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Uyghur is a Turkic language spoken by the Uyghur people in Xinjiang (also called East Turkestan or Uyghurstan), formerly also “Sinkiang” and “Chinese Turkestan,” a Central Asian region administered by China. In English, the name of the ethnicity and its language is spelled variously as Uyghur, Uighur, Uygur and Uigur, with the preferred spelling being Uyghur. Many English speakers pronounce it as "wEEger".
The Uyghur language belongs to the Qarluq group of the Turkic language family, which is among the Altaic languages. Uyghur is spoken by 8.5 million (2004) in China, mostly in the far western Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Uyghur is also spoken by 300,000 in Kazakhstan, and there are Uyghur-speaking communities in Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA, and Uzbekistan.
The dialects of Uyghur identified by the Ethnologue are Central Uyghur, Hotan (Hetian), and Lop (Luobu). There are two main languages in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Uyghur and Mandarin Chinese. Mandarin Chinese is not used widely in southern Xinjiang. About 80 newspapers and magazines are available in Uyghur; five TV channels and ten publishers serve as the Uyghur media. The same as in all China, all of the information and news provided has to be censored by the government.
The relics of the Uyghur culture constitute major collections in the museums of Berlin, London, Paris, Tokyo, St. Petersburg, and New Delhi. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, scientific and archaeological expeditions to the region of Eastern Turkestan’s Silk Road discovered numerous cave temples, monastery ruins, and wall paintings, as well as valuable miniatures, books, and documents. Explorers from Europe, America, and even Japan were amazed by the art treasures found there, and soon their reports caught the attention of an interested public around the world. The manuscripts and documents discovered in Xinjiang (Uyghurstan/Eastern Turkestan) reveal the very high degree of civilization attained by the Uyghurs. This Uyghur power, prestige, and civilization, which dominated Central Asia for over a thousand years, went into a steep decline after the Manchu invasion of their homeland. Throughout the history of Central Asia, they left a lasting imprint on both the culture and tradition of the people of central Asia.
Chinese ambassador Wang Yen De to the Karakhoja Uyghur Kingdom in 981-984: "I was impressed with the extensive civilization I have found in the Uyghur Kingdom. The beauty of the temples, monasteries, wall paintings, statues, towers, gardens, housings and the palaces built throughout the kingdom cannot be described. The Uyghurs skilfully make things of silver and gold, vases and pitchers. Some say that God has infused this talent into these people only."
Albert von Le Coq: "The Uyghur language and script contributed to the enrichment of civilizations of the other peoples in Central Asia. Compared to the Europeans of that time, the Uyghurs were far more advanced. Documents discovered in Uyghur Region prove that an Uigur farmer could write down a contract, using legal terminology. How many European farmers could have done that at that period ? This shows the extent of Uyghur civilization of that time."
Currently, Turkic and Islamic cultural elements are dominant in the Tarim Basin, which reflects a thousand years of Turkic rule in the region and resulted in the replacement of previous religious traditions.
Both Uyghur and Han locals live by the unofficial "Xinjiang time", two hours removed from the official Beijing time. Businesses and government offices have modified hours to compensate for the difference from official Beijing time (e.g. opening at 10 am and closing at 8 pm).
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