Tatar ethnic minority is one of the 56 ethnic minorities recognized by the Chinese government. They are of the white race. Tatar people mainly inhabit in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, concentrating in Yining, Tacheng and Urumqi. Tatar people use Tatar language, which belongs to Turkic group of the Altaic language family. The Tatar people, Uygur people and Kazakhs live together and they have close relations, thus, their languages and scripts gradually formed the daily language and scripts of Tatar ethnic group.
Xinjiang’s Tatar people were mainly migrated from areas of Kashan, Shemlech and Zaysan in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1920s and 1930s, when the Russian feudal landlords spoliated lands, some Tatar people were forced to lead a vagrant life. Some of them crossed the lower reaches of the Volga River, Siberia and Kazakhstan, and came to China’s Xinjiang. Tatar people living in places such as Burqin and Haba River are the descendants of these people. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Tsar's government opened the commercial gate of China’s Xinjiang with a series of unequal treaties. At that time, Tatar business people living in the Keshan area between Moscow and Xinjiang became active, some of whom moved to Xinjiang and operating shops while doing business there. There were also some educated workers and religious workers. During and after the First World War, quite a few Tatar people migrated to Xinjiang, and most of them were small or medium business people, peasants and handicraftsmen
Songs and Dances
Tatar people are good at singing and dancing. In Xinjiang, whenever there are celebrations or weddings, Tatar people will play the music, sing the folk songs and perform the dances with rich ethnic characteristics. Tatar people have various kinds of folk songs, expressing rich emotions and love between young men and women. Their music is lively and cheerful with strong ethnic features and some features of Central Asia. They also have various musical instruments.
In the folk dances of Tatar ethnic group, the hero is usually performed by women, according to their customs and habits. The dances are unique and boast changeable, lively and flexible movements. The songs are usually light and cheerful. Both the melodies and the dancing movements are elegant. Many people can sing and dance, and during festivals and celebrations, people will hold dancing competitions.
The costumes of Tatar ethnic group are very unique. Men like wearing white shirts with embroidered images of flowers, with black waistcoat or black long gown with buttons down the front, and the trousers are also black. The cap is either black or white with embroidered flowers. Women wear small colored caps studded with beads, and a large piece of kerchief is hooded. They like wearing long brimmed skirts with white, yellow or aubergine colors. The accessories include earrings, bracelets and necklaces of red beads. The costumes of the Tatar people are clean and bright-colored.
Customs and Habits
Tatar families adopt monogamy. They are allowed to get married to people of other ethnic groups who believe in Islamism. It is forbidden to get married to close relatives. According to their religious disciplines, the wedding is usually held at the bride’s home. The groom needs to live at his father-in-law’s for a while. In some occasions, the groom does not return his own home until the birth of his first child.
In cities, Tatar people mainly live in flat-roof earth lodges. The walls are thick, and inside the walls the lime is rendered, and sometimes wall carpets are suspended. The house is usually built into a courtyard, and the yard is usually arranged into a small garden where flowers and plants are grown. In pasture areas, Tatar people mainly live in tents by river. The courtyards are independent from each other. The yards are like gardens with fruit trees, plants and flowers, and the environment is tranquil. The walls of the houses are thick in order to install hot walls (a wall with flues for space heating) or iron sheet fireplace for heating and getting warm in winter. The houses are usually spacy and luminous. Besides the bedroom, there are also living room, kitchen, storeroom and other rooms. The parents live with their children. The walls are usually painted with some soft colors and suspended with wall carpets. There are also carpets on the floor. The furniture is usually designed with European style with antique and elegant look.
Tatar people eat three meals a day, among which the lunch is the main meal of the day. Flour, meat and dairy are indispensable in their daily diet. They occasionally eat rice, but usually rice is prepared and made into some special foods. Tatar women are famous for being excellent cooks, especially with various kinds of pastries. For example, Gubaidiai, which has crusted shells and soft inside, is made by baking wheat flour, rice, cheese, eggs, cream and raisin with dried apricot slices. Yitebaixi is made with baking the mixture of meat and rice. They are also good at making Rang (a kind of crusty pancake) which is made from eggs, cream, granulated sugar, fresh milk, cacao powder, soda and wheat flour. In their daily diet, besides meat, Katelite (rice made of beef, potato, eggs, salt and pepper), Rang and fried noodle, there are also Palamaxi (a kind of pie), dumplings, fried pancake (with potatoes) and other kinds of foods.
Tatar ethnic group abstain from pigs and pork. They are forbidden to eat donkey, dog, mule and animals or beasts that die a natural death. The blood of any animal is forbidden to eat. It is forbidden to bring pork into an Islamic cafeteria. It is forbidden to wash clothes near water channel, ponds, well or dams. It is not allowed to swim or bath in dams. When living together, it is forbidden to relieve the bowels in the room. When talking with others or having dinner, it is not allowed to blow nose, spit, yawn or fart. It is not allowed to make fun of women or touch any parts of the body. In public places, it is not allowed to bare the upper part of the body, or visit a Tatar house wearing only sleeveless sweater and short pants. It is forbidden to relieve the bowels, spit or pour used water near houses, sources of water, mosques and graveyards.
Tatar people believe in Islamism, and many aspects of their lives and customs are deeply influenced by the Islamic culture. The believers must practice religious activities regularly according to the specific time and procedures: Every day they chant prayers five times; they attend religious ceremonies at mosques every Friday. Every year there is a month of fast, where it is forbidden to eat anything before sunrise and after sunset. In addition, there are many complicated taboos and disciplines in their daily lives. For every Muslim, the Koran, Mazha (graveyards) and mosques are the sacred and inviolable. Pilgrimage is the most glorious deed for every Muslim.
Tatar people are believers of Islamism, therefore, just like other ethnic groups who believe in Islamism, the three major Islamic festivals are important festivals to Tatar people. Tatar people also celebrate Saban Festival, their own traditional festival.
Saban Festival (also called Plough Head Festival), is usually held in spring in places with beautiful scenery. Tatar people are good at singing and dancing, and love drama, music and dances. Their music is smooth, passionate and pleasing to the ear. Their traditional musical instruments are Muxiao (a vertical wooden flute) and harmonica; in addition there are also accordion, mandolin, heptachord and violin. During traditional festivals, there will be traditional dances. In the performance such as singing and dancing, the hero is usually performed by women, according to their dancing traditions and habits.