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The Wonderful Women of Xinjiang
2005/06/17

Here comes another spring.

The Xinjiang land that was not long ago battered by bitter cold is today ready to show off its charming landscape. A large part of that scenery is the town's women and their varied and colorful ethnic costumes.

Xinjiang is indeed known for its beautiful women. The Fragrant Concubine, one of Qing-Dynasty Emperor Qianlong's (1736-1795) favorites, was from here. Her charm (a characteristic renowned to be common to the women from the west region of China) and her special and very pleasant natural fragrance proved a romantic dream for many men. Still today her tomb in Kashi attracts numerous visitors, both from China and abroad.

In the sixteenth century, Amannisa Khan, queen of the Yarkand Khanate kingdom, collated and preserved the Uygur musical legacy, the Twelve Muqam. She carried out the task with great intelligence and care. She has, therefore, become a symbol of beauty and wisdom, as well as a model for Uygur women to follow.

Today the women of Xinjiang, no matter if from city or rural area, or from the Uygur, Kazak, Tajik, Khalkhas or other ethnic groups, are all part of a regional scene of beauty and charm. Young girls here, though typically a little shy and reserved, will often greet people with innocent and friendly smiles. Women here are not only beautiful, hospitable and well-versed in song and dance; they also reflect traditional virtues of diligence, with respect for their seniors and care for their juniors.

Working and living in a land where there is less hustle and bustle, compared to the more urban areas of China, many women in Xinjiang, nevertheless, also work hard, persistently pursuing their own goals. They are most satisfied when those objectives are fulfilled.

Aziguli Rouzi, Deputy Director of the Women's Federation of Kashi Area, is a Uygur woman cadre with 22 years of work experience. And she still becomes very animated when talking about her work. She feels fortunate to be a cadre from an ethnic group. She said, "The country's preferential policies toward cultivating and selecting cadres from ethnic groups have provided us many opportunities." Working on women's affairs for so many years, she has witnessed improvements of Uygur women's social status. "In the past, a Uygur girl was supposed to get married at the age of 13 or 14. And Uygur women used to be of low status both at home and in society. Now, things are different. Women's status has greatly improved, and girls have the opportunity to go to the college," she added.

Bielihan, a Kazak woman from a stock-raising village in Daheyanzi Town, Jinghe County, is talented at ethnic Kazak embroidery. With the opening of her home village to tourists in the 1990s, she became the first person who put her own handicrafts on the tourist market. At the same time, she planted cotton and raised cattle and goats on the contracted land. Her diligent work paid off. Her family became the first household in the village that had an annual income surpassing 60,000 yuan.

Rena, a particularly beautiful young woman from Uygur, has been in Beijing for four years. A runner-up at 2001 CCTV Model Contest, she is now a contract model with a Beijing-based model company. As a well-known model, she frequents important fashion release meetings, and serves as spokesperson for many well-known fashion brands.

Aziguli Rouzi, Bielihan and Rena are just three of an increasing number of modern Xinjiang women who are fulfilling their ideals - and exhibiting great beauty. They have inherited national traditions, while learning and accepting new knowledge.

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There are all total nine million women in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Since entering the 21st century, they have played an increasingly more important role in the political and economic life, even compared to recent decades, for instance, the 1990s.

Women's Participation in Government and Political Affairs in Xinjiang

Among the 16 prefectural and municipal leaderships in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, there are 18 female cadres in 15 leaderships. At the county level, the number increased to 85, and at the town level, it went up to 815. Since 1995, the number of female cadres has increased by four percent, an addition of 57,000.

Women's Employment in Xinjiang

In cities and towns, women account for more than 40 percent of the total employed population. The number of women working in the tertiary industry has increased to 47.1 percent from 37.6 percent in 1995.

Women's Education in Xinjiang

The nine-year education requirement has become compulsory in more than 60 counties of the 93 countries in the autonomous region. Female pupils and students account for more than 49 percent of the total.

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