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Xinjiang ( ; ; ; Postal map spelling: Sinkiang) is an autonomous region (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) of the People's Republic of Chinamarker.


Older English-language reference works often refer to the area as Chinese Turkestan, Sinkiang, East Turkestan, or Uyghuristan. More specifically, at times, the term East Turkestan only referred to the Xinjiang area south of the Tian Shanmarker mountains, North of the Tian Shan was called Dzungaria (Zungaria).

The general region of Xinjiang has been known by many other names in earlier times including: 西域 (Mandarin: xiyu) = 'Western Regions', Chinese Tartary, High Tartary, East Chagatay, Mugholistan, Kashgaria, Altishahr ('the six cities' of the Tarim), Little Bokhara and Serindia.

The name "Xinjiang", which literally means "New Frontier" , was given during the Qing Dynastymarker. In the early part of the Qing Dynasty, the name "Xinjiang" was used to refer to any area of former a Chinese empire that had been previously lost but was regained by the Qing—for example, part of present-day Xinjiang was known as "Western Region xinjiang", present-day Jinchuan County was known as "Jinchuan xinjiang", etc. After 1821, the Qing changed the names of the other regained regions, and "Xinjiang" became the name specifically of present-day Xinjiang.


Xinjiang is a large, sparsely populated area, spanning over 1.6 million km2 (comparable in size to Iranmarker or Western Europe), which takes up about one sixth of the country's territory. Xinjiang borders the Tibet Autonomous Region and Indiamarker's Leh District to the south and Qinghaimarker and Gansumarker provinces to the southeast, Mongoliamarker to the east, Russiamarker to the north, and Kazakhstanmarker, Kyrgyzstanmarker, Tajikistanmarker, Afghanistanmarker, Pakistanmarker and Indiamarker to the west. It administers most of Aksai Chinmarker, a territory formally part of Kashmirmarker's Ladakhmarker region over which Indiamarker has claimed sovereignty since 1962.

The east-west chain of the Tian Shan Mountains separate Dzungaria in the north from the Tarim Basin in the south. Dzungaria is dry steppe. The Tarim Basin is desert surrounded by oases. In the east is the Turpan Depressionmarker. In the west, the Tian Shan split, forming the Ili Rivermarker valley.


Early history

According to J.P. Mallory, the Chinese sources describe the existence of "white people with long hair" or the Bai people in the Shan Hai Jing, who lived beyond their northwestern border.

The well-preserved Tarim mummies with Caucasoid features, often with reddish or blond hair, today displayed at the Ürümqimarker Museum and dated to the 3rd century BC, have been found in precisely the same area of the Tarim Basin. Various nomadic tribes, such as the Yuezhi were part of the large migration of Indo-European speaking peoples who were settled in eastern Central Asia (possibly as far as Gansumarker) at that time. The Ordos culture situated at northern China east of the Yuezhi, are another example.

Nomadic cultures such as the Yuezhi are documented in the area of Xinjiang where the first known reference to the Yuezhi was made in 645 BC by the Chinese Guan Zhong in his Guanzi 管子(Guanzi Essays: 73: 78: 80: 81). He described the Yuzhi 禺氏, or Niuzhi 牛氏, as a people from the north-west who supplied jade to the Chinese from the nearby mountains of Yuzhi 禺氏 at Gansu. The supply of jade from the Tarim Basin from ancient times is indeed well documented archaeologically: "It is well known that ancient Chinese rulers had a strong attachment to jade. All of the jade items excavated from the tomb of Fuhao of the Shang dynasty, more than 750 pieces, were from Khotanmarker in modern Xinjiang. As early as the mid-first millennium BC the Yuezhi engaged in the jade trade, of which the major consumers were the rulers of agricultural China.".

The nomadic tribes of the Yuezhi are also documented in detail in Chinese historical accounts, in particular the 2nd-1st century BC "Records of the Great Historian", or Shiji, by Sima Qian, which state that they "were flourishing" but regularly in conflict with the neighboring tribe of the Xiongnu to the northeast. According to these accounts:

The Yuezhi originally lived in the area between the Qilian or Heavenly Mountains (Tian Shanmarker) and Dunhuangmarker, but after they were defeated by the Xiongnu they moved far away to the west, beyond Dayuan, where they attacked and conquered the people of Daxia and set up the court of their king on the northern bank of the Gui [= Oxusmarker] River.
A small number of their people who were unable to make the journey west sought refuge among the Qiang barbarians in the Southern Mountains, where they are known as the Lesser Yuezhi.

Struggle between Xiongnu and Han China

The Tarim Basin in the 3rd century
Traversed by the Northern Silk Road, Western Regions or Xinjiang is the Chinese name for the Tarim and Dzungaria regions of what is now northwest China. At the beginning of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220), the region was subservient to the Xiongnu, a powerful nomadic people based in modern Mongoliamarker. In the 2nd century BC, Han China sent Zhang Qian as an envoy to the states in the region, beginning several decades of struggle between the Xiongnu and Han China over dominance of the region, eventually ending in Chinese success. In 60 BC Han China established the Protectorate of the Western Regions (西域都護府) at Wulei (烏壘; near modern Luntaimarker) to oversee the entire region as far west as the Pamirmarker.

