Manas Epic is a traditional epic poetry of the Kyrgyz (also spelled Kirgiz, a Turkic ethnic group found primarily in Kyrgyzstan) people. According to the records, the epic poetry includes 8 parts, more than 200,000 lines. In broad sense, Manas Epic refers to the whole epic, but in narrow sense it is only the first part of the epic. Being different from the Tibetan epic poetry the Tibetan Poem of King Gesar and Mongolian epic poem Jangar, Manas Epic has more than one hero. It’s about the 8 generations of a family. The poem gets its name from the hero of the first part.
Manas Epic tells a story about how Kyrgyz people fight bravely to create wonderful life and magnify the great love. The whole poem has got 8 parts. The first part extends for 73,000 lines, which is the most moving and popular one. It begins with the legend of the name of Kyrgyz nation and the ancestors of Manas’ family. The poem contains Manas’ whole life of leading people fight against the dark rule of Kitay and Kalmak. Before Manas was born, the king of Kalmak who ruled over Kyrgyz people was told by the fortune teller that a powerful Kyrgyz hero named Manas will be born to overturn the reign of Kalmak. The king sent his soldiers to search for Manas and cut all the pregnant Kyrgyz women’s stomachs open to kill the babies. However, under the protection of the wise Kyrgyz people, Manas was finally born in the Burut. Seeing the painful life of his people, Manas had been filled with hate against plunderer since young age. He swore to revenge his people. Manas had grown into a powerful hero when he was very young. He pitied the poor and gave them his property; he grew crops in Turpan in burning hot. When he had grown up, Manas respected the senior and wise, and united all the brave men to integrate separated Kyrgyz clans. He also united the oppressed nations nearby to fight together, creating a peaceful and fine life for all peoples. Manas was proclaimed Khan King, being the generally accepted leader of all peoples oppressed by Kalmak. However, Manas then did not listen to Kanikey —his wise assistant and beloved wife’s words by taking 40 brave men and the main army to go on an expedition to the capital city of Kitay. Manas was badly injured in this war and passed away after he had returned to Talas, after which Kyrgyz people were thrown back to pain and disaster.
The Epic of Manas is a typical heroic epic with profound people characteristics and thoughts. There was a theme through out the whole poem: unite all oppressed people to fight against the enslavement of foreign ruler for freedom and better life. The epic poem displays that the enslaved people are unconquerable and admire the ancient Kyrgyz people’s will to fight against invaders.
The Epic of Manas displays how Kyrgyz people fight against the enslavement of Kitay and Kalmak in history through vivid stories and beautiful languages. Eliminating hidden traitors, punishing the tyrannical and killing the demons for people show Kyrgyz people’s ideal and wish to fight for freedom and fine life.
The Epic of Manas gets much achievement in characterization and storylines. It has strong national feature in art of language. There are fantasies and vivid metaphor in the poem, all being related to the unique natural environment and way of life of Kyrgyz people. The heroes in the poem are often described as high mountains, lakes, river flows, strong wind, eagle and tiger. The battle horses owned by the heroes are also described. The horse of each hero has got different names and features. The epic poem has contained nearly all the national forms of verses of Kyrgyz people, including mythological legends and custom songs as well as simple sayings.
The epic of Manas should not only be recognized for its literature value, but it should equally be valued for its exceptionally poetic languages and rich content. Manas is an encyclopedic collection of all Kirgiz myths, folk tales and legends brought together in time and centered around the hero Manas. The epic Manas is not only the history of the Kirgiz people, but also a true epic drama which widely reflects all the aspects of their lives: their ethnic composition, economy, traditions and customs, morals and values, aesthetics, codes of behavior, their relationship with their surroundings and nature, their religious worldviews, their knowledge about astronomy and geography, and artistic oral poetry and language.
China attaches high importance to the protection of the intangible cultural heritage. On May 20th, 2009, Manas Epic was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO. On June 5th, the Ministry of Culture designated Jusupu•Mamayi from Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China) and Shaertahong•Kadeer from Folk Literature Association of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as the representative heirs. They were also enlisted in the 226 representative heirs of the first Intangible Cultural Heritage Program.