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Kirkiz—Grassland People

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Kirkiz is a Turkic name used by the Xinjiang Kirkiz people, and it means “forty girls”, “forty tribes” or “grassland people”. The forerunners of the Kirkiz peopled were recorded in various names, such as Gekun, Jiankun, Hegu, Jiegesi, Xiagesi, Jilijisi, Qierjisi and Bulute. The homeland of the Kirkiz was in the upper Yenisey River. Gradually, they moved to southwestern part of the Tianshan Mountain areas and melted with local Turks and Mongolians. The Kirkiz language belongs to the Turkic group of the Altaic Language Family and the Arabic script is used for writing. The Kirkiz language borrowed many words from Uygur, Kazak and Chinese languages.

The Kirkiz nationality, with a population of 254,000, finds most of its inhabitants in the Kizilesu Autonomous Prefecture in the southwestern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The rest live in the neighboring Wushi(Uqturpan), Aksu, Shache(Yarkand), Tekes, Zhaosu(Monggolkure) in northern Xinjiang. The yurts are the main dwellings of Kirkizs are very hospitable and ceremonial. A visitor is invariably entertained with the best - mutton. Offering mutton from the sheep’s head shows the highest respect for the guest. At the table, the guest is the first to be offered the sheep tail fat, shoulder blade mutton and then the mutton from the head.

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Their diet mainly consists of milk and dairy products. Horse milk, milk, butter, yogurts are their daily food. The Kirkizs like drinking a beverage “yarma” made by fermented barley and wheat. In addition, they are also fond of boiled tea with milk and salt.

Most of the Kirkiz in Xinjiang believe in Islamism. Those who live in Emin (Dorbiljin) County in Xinjiang and Fuyu County in Heilongjiang influenced by the Mongols believed in Lamaism. At the beginning of the first month of the year—(March 20/21, the Gregorian calendar), the Kirkiz people celebrate their traditional festival, “Nawurez”. apart from this festival, they also celebrate the Islamic festival, such as Fast-Breaking or Eid-ul-Fitr and the Corban Festivals. 

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