During the usurpation of Wang Mang in China, the dependent states of the protectorate rebelled and returned to domination in AD 13. Over the next century, Han China conducted several expeditions into the region, re-establishing the protectorate from 74 to 76, 91 to 107, and from 123 onward. After the fall of the Han Dynasty, the protectorate continued to be maintained by Cao Wei (until 265) and the Western Jin Dynasty (from 265 onwards).

A summary of Classical sources on the Seres (Greek and Roman name of Xinjiang) (essentially Pliny and Ptolemy) gives the following account:

Ptolemy had quite good information on Xinjiang, taken from three different accounts.

A succession of peoples

The Western Jin Dynasty succumbed to successive waves of invasions by nomads from the north at the beginning of the 4th century. The short-lived kingdoms (both Han and non-Han) that ruled northwestern China one after the other, including Former Liang, Former Qin, Later Liang, and Western Liáng, all attempted to maintain the protectorate, with varying extents and degrees of success. After the final reunification of northern China under the Northern Wei empire, its protectorate controlled what is now the southeastern third of Xinjiang. Local states such as Shule, Yutian, Guizi and Qiemomarker controlled the western half, while the central region around Turpanmarker was controlled by Gaochangmarker, remnants of a state (Northern Liang) that once ruled part of what is now Gansumarker province in northwestern China.

Tang Dynasty and the Khanates

The Tang Dynasty was established in 618, and would prove to be one of the most expansionist dynasties in Chinese history. Starting from the 620's and 630's, Tang China conducted a series of expeditions against the Turks, eventually forcing the surrender of the western Turks in 657. Xinjiang was placed under the Anxi Protectorate (安西都護府; "Protectorate Pacifying the West"). The protectorate did not outlast the decline of Tang China in the 8th century. During the devastating Anshi Rebellion, Tibet invaded Tang China on a wide front from Xinjiang to Yunnanmarker, occupied the Tang capital Chang'an in 763 for 16 days, and taking control of southern Xinjiang by the end of the century. At the same time, the Uyghur Khaganate took control of northern Xinjiang, as well as much of the rest of Central Asia, including Mongolia.
Both Tibet and the Uyghur Khaganate declined in the mid-9th century. The Kara-Khanid Khanate, which arose from a confederation of Turkic tribes scattered after the destruction of the Uyghur empire, took control of western Xinjiang in the 10th century and the 11th century. Meanwhile, after the Uyghur khanate in Mongolia had been smashed by the Kirghiz, branches of the Uyghurs established themselves in the area around today's Turpan and Urumchi in 840. This Uyghur state would remain in eastern Xinjiang until the 13th century, though it would be subject to various overlords during that time. Some scholars have argued, that the Kara-Khanids were likewise "Uyghurs," as some of the components in the Kara-Khanid federation were likewise from the ruling clans of the Uyghur empire. The Kara-Khanids converted to Islam, whereas the Uyghur state in eastern Xinjiang remained Manicheaean, while tolerating Buddhism and Christianity.

In 1132, remnants of the Khitan Empire from Manchuria entered Xinjiang, fleeing the onslaught of the Jurchens into north China. They established an exile regime, the Kara-Khitan Khanate, which became overlord over both Kara-Khanid-held and Uyghur-held parts of the Tarim Basin for the next century.

Arrival of the Mongols

After Genghis Khan had unified Mongolia and began his advance west, the Uyghur state in the Turpan-Urumchi area offered its allegiance to the Mongols in 1209, contributing taxes and troops to the Mongol imperial effort. In return, the Uyghur rulers retained control of their kingdom. By contrast, Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire conquered the Kara-Khitan in 1218. Because the Kara-Khitan had persecuted Islam, the Mongols were met as liberators in the Kashgarmarker area. During the civil war of the Mongol Empire, the Empire of the Great Khanmarker (Yuan Dynasty) vied for rule with the Chagatai Khanate in the area. After the break-up of the Mongol Empire into smaller khanates the region fractured and was ruled by various different Persianized Mongol Khans simultaneously, including the ones of Mogholistan (with the assistance of the local Dughlat Emirs), Uigurstan (later Turpan) and Kashgaria. These leaders engaged in numerous wars with each other and both the Timurid of Transoxania to the West and the Western Mongols to the East, the successor Chagatai regime based in Mongolia and in China. Although there were high points in Persian culture reached (e.g. the Dughlat historian Hamid-mirza), succession crises and internal divisions (Kashgaria split in two for centuries) meant that this region almost completely fades from the history books during the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 17th century, the Mongolianmarker Dzungars established an empire over much of the region.

Dzungar Empire

Dzungar (also Jungar, Zunghar or Zungar; Mongolian: Зүүнгар Züüngar) is the collective identity of several Oirat tribes that formed and maintained one of the last nomadic empires. The Dzungar Khanate covered the area called Dzungaria and stretched from the west end of the Great Wall of China to present-day eastern Kazakhstan, and from present-day northern Kyrgyzstanmarker to southern Siberiamarker (most of this area is renamed to Xinjiang after fall the Dzungar Empire). It existed from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century.

