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Xinjiang (; ; ; Postal map spelling: Sinkiang) is an autonomous region (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region[1]) of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2. Xinjiang borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, has abundant oil reserves and is China's largest natural gas-producing region.

It is home to a number of different ethnic groups including the Uyghur, Han, Kazakh, Hui, Kyrgyz and Mongol. More than a dozen autonomous prefectures and counties for minorities are located in Xinjiang. Older English-language reference works often refer to the area as Chinese Turkestan,[2] Sinkiang and East Turkestan. Xinjiang is divided into the Dzungarian Basin in the north and the Tarim Basin in the south by a mountain range. Only about 4.3% of Xinjiang's land area is fit for human habitation.[3]

With a documented history of at least 2,500 years, a succession of peoples and empires has vied for control over all or parts of this territory. Prior to the 21st century, all or part of the region has been ruled or controlled at times by the Tocharians, Yuezhi, Xiongnu Empire, Kushan Empire, Han Empire, Cao Wei, Western Jin Dynasty, Former Liang, Former Qin, Later Liang, Western Li ng, Tang Dynasty, Tibetan Empire Uyghur Khaganate, Kara-Khanid Khanate, Mongol Empire (Yuan Dynasty), Dzungar Khanate, Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China and since 1950 the People's Republic of China.



Xinjiang was previously known as Xiyu ( ) or Qurighar ( ), meaning Western Region, under the Han Dynasty, which drove the Xiongnu empire out of the region in 60 BC. This was in an effort to secure the profitable Silk Road.[4] It was known as Huijiang ( ), meaning "Muslim Frontier," during the Qing Dynasty before becoming the province of Xinjiang, which literally means "New Frontier" or "New Border", in the 1880s.

The general region of Xinjiang has been known by many other names in earlier times including: (Mandarin: xiyu) = 'Western Regions',[5] Chinese Tartary, High Tartary, East Chagatay, Mugholistan, Kashgaria, Altishahr ('the six cities' of the Tarim), Little Bokhara and Serindia.[6] The name "Xinjiang", which literally means "New Frontier", was given during the Qing Dynasty.[8]

Older English-language reference works often refer to the area as Chinese Turkestan,[2] Sinkiang, East Turkestan, or Uyghuristan. More specifically, at times, the term East Turkestan only referred to the Xinjiang area south of the Tian Shan mountains, North of the Tian Shan was called Dzungaria (Zungaria).[9]


Xinjiang is a large, sparsely populated area, spanning over 1.6 million km2 (comparable in size to Iran), which takes up about one sixth of the country's territory. Xinjiang borders the Tibet Autonomous Region and India's Leh District to the south and Qinghai and Gansu provinces to the southeast, Mongolia to the east, Russia to the north, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the west.

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 Depression. In the west, the Tian Shan split, forming the Ili River valley.


Early history

According to J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair, the Chinese sources describe the existence of "white people with lightish hair" or the Bai people in the Shan Hai Jing, who lived beyond their northwestern border.[10]

Blue-eyed Central Asian (Tocharian?) and East-Asian Buddhist monks, Bezeklik, Eastern Tarim Basin, 9th 10th centuries CE.. DISCOVER Magazine. April 1, 1994.
Blue-eyed Central Asian (Tocharian?) and East-Asian Buddhist monks, Bezeklik, Eastern Tarim Basin, 9th 10th centuries CE.[11]
The well-preserved Tarim mummies with Caucasoid features, often with reddish or blond hair, today displayed at the r mqi Museum and dated to the 3rd century BC, have been found in precisely the same area of the Tarim Basin.[12] 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 Gansu) 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 (Guanzi Essays: 73: 78: 80: 81). He described the Yuzhi , or Niuzhi , as a people from the north-west who supplied jade to the Chinese from the nearby mountains of Yuzhi at Gansu.[13] The supply of jade[14] 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 Khotan 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.".[15]

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 and Dunhuang, 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 [= Oxus] 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.[16]

Xiongnu Empire

The Tarim Basin in the 3rd century CE.
The Tarim Basin in the 3rd century CE.
Traversed by the Northern Silk Road,[17] the Tarim and Dzungaria regions were known as the Western Regions. 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 Mongolia.

Han Dynasty

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 ( ) at Wulei ( ; near modern Luntai) to oversee the entire region as far west as the Pamir. Tarim Basin was under the influence and control of the Han dynasty.

