The Uygur ethnic minority
Source: Global Times [13:48 July 11 2009]
Population: 7.2 million
Major area of distribution: Xinjiang
Almost all the Uygurs are found in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region which covers more than 1,709,400 square kilometers or approximately one sixth of China's total landmass, and is by far the biggest of the country's regions and provinces. It occupies much of the sparsely-populated Northwest.
Besides the Uygur ethnic group, Han, Kazak, Hui, Mongolian, Kirgiz, Tajik, Xibe, Ozbek, Manchu, Daur, Tatar and Russian people also live in Xinjiang. The Uygurs is the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang. They believe in Islam.
The region is bounded by the Altay Mountains in the north, the Pamirs in the west, the Karakoram Mountains, Altun Mountains and Kunlun Mountains in the south. The Tianshan Mountains divide Xinjiang into northern and southern parts with very different climate and landscape. Southern Xinjiang includes the Tarim Basin and the Taklimakan Desert, China's largest, while northern Xinjiang contains the Junggar Basin, where the Karamay Oilfields and the fertile Ili River valley are situated. The Turpan Basin, the hottest and lowest point in China, lies at the eastern end of the Tianshan Mountains. The Tarim, Yarkant, Yurunkax and Qarran rivers irrigate land around the Tarim Basin, while the Ili, Irtish, Ulungur and Manas rivers flow through arable and pastoral areas in northern Xinjiang. Many of the rivers spill into lakes. The Lop Nur, Bosten (Bagrax), Uliungur and Ebinur lakes teem with fish.
Xinjiang's climate is dry and warm in the south, and cold in the north with plenty rainfall and snow. The Uygurs farm areas around the Tarim Basin and the Gobi Desert. Wheat, maize and paddy rice are the region's main grain crops, and cotton is a major cash crop. Since the 1950s, cotton has been grown in the Manas River valley north of 40 degrees latitude. The Tianshan Mountains are rich in coal and iron, the Altay in gold, and the Kunlun in jade. The region also has big deposits of non-ferrous and rare metals and oil, and rich reserves of forests and land open to reclamation.