Qing Dynasty

The Qingmarker, established by the Manchus in China, gained control over eastern Xinjiang as a result of a long struggle with the Zunghars (Dzungars) that began in the seventeenth century. In 1755, the Qing attacked Ghuljamarker, and captured the Zunghar khan. Over the next two years, the Manchus and Mongol armies of the Qing destroyed the remnants of the Zunghar khanate.

The Dzungars were deliberately exterminated in a brutal campaign of ethnic genocide. One writer, Wei Yuan, described the resulting desolation in what is now northern Xinjiang as: "an empty plain for a thousand li, with no trace of man." It has been estimated that more than a million people were slaughtered, and it took generations for it to recover.

After the defeat and extermination of the Dzungars, the Qing attempted to divide the Xinjiang region into four sub-khanates under four chiefs. Similarly, the Qing made members of a clan of sufi shaykhs known as the Khojas, rulers in the western Tarim Basin, south of the Tianshan Mts. In 1758–59, however, rebellions against this arrangement broke out both north and south of the Tian Shanmarker mountains. The Qing was thus forced, contrary to its initial intent, to establish a form of direct military rule over both Zungharia (northern Xinjiang) and the Tarim Basin (southern Xinjiang). The Manchus put the whole region under the rule of a General of Ili ( ), headquartered at the fort of Huiyuanmarker (the so-called "Manchu Kuldja", or Yili), 30 km west of Ghuljamarker (Yining).

After 1759 state farms were established, "especially in the vicinity of Urumchi, where there was fertile, well-watered land and few people." From 1760 to 1830 more state farms were opened and the Chinese population in Xinjiang grew rapidly to about 155,000.

By the mid-19th century, the Russian Empiremarker was encroaching upon Qing China along its entire northern frontier. The Opium Wars and Taiping and other rebellion's in China proper had severely restricted the dynasty's ability to maintain its garrisons in distant Xinjiang. In 1864 both Chinese Muslims (Hui) and Uyghurs rebelled in Xinjiang cities, following an on-going Chinese Muslim Rebellion in Gansumarker and Shaanximarker provinces further east. Because all of the non-Muslim population in Xinjiang were regarded as infidels and enemies to be exterminated, the rebellion resulted in incredible cruelties whenever the towns held by the Qing force were taken. In 1865, Yaqub Beg, a warlord from the neighbouring Khanate of Kokandmarker, entered Xinjiang via Kashgar, and conquered nearly all of Xinjiang over the next six years. In 1871, Russia took advantage of the chaotic situation and seized the rich Ili Rivermarker valley, including Guljamarker. By then, Qing China held onto only a few strongholds, including Tachengmarker.

Yaqub Beg's rule lasted until General Zuo Zongtang (also known as General Tso) reconquered the region between 1875 and 1877 for Qing China. In 1881, Qing China recovered the Gulja region through diplomatic negotiations (Treaty of Saint Petersburg ).

In 1884, (1882 according to some sources), Qing China established Xinjiang ("new frontier") as a province, formally applying onto it the political system of China proper, and dropping the old name of Huijiang or 'Muslimland'.

Republic of China and First East Turkestan Republic

Flag of 1st ETR.
The PRC government prohibits using the flag in the country.
In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of Chinamarker. Yuan Dahua, the last Qing governor of Xinjiang, fled. One of his subordinates Yang Zengxin (杨增新), took control of the province and acceded in name to the Republic of China in March of the same year. Through Machiavellian politics and clever balancing of mixed ethnic constituencies, Yang maintained control over Xinjiang until his assassination in 1928.

Multiple insurgencies arose against his successor Jin Shuren (金树仁) in the early 1930s throughout Xinjiang, involving Uyghurs, other Turkic groups, Russians and Hui (Muslim) Chinese. In the Kashgar region on 12 November 1933, the short-lived self-proclaimed East Turkistan Republic was declared, after some debate over whether the proposed independent state should be called "East Turkestan" or "Uyghuristan." The ETR claimed authority over territory stretching from Aksu along the northern rim of the Tarim Basin to Khotanmarker in the south. Xinjiang was eventually brought in 1934 under the control of northeast Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai (盛世才), who ruled Xinjiang for the next decade with close support from the Soviet Unionmarker, many of whose ethnic and security policies Sheng instituted in Xinjiang. Sheng invited a group of Chinese Communists to Xinjiang, including Mao Zedong's brother Mao Zemin, but in 1943, fearing a conspiracy, Sheng executed them all, including Mao Zemin.

2nd ETR existed in what is now Ili, Tarbagatay and Altay Districts of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of People's Republic of China

Second East Turkestan Republic and People's Republic of China

A Second East Turkistan Republic (2nd ETR, also known as the Three Districts Revolution) existed from 1944 to 1949 with Sovietmarker support in what is now Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecturemarker (Ili, Tarbagatay and Altay Districts) in northern Xinjiang. The Second East Turkistan Republic came to an end when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) entered Xinjiang in 1949. Also, five ETR leaders, who would negotiate the final status of East Turkistan with the Chinese, died in an air crash in 1949 in Kazakh airspace.

According to the PRC interpretation, the 2nd ETR was Xinjiang's revolution, a positive part of the communist revolution in China; the 2nd ETR acceded to and welcomed the PLA when it entered Xinjiang, a process known as the Peaceful Liberation of Xinjiang. However, independence advocates view the ETR as an effort to establish an independent state, and the subsequent PLA entry as an invasion.

