Although people of Tajik ethnic minority have typical features of Europoid, they have inhabited in China since ancient times. At present, 60% of the Tajik people inhabit in Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and the others inhabit in counties such as Shadong, Zelei, Yecheng and Pishan. The majority of Tajik people speak Sarikoli of Tajik language, while the minority of Tajik people speaks Wakhi of Tajik language. Both Sarikoli and Wakhi belong to the Pamir language group of the Eastern Iranian language group. Many Tajik people can speak both Uygur and kyrgyz language. There are no scripts of their own, so they commonly use Uygur characters. They believe in Islamism. Initially, they were Sunni islamist, and in the beginning of the 18th century, they changed to Nizari Ismaili sect of Shia Islam. Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Tajik ethnic people mainly engaged in animal husbandry and sidelined in agriculture, living a life of half nomadism and half ecesis. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, agriculture and animal husbandry developed quickly, and industry was developed from scratch.
Although Tajik ethnic group has a small population, it boasts a very long history and brilliant culture. “Tajik” was what the ethnic group called themselves. According to folk tales, the word “Tajik” means “crown”. According to archaeological findings, dating back to several centuries ago before Jesus Christ, people of these tribes speaking eastern Iranian language inhabited in the southern part of Xinjiang in China. Those who lived in the eastern part of the Pamirs Plateau are the ancestors of the Tajik ethnic group in China. In the 2nd century before Christ, Zhang Qian, an imperial envoy, explored to the Western Regions (including what is now Xinjiang and parts of Central Asia). The government of the Western Han Dynasty established an administration in the Western Regions. The Taxkorgan Region was the main transportation artery and strategic passage of the Silk Road. The ancestors of the Tajik people developed and cultivated themselves under the influence of western and oriental cultures.
The best food is finger meat (meat eaten directly using the hands, rice boiled with milk, and pancakes boiled with milk. The diet and preparation methods of their diet fully reflect the economic conditions, everyday needs and ethnic features. In grazing areas, their foods are mainly dairy, pastry and meat. While in farming areas, their foods are mainly pastry, accompanied by dairy and meat. Pastry is mainly Rang (a kind of crusty pancake) made from flours of wheat, barley, corn and beans. Their foods feature milk porridge, milk noodle flakes, milk paste, butter tea wheat paste, butter tea milk paste, butter tea highland barley rang (crusted pancake), butter tea sprinkled on rang, finger meat, finger rice, cheese, dried milk and milk tea.
There are some taboos in their diet. It is forbidden to eat animals that are not slaughtered, or animal’s blood, the meat of pig, horse, donkey, bear, wolf, fox, dog, cat, rabbit and marmot. People should pray before they slaughter the animals.
People of Tajik ethnic group are mainly dressed in cotton-padded clothes and vests, with a littile difference for the four seasons, because of the very cold and highland climate conditions of the Pamirs. The Local men usually wear tall sheepskin hats lined with black velvet and lined with decorative embroidery. Men wear pullover shirts with belts made of cotton, woolen yarn or embroidery. Women wear delicate and beautiful hats with embroidery. They wear one-piece dresses with long pants underneath. Women are deeply fond of dressing themselves up, and their accessories and styles vary according to ages and marital status.
Tajik people adopt monogamy, and usually they choose spouse within their own ethnic group. They are usually not allowed to get married with people of other ethnic groups, especially for Tajik women who cannot get married to men of other ethnic groups, but Tajik men can get married to women of other ethnic groups. Getting married to close relatives was once prevalent for them, and nowadays, it still prevailed. Usually the husband should be older than his wife. Among Tajik people, witnessing the whole course of their children’s marriage is a sacred duty for parents. Getting divorce, leaving the wife or the husband is shameful. Therefore, most of the Tajik couples are single-minded each other and remain a devoted couple to the end of their lives.
The wedding ceremony is complicated, with processes of choosing the spouse, courtship, proposal, engagement and many other processes. The whole wedding ceremony is filled with singing and dancing. Tajik people live in the form of extended family. When the father is still alive, the sons rarely leave the house to live on their own; otherwise they will be blamed by others. There are three generations or even four generations living together under the same roof in many families. For a long time, people of the Tajik ethnic group engage in farming and animal husbandry, adopting self-sufficient natural economy, with each household being a production unit. Patriarchal system is strictly applied in traditional big families. It is highly advocated within the family to respect the aged and take good care of children, showing filial respect for the parents, being loyal to the spouse and being regardful and helpful to brothers and sisters.
During the long process of historical development, Tajik people and their ancestors have believed in many religions, including primitive religion, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. Nowadays, Tajik people commonly believed in Islamism. According to some mythologies and folk customs that were passed down from generation to generation, the ancestors of Tajik people did indeed worship nature and natural phenomenon, especially eagles, which have close relation with the Tajik people. The folk dance, “Eagle Dance” of the Tajik people, has the basic movements which are total imitation of eagles. Therefore, the eagle is the animal totem that was worshiped by the ancestors of Tajik people.
Some notable figures of the Tajik religious circles believe that the Tajik ethnic group believed in Islamism since the 10th century. The Tajik ethnic minority is the only ethnic group in China who believes in Nizari Ismaili sect of Shia Islam.
Arts and Culture
The Tajik ethnic minority boasts rich and colorful legacies of literature and arts. In the past, there were no scripts, and all the arts were passed on orally. Tajik people are good at singing and dancing. In terms of music, they have instrumental playing and singing songs, singing and dancing songs, lamb tussling songs, love songs, religious songs and other forms of songs. Their unique musical instruments are Nayi (a kind of piccolo made of the wing bone of eagles), Balangzikuomu (a seven-stringed plucked musical instrument) and Repupu (a six-stringed plucked musical instrument). The dances are usually performed by two people, featuring with the imitation of eagles. Tajic ethnic group also has very unique drama arts, which is divided into two kinds: song and dance drama and stage play. They are full of artistic values. The language is humorous and dramatic, the movements are amusing, and the meaning is profound. The handicrafts of the Tajik people are embroidery, weaving and applique.