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. These campaigns expanded Han sovereignty into the Tarim Basin and Central Asia. This region was also ruled by the Kushan Empire between 114 and 168. 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 Buddha statue from Tumshuq, Xinjiang (5th century CE). This is an example of Serindian art.
A Buddha statue from Tumshuq, Xinjiang (5th century CE). This is an example of Serindian art.

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.[18]

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 Li ng, 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 Qiemo controlled the western half, while the central region around Turpan was controlled by Gaochang, remnants of a state (Northern Liang) that once ruled part of what is now Gansu province in northwestern China.

Tang Dynasty

Westerner on a Bactrian camel, Tang Dynasty 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 Tujue, eventually forcing the surrender of the western Tujue in 657. Xinjiang was placed under the Anxi Protectorate ( ; "Protectorate Pacifying the West"). The protectorate did not outlast the decline of Tang China in the 8th century.

Uyghur Khaganate and Kara-Khanid Khanate

During the devastating Anshi Rebellion, Tibet invaded Tang China on a wide front from Xinjiang to Yunnan, 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.

Sogdian donors to the Buddha (fresco, with detail), Bezeklik, eastern Tarim Basin, 8th century
Sogdian donors to the Buddha (fresco, with detail), Bezeklik, eastern Tarim Basin, 8th century
As both Tibet and the Uyghur Khaganate declined in the mid-9th century, the Kara-Khanid Khanate, which was a confederation of Turkic tribes such as the Karluks, Chigils and Yaghmas,[19] 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 in 840, branches of the Uyghurs established themselves in Qocha (Karakhoja) and Beshbalik near today's Turfan and Urumchi. This Uyghur state would remain in eastern Xinjiang until the 13th century, though it would be subject to various overlords during that time. The Kara-Khanids converted to Islam, whereas the Uyghur state in eastern Xinjiang remained Manicheaean, but later converting to Buddhism.

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.

Mongol Empire and Yuan Dynasty

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 Kashgar area. During the era of the Mongol Empire, the Qubilaid Yuan Dynasty vied for rule with the Chagatai Khanate in the area, with the latter taking control of most of this region. After the break-up of the Chagatai Khanate into smaller khanates in the mid-14th century, the region fractured and was ruled by various 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 Timurids 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.[20] In the 17th century, the Mongolian Dzungars established an empire over much of the region.

Dzungar Empire

The Battle of Oroi-Jalatu in 1756 between the Chinese and western Mongol armies. The Mongolian Dzungar (also Jungar, Zunghar or Zungar; Mongolian: Z ngar) 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 Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia (most of this area is renamed to Xinjiang after the fall of the Dzungar Empire). It existed from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century.

Qing Dynasty

The Manchu Qing Dynasty gained control over eastern Xinjiang as a result of a long struggle with the Zunghars (Dzungars) that began in the 17th century. In 1755, with the help of the Oirat nobel Amursana, the Qing attacked Ghulja, and captured the Zunghar khan. After Amursana's request to be declared Zunghar Khan went unanswered, he led a revolt against the Qing. Over the next two years, Qing armies destroyed the remnants of the Zunghar khanate and colonised parts of Xinjiang with Han and Hui Chinese.[21]

The Dzungars suffered important loss in the brutal campaigns and the smallpox epidemic at the time. One writer, Wei Yuan, described the resulting desolation in what is now northern Xinjiang as: "an empty plain for several thousand li, with no Oirat yurt except those surrendered."[22] It has been estimated that 80% of the 600,000 or more Zunghars were destroyed by a combination of disease and warfare,[23] and it took generations for it to recover.[24] A scene of the Qing campaign against rebels in the East Turkestan, 1828 After the defeat of the Dzungars, 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 Shan 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 Huiyuan (the so-called "Manchu Kuldja", or Yili), 30 km west of Ghulja (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.[25]

Yaqub Beg was a Tajik adventurer who became head of the kingdom of Kashgaria.
Yaqub Beg was a Tajik[26] adventurer who became head of the kingdom of Kashgaria.
Jahangir Khoja invaded Kashgar in 1826 and the Khanate of Kokand conducted raids on Xinjiang. A large slave trade existed in Xinjiang during this time.