The autonomous region of the PRC was established on 1 October 1955, replacing the province. The PRC's first nuclear test was carried out at Lop Nurmarker, Xinjiang, on 16 October 1964. Although reports in western media report that between 100,000 and 200,000 people may have been killed in the testing, the Lop Nur area has not been permanently inhabited since about 1920 and PRC media dispute these numbers, but without providing an alternate number.

The numbers of ethnic Han settlers in Xinjiang has risen from less than half a million in 1953 to 7.5 million by 2000.

Ethnic tensions

News media reports of ethnic tensions in the region with resultant conflicts between the Uyghur plurality and Chinese authorities have raised worldwide awareness about Uyghur people and Xinjiang. These tensions actually began decades ago, and there have been several waves of protest in the region. Since 1996 the Chinese authorities have carried out a harsh crackdown of the East Turkestan independence movement, which it labels as "separatists" and "religious extremists" throughout the XUAR. Furthermore, the US and the UN have labeled a group called East Turkestan Islamic Movement a terrorist group.

Independence advocates view Chinese rule in Xinjiang, and policies like the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps as Chinese imperialism.

The tensions have occasionally resulted in major incidents and violent clashes during the PRC period. For example, in 1962, 60,000 Uyghur and Kazak refugees fled northern Xinjiang into the Soviet Unionmarker to escape the Great Chinese Famine and political purges of the Great Leap Forward era; in the 1980s there was a smattering of student demonstrations and riots against police action that took on an ethnic aspect; and the Baren Township riot in April, 1990, an abortive uprising, resulted in more than 50 deaths.

A police roundup of suspected separatists during the Muslim holy month Ramadan resulted in large demonstrations that turned violent in February 1997 in an episode known as the Ghulja / Yining Incident (or Gulja Massacre) that led to at least 9 deaths. The Urumqi bus bombs of 25 February 1997, perhaps a response to the crackdown that followed the Ghulja Incident, killed 9 and injured 68. Despite much talk of separatism in Xinjiang, the situation in Xinjiang was largely quiet from 2000 through mid-2006.

Then, on 5 January 2007 the Chinese Public Security Bureau raided a suspected terrorist training camp in the mountains near the Pamir Plateau in southern Xinjiang. According to the reports, 18 individuals, whom Chinese State media refers to as "terrorists," were killed and another 17 captured in a gun battle between the ETIM and PRC forces. One police officer was killed and "over 1,500 hand grenades... were seized." The report leaves it unclear whether the acronym ETIM stands for the East Turkestan Independence Movement, the Xinjiang pro independence part, or the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an (alleged) militant separatist group, and Rafael Poch, a Spanish journalist, after investigating the incident and checking with alleged witnesses, concluded that there did not exist any "terrorist training camp".

In the run-up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, during which world attention was drawn by pro-Tibet protests along the Olympic torch relay, Uyghur separatist groups staged protests in several countries. According to the Chinese government, a suicide bombing attempt on a China Southern Airlines flight in Xinjiang was thwarted in March 2008. On 4 August 2008, 4 days before the Beijing Olympics, 16 Chinese police officers were killed and 16 were injured by riots and an explosion during the crackdown on separatist groups that took place before the games.Chinese police injured and damaged the equipment of two Japanese journalists sent to cover the story.



Map of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
Xinjiang is divided into two prefecture-level cities, seven prefectures, and five autonomous prefectures. (Two of the seven prefectures are in turn part of Ili, an autonomous prefecture.) These are then divided into eleven districts, twenty county-level cities, sixty-two counties, and six autonomous counties. Four of the county-level cities do not belong to any prefecture, and are de facto administered by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Sub-level divisions of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is shown in the picture to the right, and described in the table below:

Sub-level divisions of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
Map # Conventional Uyghur

