The Tatar Nationality

The Tatar nationality, with a population of over 4,800, consists of people who immigrated to Xinjiang from Kashan, Xiemilieqi, Zaisang and other places in Russia in the 19 th century. They have their own language, using the Uygur written scripts. They believe in Islam. Most people live in major cities in Xinjinag. Their cultural and educational undertakings are quite developed, so intellectuals are numerous. Tatar singing and dancing are widely enjoyed in the region.

For a long time the Tatars have been living with the Uygurs and the Kazaks, so they are closely related. The languages of the other two nationalities are also used in the Tatars' everyday conversations and writings.

The Tatar nationality is one of the few nationalities which have relatively less population. Her 4,800 people mainly distribute to Yiling, Tacheng and Urumqi in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Some scatter in Bu'erjin, Qitai and major cities in South Xinjiang.

The Tatars usually live in flat™≤roofed houses enclosed in a courtyard where they plant fruit trees and flowers. Since they need to heat the house with firewalls or fireplaces, their walls are quite thick. The house is spacious and bright inside. Tapestries are hung over lightly painted walls and carpets are spread on the floor. Most of their furniture is of European style.

"Gubangdiai" and "Yitbailixi" are unique foods of Tatar flavor. The former is a pastry made from rice, cheese and dried apricot, the latter rice, pumpkin and meat. For holidays and banquet occasions, they make various European refreshments, which are good in color, smell and taste, to entertain the guests.

"Keerxima," a special Tatar drink similar to beer, is brewed with fermented honey and hops.

The Tatars eat neither with their hands nor with chopsticks. They use spoons. When their Uygur or Kazak friends invite them to dinner, they always take a little spoon with them.

Tatar costumes have a distinct characteristic. Both men and women love to wear embroidered shirts. The collar, front and cuffs of the shirts are embroidered with X'shaped patterns in pretty harmonious colors. Over the shirt, they usually put on a black vest. The men prefer black and white to any other colors. Their clothes are black and white, so are their caps. In summer, they wear black and white embroidered small caps, in winter black curly fur caps. The women like white, yellow and purple dresses. They wear all sorts of gold or silver ornaments and colored caps decorated with beads.

The Tatar people are good at singing and dancing. In XinJiang, whenever there are ceremonies and weddings, no matter for which nationality, there are always Tatar music, Tatar folk songs and Tatar dances. People say that the Tatars are shining stars in ceremonial and cultural activities among all the brotherly nationalities in Xinjiang.

Tatar songs and dance music are wide-spread. The melodies of the songs are often smooth and magnificent. The rhythm is at first moderate, then gathers strength, and in the end becomes fervent. When the enthusiastic atmosphere reaches a certain degree, there are often shouts and whistles, which push the feeling of happiness to the climax. Dance music has become an essential accompaniment when youths of different nationalities dance together. The music gives expression to their rich emotions and sentiments of love.

According to the tradition, women often play the leading roles in Tatar dances. They always choose a picturesque place for their grand meeting held every spring-"the Saban Festival," or "the Plough Festival." Both men and women put on their best clothes, bring their instruments and gather at that place. They congratulate each other, singing and dancing while enjoying the beautiful scenery. They also compete each other in horseracing, tug™≤of™≤war and wrestling. They sing and dance to their hearts' content until they become intoxicated.

Their cultural and educational undertakings have begun fairly early, therefore intellectuals dominate a high percentage among the people. At the end of the 19th century, they had already established some religious schools in Yining, Tacheng and other places, teaching Chinese, arithmetic and other general knowledge courses. Yining Tatar School established in1949 was one of the earliest new schools for the minority nationalities in Xinjiang. Tatar educators teach not only in schools founded by their own nationality but also in schools founded by other nationalities. Some go down to the countryside and establish schools in the pastoral area. They have made a lot of contributions to the dissemination of science and culture.