T h e U i g h u r s русский
I G H U R C u s t o m s a n d t r a d i t i
o n s
Uighurs have original and interesting rites and customs that in many respects
have preserved traditional elements up to this day. We will describe rites
related to the following: the birth, upbringing of children, wedding, and
the brightest celebration of the Uighurs. It has importance not only for
individuals, but also for society, since the marriage means the emergence of a
new family in society.
ceremony consists of three stages - pre-wedding, wedding and post-wedding.
a rule, a ritual of asking in marriage precedes the wedding. Father of the groom along with other senior relatives and
respected men, whom it is difficult to refuse to, come forward as the
arrived in the house of the bride, the matchmakers inform the households of the
purpose of their visit. Usually, the parents do not give their consent
immediately. After persuasions, and sometimes, in the following visit, the
matchmakers finally come to consent. The obligatory condition is the approval of
the marriage on the part of the bride’s close relatives. Mostly, it bears
formal character, in a kind of homage to them.
"toy" - festivity is preceded by the “tatliq çai
“ - the sweet tea ceremony, (sometimes the
“maqul çeji” - the consent tea ceremony, the “tazym
çeji”, “kiçik çai” – the small tea
ceremony), 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.
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... » 24.
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.
large role in social life of Uighur 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
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.
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
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. There is an interesting detail - 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
before the wedding the bride’s girlfriend and her mother come to the bride’s
parents. They 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.
of the wedding day, the guests arrive, first men, and then - women. Music,
dances and plentiful feast accompany the wedding.
the festivity has ended the groom’s party begins a ceremony of
the dowry chest opening – the “sanduq eçiş”. 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 show displays her dowry. After the ceremony, the gifts and
chests with contents are handed over to the groom’s mother.
crucial moment of any wedding is the ceremony of wedding – the "neka".
Despite that in the earlier days, the presence of the bride in the ceremony was
not necessary, at present, both the groom and the bride 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.
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.
the neka, the bride is taken into the groom’s house. She says good-bye
to her parents and the latter bless her for the family life.
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.
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",
the others - "çilaq". The purpose of it is to get closer
for the relatives of the newly wedded.
young husband with his friends visits his wife’s senior relatives – the “salamğa
keliş”. The latter give him presents and things necessary in use.
is another interesting traditional custom, which exists nowadays. It is the
visiting of the new wife’s parents by the newly weds on the first Friday after
the wedding. The Uighurs have been observing this custom from time immemorial.
After the wedding the young married woman visited her mother every Friday. This
day the mother combed the daughter’s hair and braided it. The roots of the
tradition could be traced to matrilocality.
Birth of a child
birth of a child is one of the most important moments in the life of a family.
Nowadays, the Uighurs observe the following traditions, related to the birth and
upbringing of a child such as the birth, the giving the name, ceremonial putting
of a child into a cradle – the “böşük toy”, forty
days – the “qiriq süyi”, boy circumcision – the “sünnät
toy” and others.
to the custom, the woman gives birth for the first time in the house of her
mother. This custom also has the matrilocal roots. 20-30 days prior to the
delivery the mother of the woman in childbirth accompanied by some relatives and
friends comes into the house of her son-in-law and asks him to let his wife to
go to her house – the “tiläp eliş”. Nowadays, after a
woman has given the birth at the hospital, she and her child are taken to her
mother’s house right from the hospital.
delivery, mother of woman who recently gave birth takes care of the child and
her daughter. It is believed, that newborn and his/her mother are subjects to
the evil forces during the first forty days and consequently they have to be
protected. In general, all rites related to motherhood and childhood, pursue one
object, that is to keep a baby alive.
to the new mother is limited during the 40-day period. On the 12th day the baby
is being given name. The relatives of the husband and mullah are invited for the
event. During this period other women come to the house and bring gifts and meal
to help the hostess in her care for the newborn and his/her mother.
On the 40th
day, the child bathing (the qiriq suyi) takes place. A pinch of salt, ädräsman,
half a lump of sugar, and coins are added in a saucepan. Then all present add
water in the saucepan by two wooden spoons. Every woman participating in the
ceremony should make her wish for the baby. In this water, after warming it up,
the child is bathed. After he/she has been bathed his/her hair and nails are cut
for the first time.
of following children and their “qiriq suyi” takes place in the house
of the child’s father.
fixed day after the “qiriq suyi”, parents of the husband come into
the house of the young mother’s parents and bring gifts and foodstuffs for the
“böşük toy” - ceremonial laying of the child in a
cradle. Female relatives and friends are invited for the ceremony. Usually, the
mother of the young mother covers the expenses associated with this rite.
Besides, she makes gifts for the daughter and dowry for the newborn. This day
the young mother’s sister or "yanga", who help look after the
child during the period, receives many gifts.
custom called “çuşav toyı” is being restored to life
in many families. As soon as a child starts walking, his legs are being hobbled.
A respected older woman cuts the hobble. It is believed, that after this the
child will not fall or stumble. The gathered for the rite people express their
glee. The merrymaking and festivities for the women and children accompany the
circumcision, the “sunnät toy” is organized in a solemn way.