( )
Uyghur Latin

( )
Simplified Chinese character Traditional Chinese character Hanyu pinyin Type Remarks
1 Altay Prefecturemarker ئالتاي ۋىلايىتى Altay Wilayiti 阿勒泰地区 阿勒泰地區 Ālètài Dìqū Prefecture subordinate to Ili marker
2 Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecturemarker بۆرتالا موڭغۇل ئاپتونوم ئوبلاستى 博尔塔拉蒙古自治州 博爾塔拉蒙古自治州 Bó'ěrtǎlā Měnggǔ Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefectures
3 Tacheng Prefecturemarker تارباغاتاي ۋىلايىتى 塔城地区 塔城地區 Tǎchéng Dìqū Prefecture subordinate to Ili marker
4 Karamaymarker قاراماي شەھرى 克拉玛依市 克拉瑪依市 Kèlāmǎyī Shì Prefecture-level city
5 Shihezimarker شىخەنزە شەھرى 石河子市 石河子市 Shíhézǐ Shì Directly administered County-level city Administered de facto by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps
6 Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecturemarker سانجى خۇيزۇ ئاپتونوم ئوبلاستى Sanji Xuyzu Aptonom Oblasti 昌吉回族自治州 昌吉回族自治州 Chāngjí Huízú Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefectures
7 Wujiaqumarker ئۇجاچۇ شەھرى 五家渠市 五家渠市 Wǔjiāqú Shì Directly administered County-level city Administered de facto by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps
8 Ürümqimarker ئۈرۈمچى شەھرى 乌鲁木齐市 烏魯木齊市 Wūlǔmùqí Shì Prefecture-level city
9 Turpan Prefecturemarker تۇرپان ۋىلايىتى Turpan Wilayiti 吐鲁番地区 吐魯番地區 Tǔlǔfān Dìqū Prefecture
10 Kumul Prefecturemarker قۇمۇل ۋىلايىتى 哈密地区 哈密地區 Hāmì Dìqū Prefecture
11 Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecturemarker ئىلى قازاق ئاپتونوم ئوبلاستى 伊犁哈萨克自治州 伊犁哈薩克自治州 Yīlí Hāsàkè Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefectures
12 Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecturemarker قىزىلسۇ قىرغىز ئاپتونوم ئوبلاستى 克孜勒苏柯尔克孜自治州 克孜勒蘇柯爾克孜自治州 Kèzīlèsū Kē'ěrkèzī Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefectures
13 Kashgar Prefecturemarker قەشقەر ۋىلايىتى 喀什地区 喀什地區 Kāshí Dìqū Prefecture
14 Tumxukmarker تۇمشۇق شەھرى 图木舒克市 圖木舒克市 Túmùshūkè Shì Directly administered County-level city Administered de facto by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps
15 Aksu Prefecturemarker ئاقسۇ ۋىلايىتى 阿克苏地区 阿克蘇地區 Ākèsū Dìqū Prefecture
16 Aralmarker ئارال شەھرى 阿拉尔市 阿拉爾市 Ālā'ěr Shì Directly administered County-level city Administered de facto by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps
17 Hotan Prefecturemarker خوتەن ۋىلايىتى Xoten Wilayiti 和田地区 和田地區 Hétián Dìqū Prefecture
18 Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecturemarker بايىنغولىن موڭغۇل ئاپتونوم ئوبلاستى 巴音郭楞蒙古自治州 巴音郭楞蒙古自治州 Bāyīnguōlèng Měnggǔ Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefectures

Geography and geology

Close to Karakoram Highway in Xinjiang
Xinjiang is the largest political subdivision of China—it accounts for more than one sixth of China's total territory and a quarter of its boundary length. It is split by the Tian Shanmarker mountain range ( ), which divides it into two large basins: the Dzungarian Basin in the north, and the Tarim Basin in the south. Much of the Tarim Basin is dominated by the Taklimakan Desertmarker. The lowest point in Xinjiang, and in the entire PRC, is the Turpan Depressionmarker, 155 metres below sea level; its highest point is the mountain K2marker, 8611 metres above sea level, on the border with Pakistanmarker. Other mountain ranges include the Pamir Mountainsmarker in the southeast, the Karakorammarker in the south, and the Altai Mountainsmarker in the north.

Most of Xinjiang is young geologically, having been formed from the collision of the Indian plate with the Eurasian plate, forming the Tian Shanmarker, Kunlun Shanmarker, and Pamir mountain ranges. Consequently, Xinjiang is a major earthquake zone. Older geological formations occur principally in the far north where the Junggar Block is geologically part of Kazakhstanmarker, and in the east which is part of the North China Craton.

Xinjiang has within its borders the point of land remotest from the sea, the so-called Eurasian pole of inaccessibility ( ) in the Dzoosotoyn Elisen Desert, 1,645 miles (2648 km) from the nearest coastline (straight-line distance).

The Tian Shanmarker mountain range marks the Xinjiang-Kyrgyzstan border at the Torugart Passmarker (3752 m). The Karakorum highwaymarker (KKH) links Islamabadmarker, Pakistanmarker with Kashgarmarker over the Khunjerab Passmarker.


Rivers include:


Deserts include:

Major cities


List of Secretaries of the CPC Xinjiang Committee
  1. Wang Zhen (王震): 1949–1952
  2. Wang Enmao (王恩茂): 1952–1967
  3. Long Shujin (龙书金): 1970–1972
  4. Seypidin Azizi (赛福鼎·艾则孜): 1972–1978
  5. Wang Feng (汪锋): 1978–1981
  6. Wang Enmao (王恩茂): 1981–1985
  7. Song Hanliang (宋汉良): 1985–1994
  8. Wang Lequan (王乐泉): 1994-incumbent

List of Chairmen of Xinjiang Government
  1. Seypidin Azizi (赛福鼎·艾则孜): 1955–1967
  2. Long Shujin (龙书金): 1968–1972
  3. Seypidin Azizi: 1972–1978
  4. Wang Feng (汪锋): 1978–1979
  5. Ismail Amet (司马义·艾买提): 1979–1985
  6. Tomur Dawamat (铁木尔·达瓦买提): 1985–1993
  7. Abdul'ahat Abdulrixit (阿不来提·阿不都热西提): 1993–2003
  8. Ismail Tiliwaldi (司马义·铁力瓦尔地): 2003–2007
  9. Nur Bekri (努尔·白克力): 2007-incumbent


Xinjiang is known for its fruits and produce, including grapes, melons, pears, cotton, wheat, silk, walnuts and sheep. Xinjiang also has large deposits of minerals and oil.

