The Term ‘Uighur’ (ئۇيغۇر) – Etymology and Historical Development (维吾尔) – China Loves its Muslim Populations!


Within the Chinese language, the identifying (ethnic) term ‘Uighur’ (also spelt ‘Uygur’ or ‘Uyghur’ etc, in various other English transliterations) is written as ‘维吾尔’ (Wei Wu Er). This can be translated as:

维 (Wei2) = connect, link, hold together

吾 (Wu2) = (literary and dialectical usage) I, my

尔 (Er3) = you, thou, thus

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Taken literally, the term ‘Uighur’ (维吾尔) in the Chinese rendering would appear to suggest a meaning such as ‘that which holds you and me together’. Whether this is deliberate is difficult to discern with any great certainty, as the Chinese term ‘维吾尔’ (Wei Wu Er) is thought to be a ‘transliteration’ of the Turkic term for ‘Uighur’ (which is written in Arabic script as ‘ئۇيغۇر’) rather than a straight (and intended) ‘translation’. In other words, the Chinese characters used to describe the term ‘Uighur’ seem to be chosen for similarity of ‘sound’ rather than for exact ‘meaning’, nevertheless, the coincidental meaning of these collected ideograms is curious and intriguing, as many transliterated terms bear no resemblance to the actual meaning of the words being rendered into the Chinese language.  Whatever the case, modern Uyghur is the common language spoken by the Uyghur people and belongs to the Turkic branch of the Altaic language group (with Uighur people living inside and outside of China making use of Cyrillic, Latin and Arabic written scripts). Within China today there are three known dialects of the Uighur language:

1)  中心 (Zhongxin)

2) 和田 (Hetian)

3) 罗布 (Luobo)


Reliable Chinese language texts state that the term ‘Uighur’ was coined only in 1935 by Nationalist General Sheng Shicai (盛世才), who served as the Military Governor of Xinjiang province from 1933-1944. The history of Sheng Shicai in English sources is unreliable and the product of US anti-intellectualism (constituting a ‘pseudo-history’ at variance with reliable extant Chinese language sources). Whereas this Western fantasists depict Sheng Shicai as a rampaging Soviet-inspired maniac bizarrely applying Hitlerite policies of murderous genocide in Xinjiang, an official Chinese academic source describes this period of history in te following terms:

‘In 1935, following the efforts of the Communist Party of China and the strong demands of the people of all ethnic groups, Sheng Shicai took some progressive measures and put forward six policies of ‘anti-imperialist, pro-Soviet, national equality, clean, peaceful, and construction.’ In the same year, the Communist Party of China led the People’s Organizations of all ethnic groups to form the mass anti-imperialist struggle organization entitled ‘Xinjiang People’s Anti-imperialist Federation’ and published the manifesto of the ‘Anti-Imperialist Front.’ In 1937, part of the Chinese Workers and Peasants Red Army West Road Army, which went north to fight against the Japanese, entered Xinjiang. Then, the Party Central Committee and Chairman Mao successively sent Chen Tanqiu, Mao Zemin, and Lin Jilu to Xinjiang, and actively carried out work in accordance with the Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The Communist Party members working in Xinjiang have overcome many difficulties, implemented the Party’s principles and policies, and spread Marxism-Leninism in Xinjiang. Mao Zedong’s works ‘On Protracted War’ and ‘New Democracy’ were published in Xinjiang. With the development of the Communist Party in Xinjiang, the Uygur and Xinjiang people learned the truth about the Revolution and the people’s life improved to some extent. In 1942, Sheng Shicai publicly voted for the Kuomintang, and Chiang Kaishek’s anti-Soviet and anti-Communist policies and saw Xinjiang Communist Party members, progressive people, patriotic youth and innocent working people brutally persecuted. A large number of Communist Party members and progressive people such as Chen Tanqiu, Mao Zemin and Lin Jilu were thrown into prison and secretly killed. The Revolutionary ancestors sacrificed their precious lives for the cause of the Communist Party and the interests of the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.’

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As can be seen, Sheng Shicai was progressive at first, and regressive later in his career. Whereas the relatively small number of victims of Chiang Kaishek’s destructive policies in Xinjiang were predominantly members of the Communist Party of China and it supprters (and not ‘100,000’s of Uighurs’ as the ludicrously inaccurate English-language Wikipedia states), in the early days Sheng Shicai did try to assist the Uighur people of Xinjiang – even establishing the name ‘Uighur’ as a modern indicator of their ethnic, religious and cultural origination and historical development. The year of 1935 marks the date that the term ‘Uighur’ started to be used within official Chinese texts, but it is reasonable to assume that Sheng Shicai (and his advisors) were making use of a name that already existed within the cultural milieu of the Turkic people of Xinjiang. The term ‘Uighur’ is recorded as having three definitions:

1) 团结 (Tian Jie) = ‘Group Unity’

2) 联合 (Lian He) = ‘United Together’

3) 协助 (Xie Zhu) = ‘Mutual Assistance’


‘Uighur’ is probably a modern derivative of an old tribal name. During the 4th century the Uighur were known as the ‘Yuan Ge’ (袁纥), in the late 6th and early 7th century the Uighur were known as the ‘Wei Ge’ (韦纥), and prior to 788 CE the Uighur were referred to as the ‘Hui Ge’ (回纥). After 788 CE and 1370 CE the Uighur were known as the ‘Hui Hu’ (回鹘), whereas from 1370 CE to 1740 CE, the Uighur had the name of ‘Wei Wu Er’ (畏兀儿). From 1740 to the early 1920’s, the Uighur carried the names of ‘Hui Bu’ (回部) and ‘Chan Hui’ (缠回). Interestingly, the Chinese Muslims of Arabic descent (living in Ningxia and elsewhere) who are unrelated to the Uighur are also referred to as ‘Hui’ (回) – with ‘Hui’ being synonymous with ‘Muslim’. This association is probably coincidental, as Ming and Qing Dynasty officials tended to refer to ALL ‘foreigners’ from the north (with dark complexions) as ‘Hui’ – after the 8th and 9th century Uighur State – even though at this time the Uighurs were not yet Islamic. Whereas many Uighur today retain their Central and East Asian looks (with many resembling East Indians) – with others looking distinctly ‘European’ – the Hui Muslims, by comparison, mostly Han Chinese ethnic origin (despite having a distant Arab ancestor).

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Chinese Language Reference:盛世才




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