Han, Uygurs weave ‘jade’ ties of friend­ship

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG -

at ease with Han buy­ers and mer­chants, whether for busi­ness or just to chat.

“We speak flu­ent Man­darin, and it will help us a lot any­where in the coun­try,” the 26-year-old Muh­pul said.

Lan­guage ed­u­ca­tion is also in place for the next gen­er­a­tion of Uygurs in town. Since 2014, bilin­gual teach­ers at the lo­cal pri­mary school have of­fered three lan­guage cour­ses a week for Uygur chil­dren, in ad­di­tion to reg­u­lar classes.

“The change came as Uygur par­ents at­tached more im­por­tance to the ed­u­ca­tion their kids re­ceive,” principal Shang Lei said. “They be­lieve bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion means ev­ery­thing.

“We also don’t set a limit for Uygur stu­dents’ en­roll­ment dead­line,” he said. “When­ever they ar­rive with their par­ents, they can come and be ed­u­cated along with Han stu­dents right away.”

Un­break­able bonds

As for the fu­ture, the plans of lo­cal Uygurs vary, yet the bonds be­tween Shi­fosi and the jade mer­chants have been un­break­able. Some re­turn to Xin­jiang thank­ful for what they have gained in He­nan.

“My vi­sion has been largely ex­panded, and I’m a ma­ture man now,” Muh­pul said. “This is the kind of ex­pe­ri­ence to trea­sure for life.”

Muh­pul hopes to open a cafe back in his home­town of Yili, Xin­jiang, by the time he reaches his 30s.

“I’ll play the tra­di­tional du­tar (a tra­di­tional two-stringed lute) there and share my sto­ries from Shi­fosi with my fel­low Uygurs,” he said.

“That will be a good way for me to both make my home bet­ter and to en­cour­age more Uygurs to make the most of such op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Some other Uygurs pre­fer to stay in Shi­fosi to earn more money and take ad­van­tage of the bet­ter ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for their chil­dren.

“We won’t leave here un­til my grand­chil­dren are ad­mit­ted to univer­sity,” said Mu­tuwulla, whose two grand­sons are just two and four years old.

Mu­tuwulla and his fam­ily are quite con­tent to stay where they are. The pri­mary school and com­pre­hen­sive classes are a big rea­son. Dur­ing breaks, Han and Uygur stu­dents play to­gether, their arms around one another’s shoul­ders.

“The Han chil­dren here aren’t aware of, and don’t care about, the dif­fer­ences be­tween eth­nic groups,” said Liang Yaxun, a bilin­gual teacher at the school.

“Uygur stu­dents are al­ways like sis­ters and broth­ers to them.”

“I love this place and want to stay here for a long time,” 11-year-old Gulx­anay said in per­fect Man­darin while tak­ing a break from danc­ing with Han class­mates.

“I want to join the navy when I grad­u­ate from col­lege,” she said with a smile. “Then I’ll be able to serve our coun­try.”

CUI PEILIN / FOR CHINA DAILY

Shi­fosi in Zhen­ping county, He­nan prov­ince, is a ma­jor trade cen­ter of jade in Cen­tral China.

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