In the late 19th century the region was noted for producing salt, soda, borax, gold, jade and coal.

Xinjiang's nominal GDP was approximately 220 billion RMB (28 billion USD) in 2004, and increased to 420 billion RMB (60 billion USD) in 2008, due to the China Western Development policy introduced by the State Council to boost economic development in Western China. Its per capita GDP for 2008 was 19,893 RMB (2,864 USD).

Oil and gas extraction industry in Aksumarker and Karamaymarker is booming, with the West–East Gas Pipeline connecting to Shanghai. The oil and petrochemical sector account for 60% of Xinjiang's local economy.

Xinjiang's exports amounted to 19.3 billion USD, while imports turned out to be 2.9 billion USD in 2008. Most of the overall import/export volume in Xinjiang was directed to and from Kazakhstanmarker through Ala Pass. China's first border free trade zone (Horgos Free Trade Zone) was located at the Xinjiang-Kazakhstan border city of Horgos. Horgos is the largest land port in China's western region and it has easy access to the Central Asian market. Xinjiang will also open its second border trade market to Kazakhstan in March 2006, the Jeminay Border Trade Zone.

Economic and Technological Development Zones

  • Bole Border Economic Cooperation Area
  • Shihezi Border Economic Cooperation Area (Chinese Version)
  • Tacheng Border Economic Cooperation Area
  • Urumqi Economic & Technological Development Zone (Chinese Version)
  • Urumqi Export Processing Zone
  • Urumqi New & Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone
  • Yining Border Economic Cooperation Area


The languages of Xinjang
East Asian migrants arrived in the eastern portions of the Tarim Basin about 3,000 years ago, while the Uighur peoples arrived after the collapse of the Orkon Uighur Kingdom, based in modern-day Mongolia, around the year 842.

Xinjiang is home to several distinct ethnic groups of various religious traditions; however, the majority of the region's total population are adherents of Islam. Among ethnic groups who are of the Muslim faith, most notable are Muslim Turkic peoples including the Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tatars and the Kazakhs; there are also Muslim Iranian peoples including Pamiris and the Sarikolis/Wakhis (often conflated as Pamiris); and Muslim Sino-Tibetan peoples such as the Hui. Other PRC ethnic groups in the region include Han, Mongols, Russians, Xibes, and Manchus. William Mesny said in 1896:

"The present inhabitants of Eastern Turkestan are more like Europeans than any other Asiatics I have seen.

Blue eyes, curly hair and red beards are common among them."

The population of Xinjiang was estimated to be about 1,180,000 in 1880 rising sharply after that, due largely to "emigrations and banishments from China."

The percentage of ethnic Han in Xinjiang has grown from less than 7% in 1949 to an official tally of over 40% at present. This figure does not include military personnel or their families, or the many unregistered migrant workers. Much of this transformation can be attributed to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a semi-military organization of settlers that has built farms, towns, and cities over scattered parts of Xinjiang. The demographic transformation is held by Uyghur independence advocates as a threat to Uyghurs and other non-Han ethnicities in maintaining their culture. In 1953 about three-fourths of the population lived south of the mountains in the Tarim Basin and the Han influx was directed mainly to the Dzungaria (north of the mountains in the Tarim Basin) because of its resource potential. The minorities of Xinjiang have been exempted from the one-child policy and many Uyghur people emigrated out of Xinjiang to other parts of China, and consequently the percentage of Uyghur people in the total population of China has increased steadily. According to one source, more than 2% of the population, most of them being members of Chinese house churches, are Christians. However, this can only be an estimate as there are no official figures to work from. A Christian website called "Christian Persecution Info", in a news item from February 12, 2008, states that: "Only a handful of China’s estimated 10 million Uyghurs are known to be Christians." The "Joshua Project website says: "Today about 50 known Uygur Christians meet in two small fellowships in China, although 400 Uygur believers have recently emerged in neighboring Kazakstan.

Major ethnic groups in Xinjiang by region, 2000 census.Does not include members of the People's Liberation Army in active service.

P = Prefecture; AP = Autonomous prefecture; PLC = Prefecture-level city; DACLC = Directly administered county-level city.
Uyghurs Han Kazakhs others
Xinjiang 45.2% 40.6% 6.7% 7.5%
Ürümqimarker PLC 12.8% 75.3% 2.3% 9.6%
Karamaymarker PLC 13.8% 78.1% 3.7% 4.5%
Turpan Prefecturemarker 70.0% 23.3% <0.1%></0.1%> 6.6%
Kumul Prefecture 18.4% 68.9% 8.8% 3.9%
Changji APmarker + Wujiaqumarker DACLC 3.9% 75.1% 8.0% 13.0%
Bortala APmarker 12.5% 67.2% 9.1% 11.1%
Bayin'gholin APmarker 32.7% 57.5% <0.1%></0.1%> 9.7%
Aksu Prefecturemarker + Alarmarker DACLC 71.9% 26.6% <0.1%></0.1%> 1.4%
Kizilsu APmarker 64.0% 6.4% <0.1%></0.1%> 29.6%
Kashgar Prefecturemarker + Tumushukemarker DACLC 89.3% 9.2% <0.1%></0.1%> 1.5%
Khotan Prefecturemarker 96.4% 3.3% <0.1%></0.1%> 0.2%
Ili APmarker 16.1% 44.4% 25.6% 13.9%
- Kuitunmarker DACLC 0.5% 94.6% 1.8% 3.1%
- former Ili Prefecture 27.2% 32.4% 22.6% 17.8%
- Tacheng Prefecturemarker 4.1% 58.6% 24.2% 13.1%
- Altay Prefecturemarker 1.8% 40.9% 51.4% 5.9%
Shihezimarker DACLC 1.2% 94.5% 0.6% 3.7%

