways, be it 4x4 car or motorcycle, and the village offers plenty food stores.
Today's Kirgiz then, live in brick homes enabled by the Government with whom they stay in touch through their TV-sets and Satellite dishes. Beijing may be far phsyically, through the TV it is only one click of the button away.

Every day, the local radio broadcasts programs either by the Central People’s Radio Station or by radio stations locally managed in 21 ethnic minority languages.
TV programs are produced on a National or Provincial Level and use the local languages of Mongolian, Uyghur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Tibetan and Zhuang ethnic minority languages. They are respectively broadcasted by the provincial TV stations of Inner Mongolia AR, Xinjiang-Uygur AR, Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province and Guangxi Zhuang AR.
As all these provincial TV programs are transmitted through satellites, and are thus accessible to the Chinese National Audience. Apart from these there are local TV Broadcasts for the Ethnic Groups on an even smaller size, the TV programs managed and produced at prefecture- or county-level in ethnic areas.
These account for another 10 ethnic minority languages or dialects in their own locally produced broadcasting programs. To name a few minorities who have their own autonomous township and prefecture level TV programs are the Mongolians, the Uyghur, Tibetan, Zhuang, the Koreans, Kazakh, Kirghiz and the Dai People.

Residence :

The Kirgiz People are semi-nomadic and live in simple shelters. Nomadic Kirgiz use Yurts which are portable family sized Tents. The tents are made of felt, which are not round but generally square in shape. The heavy Felt Walls are fenced around with red willow stakes, which are strong but flexible and light.
To properly set up the Kirgiz Tent the tent frame is first covered with a mat of locally collected grass. After a thick layer of grass is applied, the main felt covering with a one-meter-square skylight can be drawn over the skeleton tent. As a last step another felt cover is attached, which can be moved and can close the skylight.
The tent is tied down with thick ropes and where possible stones to keep it steady in strong winds and snowstorms.
The settled Kirgiz traditionally mostly live in flat-roofed square mud houses with windows and skylights. In recent years many settled Kirgiz have moved into more comfortable red brick housing, provided with help of the local Government. Many nomadic Kirgiz now retreat to villages in the winter season and no longer stay in their fields on the mountain slopes.
Traditional Dress :

The Kirgiz traditional dress is very colorful. The favorite color of the Kirgiz is red, but any other color may be used, as long as it is bright.

Men wear white round-collared shirts trimmed with lace and covered by a sheepskin jacket or a blue collarless, long cloth gown. Some wear camel wool fabrics with the sleeves in fringed black cloth. Normally, a rawhide belt is worn at the waist, attached to which is a knife and a flint for making fire - together the two most vital and useful survival tools for life outdoors in this wild region.
Some Kirgiz Men sport jackets with a standing collar and front buttons. They wear loose trousers and high boots. A characteristic Kirgiz shoe is made of rawhide. Throughout the year, all men, old or young, wear round corduroy caps in green, purple, blue or black and covered by a high, square-topped animal skin or felt hat with a rolled-up brim. The inside of the animal skin hat is bordered with black velvet.

Kirgiz women wear colorful combinations consisting of single piece dresses -often white, over which colorful colarless vests or jackets with embroidery are drawn.The vests have silver buttons along the front.  The long, pleated skirt is bordered with fur, in order to keep warm in the harsh fast changing weather of the Western Mountains. Some wear dresses with the skirt pleated in the lower part, and covered with a black vest.
Kyrgyz Women traditionally wear high boots, which are sometimes embroidered.
Kirgiz women like to wear extravagantly embroidered hats or caps, which are often adorned with pearls.
Young women like red dresses and skirts, red velvet round caps or red otter skin hats decorated with pearls, tassels and feathers. While young women prefer red or green scarves, the elderly ones like white kerchiefs. The styles of dress and hair are also used as a code to signify who is of married status and who is not.
For Instance: unmarried girls wear their hair in many small plaits, reduced to two after marriage. The pigtails are decorated with silver chains, coins or keys interlinked with a chain of pearls. Bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings are usually made of silver. Young Girls in some Kirgiz Communities wear on their chests round silver pieces carved with patterns.
Diet / Food :

Kirgiz people mainly depend on their animals for their nourishment and livelihood. Therefor, the traditional diet of the Kirgiz herdsmen
Economy :

The Kirgiz people traditionaly live a semi-nomadic life of changing pastures with the seasons. They keep large amounts of lifestock.
Religion :