By the mid-19th century, the Russian Empire 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 Gansu and Shaanxi provinces further east.[27] Yaqub Beg's Turkic Muslim troops also committed massacres upon the Chinese Muslims.[28] In 1865, Yaqub Beg, a warlord from the neighbouring Khanate of Kokand, entered Xinjiang via Kashgar, and conquered nearly all of Xinjiang over the next six years.[29] At the Battle of r mqi (1870) Yaqub Beg's Turkic forces, allied with a Han Chinese militia, attacked and besieged Chinese Muslim forces in Urumqi. In 1871, Russia took advantage of the chaotic situation and seized the rich Ili River valley, including Gulja. By then, Qing China held onto only a few strongholds, including Tacheng.

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 (1881)).

In 1884, (1882 according to some sources),[30] 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'.[31][32]

Republican era

Flag of the First East Turkestan Republic, which was a short-lived attempt at independence of the lands around Kashgar. In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China. Yuan Dahua, the last Qing governor of Xinjiang, fled. One of his subordinates, Yang Zengxin ( ), 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.[33]

The Kumul Rebellion and other rebellions arose against his successor Jin Shuren ( ) in the early 1930s throughout Xinjiang, involving Uyghurs, other Turkic groups, and Hui (Muslim) Chinese. Jin drafted White Russians to crush the revolt. In the Kashgar region on November 12, 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."[34][35] The region claimed by the ETR in theory encompassed Kashgar, Khotan and Aqsu prefectures in southwestern Xinjiang.[36] The Chinese Muslim Kuomintang 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) destroyed the army of the First East Turkestan Republic at the Battle of Kashgar (1934), bringing the Republic to an end after the Chinese Muslims executed the two Emirs of the Republic, Abdullah Bughra and Nur Ahmad Jan Bughra. The Soviet Union invaded the province in the Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang. In the Xinjiang War (1937), the entire province was brought under the control of northeast Chinese warlord Sheng Shicai ( ), who ruled Xinjiang for the next decade with close support from the Soviet Union, many of whose ethnic and security policies Sheng instituted in Xinjiang. The Soviet Union maintained a military base in Xinjiang and had several military and economic advisors deployed in the region. 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.


1949 present

A Second East Turkistan Republic (2nd ETR, also known as the Three Districts Revolution) existed from 1944 to 1949 with Soviet support in what is now Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture (Ili, Tarbagatay and Altay Districts) in northern Xinjiang.[34] The Second East Turkistan Republic came to an end when the People's Liberation Army entered Xinjiang in 1949.[35] 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.[37]

The Chinese Muslim General Bai Chongxi, advocated swamping Xinjiang with disbanded Chinese soldiers to prevent the Soviet union from seizing control during this time.[38]

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 October 1, 1955, replacing the province.[35] The PRC's first nuclear test was carried out at Lop Nur, Xinjiang, on October 16, 1964. Although reports in western media report that between 100,000 and 200,000 people may have been killed in the testing,[39] the Lop Nur area has not been permanently inhabited since about 1920[40] and PRC media dispute these numbers, but without providing an alternate number.[41]

During the Great Chinese Famine (1958 1961), Xinjiang experienced a great emigration of residents both to the Soviet Union and to East China. After a number of student demonstrations in the 1980s, the Baren Township riot of April 1990 led to more than 20 deaths.[42] 1997 saw the Ghulja Incident and Urumqi bus bombs,[43] while police continue to battle with religious separatists from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

Han Youwen, a Salar General, once served as Vice Chairman of Xinjiang.

In recent years Xinjiang has been a focal point of ethnic and other tensions.[44][45]

Recent incidents include the 2007 Xinjiang raid,[46] a thwarted 2008 suicide bombing attempt on a China Southern Airlines flight,[47] and the 2008 Xinjiang attack which resulted in the deaths of sixteen police officers four days before the Beijing Olympics.[48][49] Further incidents include the July 2009 r mqi riots, the September 2009 Xinjiang unrest, and the 2010 Aksu bombing that led to the trials of 376 people.[50]

From 1949 to 2001, education has expanded greatly in the region, with 6,221 primary schools up from 1,335; 1,929 middle schools up from 9, and institutions of higher learning at 21, up from 1. The illiteracy rate for young and middle-aged people has decreased to less than 2%. Agricultural science has made inroads into the region, as well as innovative methods of road construction in the desert. Culturally, Xinjiang maintains 81 public libraries and 23 museums, compared to none of each in 1949, and Xinjiang has 98 newspapers in 44 languages, up from 4 newspapers in 1952. According to official statistics, the ratios of doctors, medical workers, medical clinics, and hospital beds to people surpass the national average, and immunization rates have reached 85%.[51]


