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The Best of the Art of Chinese Central Asia in 2014


There were many changes in Xinjiang in 2014. While some segments of the population saw 2014 as a year full of exciting new developments; others saw it as a year of increased desperation. Despite these changes life goes on. People always find a ways to survive and thrive. Below are our five most read pieces in 2014.

Thank you to all of you that follow this blog for your continued support and readership. We are looking forward to bringing you more interesting stories of life in Chinese Central Asia in 2015.

  1. So You Think Uyghurs Can Dance? May 2014

“With the so much attention being paid to violence emanating from Xinjiang, many of you may have missed the parade of Uyghur dancers who have recently taken the stage on the Chinese version of “So You Think You Can Dance” (Zhongguo Hao Wudao). Not only do we have the child star turned adult tap-dancer Yusupjan, the nine-year old break-dancer Surat Taxpolat who goes by the stagename “Little Meatball”, and the teenage break dancerUmid Tursun but we also have the model family of Gulmira Memet a young dance instructor from the Xinjiang Art Institute in Ürümchi.”

  1. Traffic Lights and Uyghur Black Humor April 2014

“On April 13, 2014 Abdulbasit Ablimit a 17-year-old from a small town near Aqsu was shot twice. It appears as though he had run a red light on his electric motor-scooter and, rather than stop and pay a fine, he had fled. According to his friends, three kilometers later he was shot . . . . Like all reports of violence in Xinjiang the details are fuzzy. For instance, we don’t know what happened to Abdulbasit’s two friends who were riding on the back of the scooter on the way home from a friend’s house at 9:40 pm Xinjiang-time. But for the story I want to tell here, those details are less important. What is important is the way Uyghurs across the Uyghur Internet responded to the incident. Uyghurs wrote hundreds of messages on Weixin, Weibo, and Uyghur-language message boards. As mentions of Aqsu and Kelpin county were deleted from social media, Uyghurs took to the famous songs, poems and memes of Uyghur pop culture as a way of circulating their grief and outrage with what Uyghur life has become. In direct reference to these carriers of meaning – many of which I have addressed on this blog – they twisted their tears into dark laughter.”

  1. Why are Uyghurs so Good at English? September 2014

“Ever since Kasim Abdurehim, the founder of the private English school Atlan, took third place in the national English speaking contest in 2004, Uyghurs have found their way into the final rounds of almost every major English speaking competition in the nation. This year was no exception. The main difference is that now Uyghurs are learning how to be confident in their English ability at a younger age. It is because of people like Kasim and dozens of other award winning role models that kids like 14 year-old Tughluk Tursunjan feel confident on a national stage. Although Uyghurs represent less than one percent of China’s population, they still consistently beat Han contestants from the best schools in the country.”

  1. Perhat a Gracious Uyghur Voice from Northwest China September 2014

“Perhat has a lot of fans in Ürümchi. Walking around on college campuses it is not unusual to hear Han students humming a few lines of the chorus of “How Can You Let Me Be So Sad” – the song popularized by the Uyghur rock star Perhat on The Voice of China back in August. Uyghur students are in awe of how he has become so famous so quickly. They say things like, ‘Wow, now Perhat is hanging out with rock stars like Wang Feng who sold out the Bird’s Nest in Beijing; just a few months ago I said hello to him when I saw him buying stuff at the corner store.’”

  1. The Uyghur Rock Star Perhat on the Voice of China August 2014

“It has been two weeks since the Uyghur rock star Perhat Khaliq took on The Voice of China. The Uyghur Internet is still buzzing about the way he delivered his songs of loss and longing to the national audience. Perhat surprised everyone with the painful tension in his voice. Strumming an acoustic guitar he started his song in a low, almost spoken -word register that slowly evolved into a full roar.”

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Dr. Darren Byler is an Assistant Professor of International Studies at Simon Fraser University where he teaches and writes about social theory, urban ethnography and the technopolitics of life in Chinese Central Asia. He also writes a regular column on state violence and Uyghur decolonization for SupChina.

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