More than 11 million Uyghurs live in northwest China. Since the 1950s, millions of Chinese have migrated into Xinjiang, putting an end to the Uyghurs’ hope for an independent homeland.
Many Uyghur cultivate cotton, grapes, melons and fruit trees. They make use of an ingenious irrigation system, which pipes snow melt water from the mountains surrounding Xinjiang into the desert oases.
Traditionally Uyghur families have included one husband and multiple wives. This practice, which is gradually disappearing, is in conflict with the marriage law of the People’s Republic of China. The marriage law also calls for a minimum age at marriage of 20 for men and 18 for women. Yet marrying at an early age continues to be common practice.
First marriages are arranged by parents, though there is no interference from parents in any subsequent marriages. The divorce and remarriage rates are high—there is no social stigma associated with divorce.
From the 1950s, improved medical care and better economic development has spurred a rapid increase in the Uyghur population. Family planning was not implemented until late 1988. Population growth has remained high, probably because the death rate has come down more quickly than the birth rate. As living standards rise, the desired number of children has dropped.
Most Uyghur follow a folk Islam mixed with superstition.
Now, however, reports indicate that many Uyghur in China may be on the verge of accepting Christ.