Xinjiang is divided into two prefecture-level cities, seven prefectures, and five autonomous prefectures for Mongol, Kirgiz, Kazakh and Hui minorities . (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. Five 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[52]
Map of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
Map # Conventional[53] Administrative Seat Uyghur (UEY)
Uyghur Latin (ULY)
Hanyu pinyin
Population (2010)
Sub-Provincial Autonomous Prefecture
11 Ili (Yili) Prefecture
(for Kazakh)
Yining (Gulja)

Y l H s k Z zh zh u
Prefecture-level city
4 Karamay Karamay District

K l m y Sh
8 r mqi Tianshan District

W l m q Sh
1 Altay Prefecture
subordinate to Ili (Yili) Prefecture (for Kazakh)

l t i D q
3 Tacheng (Tarbagatay) Prefecture
subordinate to Ili (Yili) Prefecture (for Kazakh)
Tacheng (Qoqek)

T ch ng D q
9 Turpan Prefecture Turpan

T l f n D q
10 Kumul (Hami) Prefecture Kumul (Hami)

H m D q
13 Kaxgar (Kashi) Prefecture Kaxgar (Kashi)

K sh D q
15 Aksu Prefecture Aksu

k s D q
17 Hotan Prefecture Hotan

H ti n D q
Autonomous prefectures
2 Bortala Prefecture
(for Mongol)
Bole (Bortala)

B ' rt l M ngg Z zh zh u
6 Changji Prefecture
(for Hui)

Ch ngj Hu z Z zh zh u
12 Kizilsu Prefecture
( for Kirgiz)

K z l s K ' rk z Z zh zh u
18 Bayingolin Prefecture
(for Mongol)

B y ngu l ng M ngg Z zh zh u
Sub-prefecture-level city
(Administered by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps)
5 Shihezi Shihezi

Sh h z Sh
7 Wujiaqu Wujiaqu

W ji q Sh
14 Tumxuk Tumxuk

T m sh k Sh
16 Aral Aral

l ' r Sh
19 Beitun Beitun

B it n Sh

a. The population figures does not include Altay Prefecture or Tacheng Prefecture which are subordinate to Ili Prefecture.

Geography and geology

Close to Karakoram Highway in Xinjiang.

Tianchi lake.
Tianchi lake.
Black Irtysh river in Burqin County.
Black Irtysh river in Burqin County.
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 Shan 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 Taklamakan Desert. The lowest point in Xinjiang, and in the entire PRC, is the Turpan Depression, 155 metres below sea level; its highest point is the mountain K2, 8611 metres above sea level, on the border with Pakistan. Other mountain ranges include the Pamir Mountains in the southeast, the Karakoram in the south, and the Altai Mountains 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 Shan, Kunlun Shan, 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 Kazakhstan, 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 Shan mountain range marks the Xinjiang-Kyrgyzstan border at the Torugart Pass (3752 m). The Karakorum highway (KKH) links Islamabad, Pakistan with Kashgar over the Khunjerab Pass.

Rivers include the Tarim River.


Technically, people are supposed to set their clock to the uniform time Beijing time throughout China, but due to Xinjiang's westernmost position in China, some local residents follow their own unofficial time Xinjiang time time corresponds to the UTC+6 time zone, Beijing time corresponds to UTC+8). Thus, for instance, a movie that opens at 9:00 pm Beijing time, opens at 7:00 Xinjiang time.


Deserts include:

Major cities


Generally, a semi-arid or desert climate (K ppen BSk or BWk, respectively) prevails in Xinjiang. The region is marked by great seasonal differences in temperature.


List of Secretaries of the CPC Xinjiang Committee

  1. Wang Zhen ( ): 1949 1952
  2. Wang Enmao ( ): 1952 1967
  3. Long Shujin ( ): 1970 1972
  4. Saifuddin Azizi ( ): 1972 1978
  5. Wang Feng ( ): 1978 1981
  6. Wang Enmao ( ): 1981 1985
  7. Song Hanliang ( ): 1985 1994
  8. Wang Lequan ( ): 1994 2010
  9. Zhang Chunxian ( ): 2010 incumbent