In general, Uyghurs are the majority in western Xinjiang, including the prefectures of Kashgarmarker, Khotanmarker, Kizilsumarker, and Aksumarker, as well as Turpanmarker prefecture in eastern Xinjiang. Han are the majority in eastern and northern Xinjiang, including the cities of Urumqimarker, Karamaymarker, Shihezimarker and the prefectures of Changjyimarker, Bortalamarker, Bayin'gholinmarker, Ilimarker (especially the cit of Kuitunmarker), and Kumulmarker. Kazakhs are mostly concentrated in Ilimarker prefecture in northern Xinjiang.

Ethnic groups in Xinjiang, 2000 census.

Excludes members of the People's Liberation Army in active service.
Nationality Population Percentage
Uyghur 8,345,622 45.21
Han 7,489,919 40.58
Kazakh 1,245,023 6.74
Hui 839,837 4.55
Kirghiz 158,775 0.86
Mongols, Dongxiangs ,Daurs 194,891 1.14
Pamiris 39,493 0.21
Xibe 34,566 0.19
Manchu 19,493 0.11
Tujia 15,787 0.086
Uzbek 12,096 0.066
Russian 8935 0.048
Miao 7006 0.038
Tibetan 6153 0.033
Zhuang 5642 0.031
Tatar 4501 0.024
Salar 3762 0.020

Some Uighur scholars claim descent from both the Turkic Uighurs and the pre-Turkic Tocharians (or Tokharians, whose language was Indo-European), and relatively fair-skin, hair and eyes, as well as other so-called 'Caucasoid' physical traits, are not uncommon among them. In general Uyghurs resemble those peoples who live around them in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan.In 2002, there were 9,632,600 males (growth rate of 1.0%) and 9,419,300 females (growth rate of 2.2%). The population overall growth rate was 10.9‰, with 16.3‰ of birth rate and 5.4‰ mortality rate.


With a population of about 20 million and an officially estimated 60,000 infections, Xinjiang has one-tenth of China’s AIDS cases and the highest HIV infection rate in the country. Chinese authorities estimate that Kashgar Prefecturemarker, with a population of about three million, has 780 cases, but public health experts here say the real figure is probably four times that and rising fast.

Until recently, addicts were largely left to the police, who regarded them as simple criminals whose drug use was to be combated mercilessly. Resistance to treating drug addiction as a public health concern has been high, mirroring what some international health experts say was, more generally, a slow response to HIV/AIDS in the People's Republic of China.


The Xinjiang Networking Transmission Limited operates the Urumqi People Broadcasting Station and the Xinjiang People Broadcasting Station, broadcasting in Mandarin, Uyghur, Kazakh and Mongolian.

, there were fifty minority-language newspapers published in Xinjiang, including the Qapqal News, the world's only Xibe-language newspaper. The Xinjiang Economic Daily is considered one of China's most dynamic newspapers.


Xinjiang is home to the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigersprofessional basketball team of the Chinese Basketball Association.

The capital, Urumqi, is also home to the Xinjiang University baseball team, an integrated Uyghur and Han group profiled in the documentary film, Diamond in the Dunes.



In 2008, according to the Xinjiang Transportation Network Plan, the government has focused construction on State Road 314, Alar-Hotan Desert Highway, State Road 218, Qingshui River Line-Yining Highway, and State Road 217, as well as other roads.

The construction of the first expressway in the mountainous area of Xinjiang began a new stage in its construction on 24 July 2007. The 56 km highway linking Sayram Lakemarker and Guozi Valley in Northern Xinjiang area had cost 2.39 billion yuan. The expressway is designed to improve the speed of national highway 312 in northern Xinjiang. The project started in August 2006 and several stages have been fully operational since March 2007. Over 3,000 construction workers have been involved. The 700 m-long Guozi Valley Cable Bridge over the expressway is now currently being constructed, with the 24 main pile foundations already completed. Highway 312 national highway Xinjiang section, connects Xinjiang with China's east coast, central and western Asia, plus some parts of Europe. It is a key factor in Xinjiang's economic development. The population it covers is around 40 percent of the overall in Xinjiang, who contribute half of the GDP in the area.