As recorded by traveling explorers, in the first half of the 18th century, most of the Kirgiz in Xinjiang believed in Islam. Today most of the Kirgiz are still Islamic People.
However, a small section of the Kirgiz population, Those in Emin (Dorbiljin) County in Xinjiang and Fuyu County in Heilongjiang Province in North Eastern China, have adopted Lamaism (Tibetan Buddhism) from their Mongolian neighbors.
Clerics of the Kirgiz Muslims are called akhunds. Due to the non-sedentary lifestyle of the Islamic Kirgiz of Xinjiang have few Mosques. The Kirgiz do not follow the rules of Islam as strict as some other Tribes of the Region do.
, influenced by the Mongolians, upheld Lamaism while retaining some Shamanistic legacies: Shamanistic "gods" were invited on occasions of sacrificial ceremonies or illnesses and the Shamanistic Snake God was worshipped.
- Ethnic Minorities of China in General
- Islamic Minorities in China
- Manchu-Tungusic Peoples in China
- Mongolians , Mongol Ethnic Minority
- Ethnic Minorities of European Descent in China
- Korean Ethnic Minority
- Tibetans and Other Ethnic Minorities
The Major Festivals of the Kirgiz are Norouz - the Kirgiz version of the New Year Festival, Lesser Bairam and Qurban Festival.

At Norouz (or Norroz), all Kirgiz households prepare large amounts of foods and delicacies to treat eachother. The Norouz festivals other activities resemble those of neighboring ethnic groups, but have strict Kirgiz caracteristics of themselves. The festivals see singing and dancing, horce races, sheep seizing games and male wrestling.

Qurban or Corban is a traditional annual festival for Islamic people, which is called Eid-al-Adjha in Arabic. Eid means festival and Adjha sacrifice, therefore this day is also called Corban. It is on December the 10th according to Islamic calendar and is the common festival celebrated by Chinese minority nationalities that believe in Islam, including Hui, Uygur, Kazakh, Ozbek, Tajik, Tartar, Kirgiz, Sala or Salar, Dongxiang and Bao'an People.
Before Corban, all Islamic families would clean up their houses and be busy making various cakes for the festival. In the morning of Corban, Islamic people would tidy their clothes after taking a bath and listen to imams' interpretation of the Koran Muslim Holy Book in the mosques. Meanwhile, all families would butcher sheep, camels or oxen and distribute them to relatives, friends and guests. Corban also provides an optimum opportunity for conversation during which many Islamic people get together and share mutton, cakes, melons and fruits with others. In addition, Uygur people in Xinjiang would hold large singing and dancing performance during Qurban and Kazakh, Kirgiz, Tajik and Ozbek people would hold various games to celebrate the festival, including sheep-hunting, horse racing and wrestling.

Fast breaking is called Eid-al-Fitr in Arabic. It is in the beginning of October according to Islamic calendar and serves as the common festival celebrated by Islamic Chinese minority nationalities, including Hui, Uygur, Kazakh, Ozbek, Tajik, Tartar, Kirgiz, Sala, Dongxiang and Bao'an.
Every September according to Islamic calendar is called Ramadan, which lasts for 29 or 30 days. During this period, Muslim people must finish their pre-fasting meal before sunrise and they are not allowed to eat or drink anything in the daytime no matter how hungry or thirsty they are. Smoking, alcohol and gambling are always prohibited but are especially forbidden during Ramadan.
In addition, all Muslim people are supposed to curb all their personal desires, including that of sexual intercourse, and practice abstinence during this time in order to show their allegiance to Allah.
There are only a few exceptions to the main rules. Children, elderly people and women who are undergoing menstruate are allowed not to practice fasting but they should limit their diet and must not eat or drink in public. Patients and those who are on their journey are also permitted not to conduct fasting, but they have to make up for it later; otherwise, they must hand in some property as punishment. In the evening when the bells in the mosques ring, people could suspend their fasting and begin to have their meal. During this period, even a hungry stranger passing by would be warmly welcomed in local households.
Grant and glamorous are the activities marking the festival of fast breaking and it is a common practice for Islamic people to white-wash their houses, clean up their yard, and have haircut and bath before the festival. Fast breaking is also the day favored by many young lovers to have their weddings.
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of neighboring nomadic tribes of Central and Eastern Asia , the Kirgiz have a strong oral tradition. Among the Kyrgyz Arts therefor folk songs and poems, song and dance remain prominent. The "Manas", one of the Three Most Renowned Heroic Stories originating from China's 56 Ethnic Groups originates from Kirgiz Culture. The "Manas" has 200,000 verses and tells the complete tale of the Kirgiz People, their complete history, the origin of their cultures and customs, their religion, their road into China and more through the deeds of several generations of the Manas family.Throughout the Manas the bravery and courage of the Kirgiz in resisting plunder by the nobles of Dzungaria and their aspirations for freedom reign supreme. It is also a mirror of the habits, customs and ideas of the Kirgiz of ancient times.

