My Chinese Village (Part-9)

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A Famous Uyghur Son
History is my favourite subject in school. I study history of Islam on weekends with a hoja (religious teacher) who comes to our house, but at school we study about Uyghur history and culture along with the history and culture of China. The Uyghur people were able to read and write in the past, and after embracing Islam they produced some very important written works. We read about these early writers and their interesting lives in our history classes. Perhaps the most remarkable of all Uyghur writers is Kashgar li Mahmud (or "Mahmud Al-Kashgari" in Arabic). He is truly a national hero!

Al-Kashgari was born exactly a thousand years ago in a small town in present-day Kirghizstan. He received an excellent Islamic education and at a young age travelled to many Turkish-speaking lands. He later arrived at Baghdad, the great Abbasid city of learning and culture. Because many Arab scholars were interested in the Turkish people and their language, Al-Kashgari decided to write a book in Arabic about these subjects.

The book Al-Kashgari wrote in Baghdad in 1072 CE is the great Turkish dictionary known as the divan lughat al-turk, a language handbook for Arab scholars. The book records in detail the differences between the different Turkish languages and the history of the Turkish people. It is almost an encyclopedia of the Turkish world of the 11th century CE. Al-Kashgari gives many examples of Turkish folklore and proverbs. At school, we study pages from the divan lughat al-turk in order to better understand our own history.

What makes Al-Kashgari's book even more valuable is the inclusion of the first known Turkish map showing the eastern side of the Earth. Unlike all other Islamic maps of the world, the centre of Al-Kashgari's map was not Makkah, but the Turkish-speaking border regions of today s Kirghizstan and the Xinjang province of western China. The large yellow dot in the centre of this map indicates Barsghan, the birth place of AlKashgari. The colour-coding used in the map was original for its day. Gray was used for rivers and green for seas. Light yellow represented deserts while red was used to show mountain ranges. A darker yellow indicated towns and cities.

This is a copy of Al-Kashgari's famous map that I drew and coloured myself. My teacher gave me an A+ for this project and told me that I would be a good history teacher when I grow up.

The history of my people is still not fully written. Insha'Allah, I will continue to study history and one day be able to write the most complete history of Uyghuristan.

To read the next part of this story, click here.

Luqman Nagy

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