List of Chairmen of Xinjiang Government

  1. Saifuddin Azizi ( ): 1955 1967
  2. Long Shujin ( ): 1968 1972
  3. Saifuddin Azizi: 1972 1978
  4. Wang Feng ( ): 1978 1979
  5. Ismail Amet ( ): 1979 1985
  6. Tomur Dawamat ( ): 1985 1993
  7. Abdul'ahat Abdulrixit ( ): 1993 2003
  8. Ismail Tiliwaldi ( ): 2003 2007
  9. Nur Bekri ( ): 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.[54]

Xinjiang's nominal GDP was approximately 220 billion RMB (28 billion USD) in 2004, and increased to 657.4 billion RMB (104.3 billion USD) in 2011, due to exploration of the regions abundant reserves of coal, crude oil and natural and the China Western Development policy introduced by the State Council to boost economic development in Western China.[55] Its per capita GDP for 2009 was 19,798 RMB (2,898 USD), with a growth rate of 1.7%.[55] Southern Xinjiang, with 95 per cent non-Han population has an average per capita income half that of Xinjiang as a whole.[56]

The oil and gas extraction industry in Aksu and Karamay is booming, with the West East Gas Pipeline connecting to Shanghai. The oil and petrochemical sector account for 60% of Xinjiang's local economy.[57] Sunday market in Khotan 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 Kazakhstan through Ala Pass. China's first border free trade zone (Horgos Free Trade Zone) was located at the Xinjiang-Kazakhstan border city of Horgos.[58] Horgos is the largest "land port" in China's western region and it has easy access to the Central Asian market. Xinjiang also opened its second border trade market to Kazakhstan in March 2006, the Jeminay Border Trade Zone.[59]

In July 2010 China Daily reported that:

Local governments in China's 19 provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Zhejiang and Liaoning, are engaged in the commitment of "pairing assistance" support projects in Xinjiang to promote the development of agriculture, industry, technology, education and health services in the region.[60]

Economic and Technological Development Zones

  • Bole Border Economic Cooperation Area[61]
  • Shihezi Border Economic Cooperation Area[62]
  • Tacheng Border Economic Cooperation Area[63]
  • Urumqi Economic & Technological Development Zone r mqi is a major industrial center within Xinjiang

Urumqi Economic and Technological Development Zone is located northwest of Urumqi. It was approved in 1994 by the State Council as a national level economic and technological development zones. It is located 1.5 km away from the Urumqi International Airport, 2 km from the North Railway Station, and 10 km from the city center. Wu Chang Expressway and 312 National Road passes through the Zone. The development has unique resources and geographical advantages. Xinjiang's vast land, rich in various resources, borders 8 countries. As the leading economic zone, it brings together the resources of Xinjiang's industrial development, capital, technology, information, personnel and other factors of production.[64]

  • Urumqi Export Processing Zone

Urumuqi Export Processing Zone is located in Urumuqi Economic and Technology Development Zone. It was established in 2007 as a state-level export processing zone.[65]

  • Urumqi New & Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone

Urumuqi Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone was established in 1992, and it is the only high-tech development zone in Xinjiang, China. There are more than 3470 enterprises in the zone, of which 23 are Fortune 500 companies. It has a planned area of 9.8 square kilometres, and it is divided into 4 zones. There are future plans to expand the zone.[66]

  • Yining Border Economic Cooperation Area[67]


The languages of Xinjang. The earliest Tarim mummies, dated to 1800 BC, are of a Caucasoid physical type.[68] 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.[69][70]

Muslim Turkic peoples in Xinjiang include Uyghurs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tatars and the Kazakhs; Muslim Iranian peoples include 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 (Oirats, Dagur, Dongxiang), Russians, Xibes, and Manchus. As of 1945, there were up to 70,000 persons of Russian origin living in Xinjiang.[71]

The Han Chinese of Xinjiang arrived at different times, from different directions and social backgrounds: they are descendants of criminals and officials who had been exiled from China proper during the second half of the eighteenth and first half of the 19th centuries; descendants of families of military and civil officers from Hunan, Yunnan, Gansu and Manchuria; descendants of merchants from Shanxi, Tianjin, Hubei and Hunan and descendants of peasants who started immigrating into the region in 1776.[72]