See also



  1. Map of China 1900
  2. Hill (2009), pp. xviii, 60.
  3. Tyler (2003), p. 3.
  4. Origin of the Names of China's Provinces, People's Daily Online.
  5. J.P. Mallory, The Tarim Mummies, pg.55, ISBN 0500051011. "The strange creatures of the Shanhai jing: (...) we find recorded north of the territory of the "fish dragons" the land of the Whites (Bai), whose bodies are white and whose long hair falls on their shoulders. Such a description could accord well with a Caucasoid population beyond the frontiers of ancient China and some scholars have identified these Whites as Yuezhi."
  6. Iaroslav Lebedynsky, Les Saces, ISBN 2877723372, p59.
  7. Michael Dillon, China: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary.
  8. Liu (2001), pp. 267–268
  9. Watson, Burton. Trans. 1993. Records of the Grand Historian of China: Han Dynasty II. Translated from the Shiji of Sima Qian. Chapter 123: "The Account of Dayuan," Columbia University Press. Revised Edition. ISBN 0-231-08166-9; ISBN 0-231-08167-7 (pbk.), p. 234.
  10. E. de la Vaissière, "The triple system of orography in Ptolemy's Xinjiang", in Exegisti monumenta Festschrift in Honour of Nicholas Sims-Williams, Harrassowitz, 2009
  11. The Mummies of Xinjiang. DISCOVER Magazine. 1 April 1994.
  12. Millward (2007), p. 95
  13. Tyler (2003), p. 55
  14. Millward (2007), p. 104
  15. Ho-dong Kim(2004),p.71.
  16. Yakub Beg (Tajik adventurer). Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
  17. Mesny (1905), p. 5.
  18. Tyler (2003), p. 61.
  19. Governors of Xinjiang:Yang Zengxin (1912–1928), Jin Shuren (1928–33), Sheng Shicai(1933–44) .
  20. R. Michael Feener, "Islam in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives", ABC-CLIO, 2004, ISBN 1576075168
  21. Did China's Nuclear Tests Kill Thousands and Doom Future Generations?. Scientific American.
  22. . Lop Nur. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 27, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  23. China Youth Daily (Qingnian Cankao or Elite Reference), August 7, 2009. Hard copy article ( site).
  24. Xinjiang: China's 'other Tibet', 25 March 2008, Al Jazeera
  25. Hierman, Brent. "The Pacification of Xinjiang: Uighur Protest and the Chinese State, 1988-2002." Problems of Post-Communism, May/Jun2007, Vol. 54 Issue 3, pp 48–62
  26. Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland | S Frederick Starr| pp. 355–58 | M.E. Sharpe (June 2004)| ISBN 0765613182
  27. Un incidente en el Pamir (Spanish). Rafael Poch on Accessed 2009-07-27
  28. Elizabeth Van Wie Davis, " China confronts its Uyghur threat," Asia Times Online, 18 April 2008.
  31. References and details on data provided in the table can be found within the individual provincial articles.
  32. Zhōngguó dìmínglù 中国地名录 (Beijing, Zhōngguó dìtú chūbǎnshè 中国地图出版社 1997); ISBN 7-5031-1718-4.
  33. Mesny (1899), p. 386.
  35. A meeting of civilisations: The mystery of China's celtic mummies. The Independent. 28 August 2006.
  36. [ Rumbles on the Rim of China’s Empire
  37. Mesny (1896), p. 310.
  38. Mesny (1896), p. 272.
  39. Mesny (1899), p. 485.
  40. Michael Dillon(2004),p.24
  41. About Xinjiang Region. Language Documentation Center, University of Hawai'i at Manoa 2008.
  42. Xinjiang (autonomous region, China). Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
  43. Johnstone, Patrick; Schirrmacher, Thomas (2003). Gebet für die Welt. Hänssler. p. 267 ISBN 978-0813342757.
  44. [1]
  45. 2000年人口普查中国民族人口资料,民族出版社,2003/9 (ISBN 7-105-05425-5)
  46. Ili AP is composed of Kuitun DACLC, Tacheng Prefecture, Aletai Prefecture, as well as former Ili Prefecture. Ili Prefecture has been disbanded and its former area is now directly administered by Ili AP.
  47. Department of Population, Social, Science and Technology Statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics of China (国家统计局人口和社会科技统计司) and Department of Economic Development of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of China (国家民族事务委员会经济发展司), eds. Tabulation on Nationalities of 2000 Population Census of China (《2000年人口普查中国民族人口资料》). 2 vols. Beijing: Nationalities Publishing House (民族出版社), 2003. (ISBN 7-105-05425-5)
  48. AIDS China, Avert.


  • Beckwith, Christopher I. (2009). Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-13589-2.
  • Findley, Carter Vaughn. 2005. The Turks in World History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516770-8; 0-19-517726-6 (pbk.)
  • Hierman, Brent. "The Pacification of Xinjiang: Uighur Protest and the Chinese State, 1988-2002." Problems of Post-Communism, May/Jun2007, Vol. 54 Issue 3, pp 48–62
  • Mesny, William (1896) Mesny's Chinese Miscellany. Vol. II. William Mesny. Shanghai.
  • Mesny, William (1899) Mesny's Chinese Miscellany. Vol. III. William Mesny. Shanghai.
  • Mesny, William (1905) Mesny's Chinese Miscellany. Vol. IV. William Mesny. Shanghai.
  • Millward, James A. (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13924. (European and Asian edition, London: Hurst, Co., 2007).
  • Tyler, Christian. (2003). Wild West China: The Untold Story of a Frontier Land. John Murray, London. ISBN 0-7195-6341-0.

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