All posts tagged: Migrants

Hong Qi, the Uyghur Folksinger who grew up Han

The Uyghur Chinese musician and poet Hong Qi celebrated his forty-first birthday last May 6. He doesn’t know if that day was really his birthday. He said his mother just guessed. There is a lot that Hong Qi doesn’t know about his origins. He is one of those rare Uyghurs who grew up thinking he was Han. Hong Qi was born into a situation of extreme poverty. Hotan—the prefecture in the south of Xinjiang where he lived until age three—is the poorest prefecture in the nation. According to government statistics, in 2012 the average per capita income for the 2 million Uyghurs in Hotan was $183. Although he was born in a prefecture where the population was more than 90 percent Uyghur, Hong Qi didn’t realize he was Uyghur until he was 16. That was when his Han parents told him he was adopted. Like many military families in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, Hong Qi moved a lot as a kid. He spent significant portions of his childhood in Ürümchi. He read a …

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Wen Muye’s “Battle” and Uyghur Life in Chinese Cities

The short film Battle (with English subtitles) offers viewers a perspective of Uyghur life in major Chinese cities outside of Xinjiang. Having lived in Northwest China for extended periods of time, it was striking to see how evocative it is of life for Uyghurs outside of their homeland. Last week on a 24-hour layover in Shanghai I met five Uyghurs and one Uzbek. The first couple I met were at the base of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower bargaining for student priced tickets to the 220 yuan observation deck. The young man and his young girlfriend were from Uzbekistan and Ürümchi respectively; he was a non-matriculated student at a local Shanghai university and she lived in Shanghai with her family. Judging by the amount of jewelry and makeup she had on under her floral headscarf, she was just getting to know and impress her Uzbek suitor. They were an interesting pair; helping each other negotiate in a Chinese world. The next trio of Uyghurs I met were selling hashish in whispered voices on the streets …

Speaking for the “Dao Lang”: Cultural appropriation and the singer Luo Lin

I first heard of “Dao Lang” from an economics professor on the way to a fancy dinner at a four star hotel on the northwest corner of the People’s Square in downtown Urumqi.[1] We had been discussing our taste in cars as we slowly careened across three lanes of traffic and walkers. The professor said she found the American Hummer to be the best car and then turning, as though catalysed by the brawn and force of a combination of army machine and Michigan muscle, she asked if I had ever heard of Dao Lang. She said he was the best Xinjiang singer. Later during the dinner with an investment banker who commuted between Urumqi and Beijing, she brought him up again. The banker too attested to his fondness of Dao Lang’s musical stylings. He said that, after coming to Xinjiang, listening to Dao Lang just made sense. He liked his “flavour.” As I mentioned last week, one of the reasons the recent red song “Harmonious Xinjiang” does not resonate with marginalized minority people is …