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. Three Uyghur girls at a Sunday market in the oasis city Khotan At the start of the 19th century, forty years after the Qing reconquest, there were something like 155,000 Han and Hui Chinese in northern Xinjiang, and somewhat more than twice that number of Uyghurs in southern Xinjiang.[73] A census of the time tabulated ethnic shares of the population as 60% Turkic and 30% Han.[74] Before 1831 only a few hundred Chinese merchants lived in southern Xinjiang oases(Tarim Basin), and only a few Uyghurs lived in northern Xinjiang (Dzungaria).[75] After 1831 the Qing permitted and encouraged Han Chinese migration into the Tarim basin in southern Xinjiang, although with very little success, and stationed permanent troops on the land there as well.[76] Political killings and expulsions of non Uyghur populations in the uprisings of the 1860s[76] and 1930s saw them experience a sharp decline as a percentage of the total population[77] though they rose once again in the periods of stability following 1880 (which saw Xinjiang increase its population from 1.2 million)[78][79] and 1949. From a low of 7% in 1953, the Han began to return to Xinjiang between then and 1964, where they comprised 33% of the population (54% Uyghur), similarly to Qing times. A decade later, at the beginning of the Chinese economic reform in 1978, the demographic balance was 46% Uyghur and 40% Han;[74] this has not changed drastically until the last census in 2000, with the Uyghur population reduced to 42%.[80] Military personnel are not counted and national minorities are undercounted in the Chinese census, as in most censuses.[81] While some of the shift has be attributed to an increased Han presence,[82] Uyghurs have also emigrated to other parts of China, where their numbers have increased steadily. Uyghur independence activists claim that the Han population will dilute the Uyghur character of the region, but the Han and Hui Chinese mostly live in northern Xinjiang Dzungaria, and are separated from areas of historical Uyghur dominance south of the Tian Shan mountains(southwestern Xinjiang), where Uyghurs account for about 90% of the population.[83]

In general, Uyghurs are the majority in southwestern Xinjiang, including the prefectures of Kashgar, Khotan, Kizilsu, and Aksu(about 80% of Xinjiang's Uyghurs live in those four prefectures), as well as Turpan prefecture in eastern Xinjiang. Han are the majority in eastern and northern Xinjiang(Dzungaria), including the cities of Urumqi, Karamay, Shihezi and the prefectures of Changjyi, Bortala, Bayin'gholin, Ili (especially the cities of Kuitun), and Kumul. Kazakhs are mostly concentrated in Ili prefecture in northern Xinjiang. Kazakhs are the majority in the northernmost part of Xinjiang.

Ethnic groups in Xinjiang, 2000 census.
Excludes members of the People's Liberation Army in active service.[83]
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
Major ethnic groups in Xinjiang by region, 2000 census.[84][85]
Uyghurs Han Kazakhs others
Xinjiang 45.2% 40.6% 6.7% 7.5%
r mqi PLC 12.8% 75.3% 2.3% 9.6%
Karamay PLC 13.8% 78.1% 3.7% 4.5%
Turpan Prefecture 70.0% 23.3% <0.1% 6.6%
Kumul Prefecture 18.4% 68.9% 8.8% 3.9%
Changji AP + Wujiaqu DACLC 3.9% 75.1% 8.0% 13.0%
Bortala AP 12.5% 67.2% 9.1% 11.1%
Bayin'gholin AP 32.7% 57.5% <0.1% 9.7%
Aksu Prefecture + Aral DACLC 71.9% 26.6% <0.1% 1.4%
Kizilsu AP 64.0% 6.4% <0.1% 29.6%
Kashgar Prefecture + Tumushuke DACLC 89.3% 9.2% <0.1% 1.5%
Khotan Prefecture 96.4% 3.3% <0.1% 0.2%
Ili AP[86] 16.1% 44.4% 25.6% 13.9%
Kuitun DACLC 0.5% 94.6% 1.8% 3.1%
former Ili Prefecture 27.2% 32.4% 22.6% 17.8%
Tacheng Prefecture 4.1% 58.6% 24.2% 13.1%
Altay Prefecture 1.8% 40.9% 51.4% 5.9%
Shihezi DACLC 1.2% 94.5% 0.6% 3.7%


Xinjiang is home to several distinct ethnic groups of various religious traditions, with the majority of the region's total population adhering to Islam.[87] Afaq Khoja Mausoleum and Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar are among the most important Islamic sites in Xinjiang. Emin Minaret is another key Islamic site, in Turfan. Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves is a major Buddhist site. According to one source, more than 2% of the population are Christians.[88] Action against Christian activity tends to be stricter than in other parts of China.[89]


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.[90] The Xinjiang Economic Daily is considered one of China's most dynamic newspapers.[91]

For a time after the July 2009 riots, authorities placed restrictions on the internet and text messaging, gradually permitting access to websites like Xinhua's,[92] until restoring Internet to the same level as the rest of China on May 14, 2010.[93][94][95]


Xinjiang is home to the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers professional 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 July 24, 2007. The 56 km highway linking Sayram Lake 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.