The Kirgiz language belongs to the Turkic subdivision of the Altaic family of languages. After the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China and Chinese Language education for all minorities the Kirgiz Language borrowed many words from the Chinese language.In the 1950's a new alphabet was devised, discarding the old Arabic script and adopting a Roman alphabet-based script for the Kirgiz.
famous by Kirgiz Folk Songs about its beauties.

The rest live in the neighboring Wushi (Uqturpan), in the area of Aksu City, around Shache (Yarkant), in Yingisarand Pishan (Guma), and in Tekes, Zhaosu (Monggolkure), Emin (Dorbiljin), Bole (Bortala) and Gonliu in northern Xinjiang.
Far away from all other Kirgiz Ethnic Communities in China, several 10 thousands of Kirgiz whose forefathers emigrated to Northeast China more than 200 years ago now live in Wujiazi Village in Fuyu County of Heilongjiang Province.

The number of Kirgiz in China was counted at 70 thousand 115 in 1964 AD, 113 thousand 866 in 1982 AD, 141 thousand 549 in 1990, and was last measured at 160 thousand and 800 in the year 2000 AD National Census.
mainly consists of animal byproducts, meat, cheese, with some added cabbages, onions and potatoes.
They drink goat's milk, yoghurt and tea with milk and salt.
Rich herdsmen with a large stock of animals can afford to drink mainly cow's milk and eat beef, mutton, horse and camel meat, wheat flour and rice. In the past other would have to do with scraps of meat every now and then, hardly any milk.
The Kirgiz store butter in dried sheep or cattle stomachs. All tableware is made of wood.

The Kirgiz avoid meat from pig, dog, cat and the mouse and rat.
Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region Shematic Map 2A
A Schematic overview Map of Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region entire and large parts of neighboring Nations of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazachstan, Russia, The Republic of Mongolia, as well as Chinese Provinces and Territories of Inner-Mongolia AR, Gansu Province, Qinghai Province and Tibet Autonomous Region.
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Xinjiang AR Schematic Overview
Wakhan Corridor
Chapaqal - Capital of Qap(a)chal Xibe Autonomous County, Yining Prefecture, Xinjiang-Uygur AR
Bayin'gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture
Takskurghan Town + Tajik Autonomous County
Urumqi - Capital of Xinjiang-Uygur AR
Hami, (Kumul) Xinjiang-Uygur AR
Kashgar, Xinjiang-Uygur AR
Korla, Xinjiang-Uygur AR
Aksu, Xinjiang-Uygur AR
Niya (Minfeng), Xinjiang-Uygur AR
Yining (Kulja), Xinjiang-Uygur AR
The Kirgiz are mainly engaged in animal husbandry, being pastoral people. Their lifestyle is semi-nomadic, as their animals move to greener pastures with the seasons. In Summer the Kirgiz live on the plains near rivers and in winter they move to mountain slopes with a sunny exposure.
A minority fraction of the Kirgiz , currently some 15% of the population engages in agriculture only.

Today's Kirgiz have well benefited from the Ethnic Minority Policies of the Central Government. Since 1949 AD their education levels have risen dramatically, and
Lake Balkash
Taklamakan Desert
Jinghe', Xinjiang-Uygur AR
Emin (Dorbiljin), Xinjiang-Uygur AR
Yarkant (Yarkent or Shache), Xinjiang-Uygur AR
currently both boys and girls being educated. Many Kirgiz have reached Universities throughout China (P.R.C.), and in the most recent of developments Kirgiz students have enlisted in International Universities Overseas. Truly, and amazing change for a people who 50+ years ago had little or no access to education due to their mobile lifestyle and unusually remote locations.

The Kirgiz economy as well as Culture have recently benefited from an influx of Tourists, National and International, who -by providing an eager public for traditional folk art performances as well as by buying traditional dress and Kirgiz cultural items- provide for a welcome diversification of the local economy. Today's Kirgiz are proud of their ancestry but are a modern people who have adapted well to their recent connection to the outside world and the many changes that have befallen their culture.
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Soundbonus: Ethnic Kirghiz Song in Praise of Beautiful Xinjiang and The Yenisei River Valley, from Xinjiang-Uyghur AR in China, by Kat Cazam.
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