Manas Epic is a traditional epic poem of the Kyrgyz (also spelled Kirgiz, a Turkic ethnic group found primarily in Kyrgyzstan) people. According to historic records, the epic poem consists of 8 parts and more than 200,000 lines.
In general, Manas Epic refers to the entire epic work, but technically, it is only the first part of the epic. Making it different from other Tibetan epic poems such as the Tibetan piece of King Gesar and Mongolian epic poem Jangar, Manas Epic has more than one hero. Rather, it is about the 8 generations of a single family. The poem gets its name from the hero of the first part.
Manas Epic tells the story of how the Kyrgyz people fought bravely to create a wonderful life for themselves and of the magnificence of their great love. The whole poem has 8 parts. The first part, which is the most moving and popular one, is made up of 73,000 lines. It begins with the legend of the name of the Kyrgyz nation and the ancestors of Manas’ family. The poem contains Manas’ whole life as he leads his own to fight against the dark rule of the Kitay and Kalmak people.
Before Manas was born, the king of Kalmak who ruled over the Kyrgyz people was told by a fortune teller that a powerful Kyrgyz hero named Manas will be born to overturn the reign of Kalmak. The king thus sent his soldiers to search for Manas and to do so, cut all the pregnant Kyrgyz women’s stomachs open to kill their babies. However, under the protection of the wise Kyrgyz people, Manas was finally born in the Burut.
Seeing the painful life of his people while growing up, Manas was filled with hate against plunderers since a young age. He swore to avenge his people. Manas soon became a powerful hero when he was very young. He pitied the poor and gave them his property, and he also showed his strength and determinations while growing crops in Turpan under the burning hot oasis heat.
When he grew up, Manas united all the brave men around him to integrate into separated Kyrgyz clans. He also united the oppressed nations nearby to fight together, creating a peaceful and fine life for all the citizens. Manas was proclaimed Khan King, the generally accepted leader of all societies oppressed by the Kalmak.
However, Manas then did ot listen to the words of Kanikey, his wise assistant and beloved wife, and instead took 40 brave men and his 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 returned to Talas, after which the Kyrgyz people were thrown back into suffering and oppression.
The Epic of Manas is a typical heroic epic work with profound human characteristics and thoughts discussed. The main theme throughout the whole poem ties together the concept of uniting all oppressed people to fight against the enslavement of foreign rulers to achieve freedom and a better life. This epic poem strives to provide an example in history where enslaved people are unconquerable, and it also admires the ancient Kyrgyz people’s will to fight against invaders.
The Epic of Manas retells how the Kyrgyz people fought against the enslavement of the Kitay and Kalmak empires in history through vivid stories and beautiful use of language. Eliminating inconspicuous traitors, punishing the tyrannical, and killing demons show the Kyrgyz people’s ideal wants and wishes to fight for freedom and a better life.
Manas Epic Art Festival
The Epic of Manas has received much applause for its rich characterization and storylines. It also has strong national reflections of the art of language. There are many fantasies and vivid metaphors in the poem, all bringing alive the spirit and unique natural expressive style of the Kyrgyzs. Honoring nature, 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, with each of the heroes bearing very different names and personalities. Finally, the poem contains nearly all the national forms of verses of the Kyrgyz people,including mythological legends and customary songs as well as simple sayings.
The Epic of Manas should not only be recognized for its literature value, but also for its exceptionally poetic language and rich content. Manas is an encyclopedic collection of all Kyrgyz myths, folk tales, and legends brought together in time and centered around the hero Manas. Still, the epic is not only the history of the Kyrgyzs, 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, relationship with their surroundings and nature, religious worldviews, knowledge about astronomy and geography, and artistic oral poetry and vernacular.
On May 20, 2009, Manas Epic was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO, a proud milestone for China. On June 5 that same year, the Ministry of Culture designated Jusupu Mamayi from the Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region) and Shaertahong Kadeer from the Folk Literature Association of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as the representative heirs. They were also named among the 226 representative heirs of the first Intangible Cultural Heritage Program.