Uncle Kurban is sacrificed as symbol of patriotism: Political representation of Uncle Kurban in modern Xinjiang

Posted: 2011年02月2日 in Original Thoughts


Xinjiang scholars often come across an ordinary Uyghur (Kurban Tulum) and his donkey after the Chinese Communist takeover of Xinjiang.  The “Uncle Kurban” and, especially, his handshake with Chairman Mao is often highlighted as the symbol of Uyghurs’ love of the CCP.   I quote the concise content of the Uncle Kurban story (with minor modification) from http://www.centralasiatraveler.com/cn/xj/ky/kurban-tulum.html in case that some people may not have a chance to look at“[Kurban Tulum — whom the Chinese call Uncle Kurban or Uncle Kuerban (库尔班大叔 kù ěr bān dà shū) — was a Uyghur electrician, born in 1883 in the Keriya oasis in what is now Yutian county in northwest China.   When the People’s Liberation Army marched into Xinjiang, a few years after the 1949 revolution, Kurban Tulum was so hopeful, after the deep difficulties under the corrupt Republican officials and the regional warlords that had held sway in Xinjiang, he wanted to express his gratitude. He rode more than 1,500 km around the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang to the provincial capital of Urumqi on his donkey (or donkey cart) to bring grapes/raisins (or, in other versions, a melon) — symbolic of the agricultural wealth of this large desert river oasis — as a symbol of appreciation for Chairman Mao.
Seeing a public relations bonanza in the making, the Party officials in Urumqi arranged for him to be flown the remaining more than 3,000 km to from Urumqi to Beijing to meet with Mao Zedong.  The first meeting took place on June 28, 1958, in Beijing. The handshake was reenacted by the principals some time later in front of a Communist party meeting, where the famous photo of the handshake was taken on which these two monuments are based.  Kurban Tulum holds the distinction of being the only person to share a monument with Chairman Mao Zedong in all of China, recalling their meeting in 1958. One of China’s best-known revolutionary songs carries his name – “Where are you going, Uncle Kuerban?” (库尔班大叔你上哪 Kuerban Dashu Nin Shang Na Er).   In 2002, yet another movie was made of the story, “Uncle Kuerban visits Beijing” (库尔班大叔上北京 Kuerban Dashu Shang Beijing). The story has morphed into the myth of a simple-minded country bumpkin with beatific faith in Mao and the salvation of Communist liberation].”
The Uncle Kuran story and his handshake with Chairman Mao (see photo) have served in the past 50 years as the symbol of Uyghur’s love of the new Communist regime who defeated repressive and corrupted KMT and various warlords in Xinjiang and thus liberated Uyghur people (at least, Kurban himself) from landlord oppression and exploitation.    The image, monument, song, and other forms of portrayal have basically testified the salvation of the poor Uyghur peasants by the CCP and the deep class feeling between the Uyghur peasants and the CCP.  As many scholars may propose, the best policy the CCP has implemented in Xinjiang should probably date back to 1950s when Kurban was liberated.A recent propaganda in Xinjiang (see photo), however, interestingly associates this story with China’s anti-separatism in Xinjiang.  As the captions go, the Kurban Story and his handshake with Chairman Mao is translated as “Unity and stability is a bless,” “Separatism and riot is a disaster,” “To maintain ethnic unity,” “To treasure beautiful life”

The propaganda and the slogan have began to portray Uncle Kuran  as the model of ethnic unity of patriotism.  Although it is unclear when this kind of propaganda initiated (probably since 1990s?), it seems for sure that Kuran becomes a symbol of Uyghur patriotism.  Had Kurban lived today in Xinjiang, he must have toured to every corner of Xinjiang to teach the Uyghurs about patriotism.


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