A Yugur family in Lanzhou, Gansu, 1944.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Western Yugur, Eastern Yugur|
|Tibetan Buddhism, Tengrism (Turkic Shamanism)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Old Uyghurs, Other Turkic and Mongolic peoples|
The Yugurs (Chinese: 裕固族; pinyin: Yùgù Zú), or Yellow Uyghurs as they are traditionally known, are one of China's 56 officially recognized nationalities, consisting of 13,719 persons according to the 2000 census. The Yugur live primarily in Sunan Yugur Autonomous County in Gānsù Province. They are Buddhists, unlike the Xinjiang Uyghurs who had converted to Islam. Some scholars say that the Yugur's culture, language, and religion, is closer to the original culture of the original Uyghur Confederation at Karakorum, than the culture of the modern Uyghur people of Xinjiang.
The nationality's current, official name, Yugur, derived from the Yugur's autonym: the Turkic speaking Yugur designate themselves as Yogïr (Yugur) or Sarïg Yogïr (Yellow Yugur), and the Mongolic speaking Yugur likewise use either Yogor or Šera Yogor (Yellow Yugur). Chinese historical documents have recorded these ethnonyms as Sālǐ Wèiwù'ěr or Xīlǎgǔ'ěr. During the Qing dynasty, the Yugur were also called 西喇古兒黃番 (Xilaguer Huángbo (Western Lagur Yellow Bo). "Bo" is the classical Chinese term referring to Sino-Tibetian speaking ethnic groups. In order to distinguish both groups and their languages, Chinese linguists coined the terms Xībù Yùgù (Western Yugur) and Dōngbù Yùgù (Eastern Yugur), based on their geographical distribution.
The Turkic speaking Yugurs are considered to be the descendants of a group of Uyghurs who fled from Mongolia southwards to Gānsù, after the collapse of the Uyghur Empire in 840 AD, and soon established there a prosperous Ganzhou Kingdom (870-1036 AD) with capital near present Zhangye city on the foots of Nan Shan Mountains in the valley of the Ejin River (Black River). Population of this Kingdom, estimated at 300,000 in Song Dynasty chronicles, practised Manichaeism and Buddhism in numerous temples flourished throughout the country.
In 1037 the Yugur came under Tangut domination. They were forcibly incorporated into Tangut Kingdom, despite fierce resistance, after the bloody war of 1028–1036 AD. Mahmut Kashgari who lived at the time in Kashgar stated that "Uyghur blood was pouring like a murmuring stream" during this war. The Mongolic speaking Yugurs are probably the descendants of one of the Mongolic speaking groups invading northern China during the Mongol conquests in the thirteenth century. The Yugurs were eventually incorporated in the Qing Empire in 1696, during the reign of the second Qing ruler, the Kangxi Emperor (1662–1723).
In 1893, Russian explorer Grigory Nikoleyaevich Potanin, the first Western scientist to study the Yugur, published a small glossary of Yugur words, along with notes on their administration and geographical situation. Then, in 1907, Gustaf Mannerheim visited the Western Yugur village of Lianhua (Mazhuangzi) and the Eastern Yugur temple of Kanglesi. Mannerheim was the first to conduct a detailed ethnographic investigation of the Yugur. In 1911, he published his findings in an article for the Finno-Ugrian Society.
About 4,600 of the Yugurs speak the Turkic Western Yugur language and about 2,800 the Mongolic Eastern Yugur language. The Yugur language has preserved many archaicisms of the original Turkic language of the Uyghurs, and is considered by some to be a remnant of the 9th century Uyghur language. The remaining Yugurs of the Autonomous County lost their respective Yugur language and speak Chinese. A very small number of the Yugur reportedly speak Tibetan. They use Chinese for intercommunication. Both Yugur languages are now unwritten, although vertical Uyghur script was in use in some Yugur communities until end of 19th century.
The Turkic speaking Yugur mainly live in the western part of the County in Mínghuā District, in the Townships of Liánhuā and Mínghǎi, and in Dàhé District, in the centre of the County. The Mongolic speaking Yugur mainly live in the County's eastern part, in Huángchéng District, and in Dàhé and Kānglè Districts, in the centre of the County.
The Yugur people are predominantly employed in animal husbandry.
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- Slide shows, maps and other material on the Yugur from author Eric Enno Tamm
- Original Western Yugur texts with English translation plus PDF grammar of Sarig Yugur