Usually, boys of the age of 5-7 go through circumcision. A big celebration is
organized only for the first son. As a rule, it is the first celebration
organized by the young father, an original examination for maturity.
hero of the occasion himself invites his relatives and friends to this holiday.
In the earlier days, the boy with a relative visited all people he wanted to
invite. In a village he visited literally every house, where he was given
presents, sweets and kerchiefs. He would come back home all covered with the
kerchiefs. At present, the invitation ceremony is much more simple.
carries out the circumcision in a separate room. The boy is being diverted by
gifts and money so that he does not have fear for the circumcision. The gathered
people celebrate the holiday in other rooms with glee, music, dances and
is an ancient Uighur custom, which could be interpreted as the evening of rest.
The series of it begins in the late autumn and ends in springtime. Usually, men of the same age who live in the same region or
village and have common interests gather for the "mäşräp".
The participants of such gatherings are called “ottuz oğul” -
is a school of ethical and aesthetic education. It reveals people who possess
musical or poetic talents. The "mäşräp" is also
a school of discipline and responsibility to the collective. The first thing
participants of the gathering do is the election of the chairman
- "zhigit beşi", who has the right to appoint the
musician, dancer, and cook. Then they elect the judge - "qazi"
who can penalize an offender-"mäşräp" member.
gatherings are accompanied by the singing of songs, performing muqams,
and common dancing. During the "mäşräp"
participants not only relax and have fun, but they can obtain a lot of new and
useful information from conversations and discussions about all areas of life.
Perhaps, that’s why the Uighurs call an ignorant man "mäşräp
who has not seen the "mäşräp"). The "mäşräp"
is also a circle of friends who are always ready to help in joy and trouble.
Sometimes, participants of the same "mäşräp" are
closer to each other than the relatives.
funerals concern not only the family of the deceased, but rather the community
in which he/she lived. The funerals are organized and controlled by the “zhigit
beşi”, an elected chairman of the community.
funerals are arranged with the special respect for the deceased. The deceased is
buried on the second day after the death. The households immediately inform
relatives and acquaintances, who arrive right away at the house of the deceased.
funerals the women wear white kerchiefs around their heads. The men tie white
girdles around their waists as a token of mourning. In the next rooms to that
one with the body, the women settle down and mourn over the deceased. The men
meet the arriving condolers and cry out load in the courtyard or in front of the
burial the body undergoes the procedure of washing. Four people out of the
relatives and volunteers are appointed for it. The washing is considered a
blessed deed, therefore volunteers could be always found. A relative from the
fatherly line is always at the head of the deceased. He or she directs the
others, and pours water from a jug. The others are appointed for different parts
of the body, the top is washed by one, the middle - by the second, and the
bottom – by the third. After the burial the washers receive some belongings, a
headgear, shirt and footwear of the deceased to keep memory about him/her.
washing, people are allowed to make their farewell to the deceased whose face is
uncovered. After that the body is dressed in a white shirt and trousers or a
gown that is sewn the day before, and shrouded in a white fabric called "kepin".
farewell, the body is taken out of the house on the "taout" (a
stretcher with a bow-shaped fixture). The "taout" is placed
outside the house, and all gathered do the “namaz” – a prayer.
After the prayer has been done, the young men lift up the "taout"
and take it to the cemetery, replacing one another as they get tired. The women
remain at home.
start digging the grave in the morning. The Uighurs dig the graves with an
internal niche on its east side, a little bit higher than the bottom. The body
is being laid in the niche, so that the head is slightly turned westward. Then
the entrance to the niche is laid by bricks and the grave is covered with
memorial services are held on the third, seventh, fortieth days and a year
later. Meals are not cooked in the house of the deceased before the three-day
memorial service. It is believed, that the soul of the deceased hovers around
the house for the first three days and can take offence – “ärva körilidu”.
The relatives, friends, and neighbors bring the food in this period. The
immediate relatives of the deceased have no any duties and obligations prior to
the seven-day memorial service. They are preoccupied with the mourning over
their loss. The remote relatives, other kin and friends take up all the duties
and obligations for organizing and arranging the funerals and memorial services.
Every community has utensils bought for community dues. They also have the
"taout", tables, benches, shovels and all the necessary for
fulfillment of the rite.
mourning is lifted up from the relatives on the seven-day memorial service. The
men remove the girdles from their waists and the women remove kerchiefs from
their heads. Their friends and relatives take them to their places and cook the
memorial dinner in their houses. Friends from the "mäşräp"
actively participate in the funerals during those days.
is lit for forty days in the house of the deceased in memory of him/her. Every
night relatives gather in this house, pray and cook memorial round cakes -
"zhit". The women bring meals for the immediate relatives of
the deceased during forty days.
1-year memorial service, the relatives receive gifts -"qarliq” and
the mourning is lifted up from them.
The funeral rites have been preserved well throughout the centuries. They are most conservative rites. The wedding rites and the rites related to upbringing of children have changed a bit. Even though the Uighurs of different regions might have slightly different procedures, the fundamentals of the rites are the same.
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