Xinjiang is linked to the rest of China by a single railway, the Lanzhou-Xinjiang (Lanxin) Railway, which runs from r mqi to Lanzhou through the Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province. This railway connects the regional capital, r mqi, with Turpan and Hami in eastern Xinjiang. West of r mqi, the Northern Xinjiang (Beijiang) Railway runs along the northern footslopes of the Tian Shan range through Changji, Shihezi, Kuytun and Jinghe to the Kazakh border at Alashankou, where it links up with the Turkestan-Siberia Railway of Central Asia. The Lanxin and Beijiang lines form part of the Trans-Eurasian Continental Railway, which extends from Rotterdam, on the North Sea, to Lianyungang, on the East China Sea.

The Second r mqi-Jinghe Railway opened in 2009 to supplement rail transport capacity on the Northern Xinjiang Railway between r mqi and Jinghe. From Jinghe, the Jinghe-Yining-Horgos Railway heads southwest into the Ili River Valley to Yining, Huocheng, and Khorgos, a second rail border crossing with Kazakhstan. From Kuytun, the Kuytun-Beitun Railway runs north into the Junggar Basin to Karamay and Beitun, near Altay in northern Xinjiang. The r mqi-Dzungaria Railway connects r mqi with coal fields in the eastern Junggar Basin.

The Southern Xinjiang (Nanjiang) Railway branches off of the Lanxin Line at Turpan and heads southwest along the southern footslopes of the Tian Shan into the Tarim Basin, with stops at Yanqi, Korla, Kuqa, Aksu, Maralbexi (Bachu), Artux, and Kashgar. From Kashgar, the Kashgar-Hotan Railway, follows the southern rim of the Tarim to Hotan, with stops at Shule, Akto, Yengisar, Shache (Yarkant), Yecheng (Karghilik), Moyu (Karakax).

A high-speed railway between Urumqi and Lanzhou is currently under construction.

See also


  1. Xinjang Uy ur Aptonom Rayoni in SASM/GNC romanization
  2. a b
  4. Hill (2009), pp. xviii, 60.
  5. Tyler (2003), p. 3.
  6. [7]
  7. Map of China 1900
  8. J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair The Tarim Mummies, p. 55, ISBN 0-500-05101-1. "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."
  9. The Mummies of Xinjiang. DISCOVER Magazine. April 1, 1994.
  10. Iaroslav Lebedynsky, Les Saces, ISBN 2-87772-337-2, p59.
  11. Michael Dillon, China: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary.
  12. Liu (2001), pp. 267 268
  13. 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.
  14. E. de la Vaissi re, "The triple system of orography in Ptolemy's Xinjiang", in Exegisti monumenta Festschrift in Honour of Nicholas Sims-Williams, Harrassowitz, 2009
  15. Millward (2007), p.98
  16. Wei Yuan, Sheng Wu Ji, vol. 4.
  17. Chu, Wen-Djang (1966). The Moslem Rebellion in Northwest China 1862 1878. Mouton & co.. p. 1.
  18. Tyler (2003), p. 55
  19. Millward (2007), p. 104
  20. Yakub Beg-Britannica
  21. Ho-dong Kim(2004),p.71.
  22. (Original from Oxford University)August 10, 1871
  23. Yakub Beg ([[Pamiri people|Pamiri] adventurer)]. Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
  24. Mesny (1905), p. 5.
  25. Tyler (2003), p. 61.
  26. Governors of Xinjiang:Yang Zengxin (1912 1928), Jin Shuren (1928 33), Sheng Shicai(1933 44)
  27. a b R. Michael Feener, "Islam in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives", ABC-CLIO, 2004, ISBN 1-57607-516-8
  28. a b c
  29. Millward, James A. (2007). Eurasian crossroads: A history of Xinjiang. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. p.24
  30. (Cambridge studies in Chinese history, literature, and institutions Soviet and East European Studies)
  31. Did China's Nuclear Tests Kill Thousands and Doom Future Generations?. Scientific American.
  32. Lop Nur. (2009). In Encyclop dia Britannica. Retrieved November 27, 2009, from Encyclop dia Britannica Online
  33. China Youth Daily (Qingnian Cankao or Elite Reference), August 7, 2009. Hard copy article (site).
  34. Elizabeth Van Wie Davis, "China confronts its Uyghur threat," Asia Times Online, April 18, 2008.
  35. References and details on data provided in the table can be found within the individual provincial articles.
  36. Zh nggu d m ngl (Beijing, Zh nggu d t ch b nsh 1997); ISBN 7-5031-1718-4.
  37. Mesny (1899), p. 386.
  38. a b
  39. Millward (2007), p. 305
  40. | Bole Border Economic Cooperation Area
  41. | Shihezi Border Economic Cooperation Area
  42. | Tacheng Border Economic Cooperation Area
  43. | Urumqi Economic & Technological Development Zone
  44. | Urumqi Export Processing Zone
  45. | Urumuqi Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone
  46. | Yining Border Economic Cooperation Area
  47. .
  48. A meeting of civilisations: The mystery of China's celtic mummies. The Independent. August 28, 2006.
  49. Rumbles on the Rim of China s Empire
  50. George Ginsburgs (1983). "The citizenship law of the USSR". p.309. ISBN 9024728630
  51. Hann (2008). Community matters in Xinjiang. ISBN 978-90-04-16675-2. p51/52
  52. Millward, James A. (2007). Eurasian crossroads: A history of Xinjiang. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. p. 306
  53. a b
  54. Millward, James A. (2007). Eurasian crossroads: A history of Xinjiang. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. p. 104
  55. a b Millward, James A. (2007). Eurasian crossroads: A history of Xinjiang. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3. p. 105
  56. Hann (2008). Community matters in Xinjiang. ISBN 978-90-04-16675-2. p52
  57. Mesny (1896), p. 272.
  58. Mesny (1899), p. 485.
  59. a b Department of Population, Social, Science and Technology Statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics of China ( ) and Department of Economic Development of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of China ( ), eds. Tabulation on Nationalities of 2000 Population Census of China ( 2000 ). 2 vols. Beijing: Nationalities Publishing House ( ), 2003. (ISBN 7-105-05425-5)
  60. 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.
  61. 2000 2003/9 (ISBN 7-105-05425-5)
  62. 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.
  63. BBC Regions and territories:Xinjiang
  64. Johnstone, Patrick; Schirrmacher, Thomas (2003). Gebet f r die Welt. H nssler. p. 267 ISBN 978-0-8133-4275-7.



  • 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.
  • Kim, Hodong, Holy War in China: The Muslim Rebellion and State in Chinese Central Asia, 1864 1877 (Stanford, Stanford UP, 2004).
  • 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.
  • Yap, Joseph P. (2009). ``Wars With The Xiongnu A translation From Zizhi Tongjian`` AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4490-0604-4

External links

ace:Xinjiang ar: an:X nji ng az: zh-min-nan:Sin-kiong Uyghur Ch -t -khu be: - be-x-old: - bg: - bo: br:Xinjiang ca:Xinjiang cv: - cs:Sin- iang cy:Xinjiang da:Xinjiang de:Xinjiang et:Xinjiang es:Sinkiang eo: in jango eu:Xinjiang fa: fr:Xinjiang gv:Xinjiang gl:Xinjiang gan: hak:S n-ki ng xal: ko: hi: hsb:Ujgurska hr:Xinjiang id:Xinjiang os: - is:Xinjiang it:Xinjiang he: ' ka: kk: la:Uiguristania lv:Si dzjana lt:Sindziangas hu:Hszincsiang Ujgur Auton m Ter let mr: ms:Xinjiang mn: - nl:Sinkiang ja: no:Xinjiang nn:Xinjiang uz:Uyg uriston pnb: pl:Sinciang pt:Xinjiang ro:Xinjiang qu:Sinkiyan Uyq'ur ru: - sah: sco:Xinjiang sq:Sinkiang scn:Xinjiang simple:Xinjiang sk:Sin- iang sr: sh:Xinjiang su:Sinjiang fi:Xinjiang sv:Xinjiang tl:Xinjiang ta: th: tr:Sincan Uygur zerk B lgesi bug:Xinjiang Uyghur uk: - ur: ug: vi:T n C ng zh-classical: war:Xinjiang wuu: zh-yue: zh:

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