Inheritance - "Kashgar Contract Documents" Prepared by our columnist Ablat Samet from Berlin Inheritance - "Kashgar Contract Documents" Prepared by our columnist Ablat Samet from Berlin

Inheritance - "Kashgar Contract Documents" Prepared by our columnist Ablat Samet from Berlin

Inheritance - "Kashgar Contract Documents" Prepared by our columnist Ablat Samet from Berlin

Last week, a digital copy of 788 recent Uyghur contract documents was published on the website of the Berlin State Library. Compiled, transcribed, and updated between 1799 and 1968 AD, these documents provide an important source of documentation for researchers of the political and social relations of the Uyghur people over nearly 170 years.

A brief note and related information on the "Kashgar Contract Documents" mention that these documents were purchased from Kashgar and Hotan in early 2000. According to the contents of the documents, it is known that nearly 650 documents in this collection of documents were collected in and around Kashgar city, while the rest were collected in counties under Hotan. According to the type and content of the documents in this collection, they are divided into types such as letters of exchange, contracts, wills, petitions, power of attorney, and tax certificates.

The purchase of the original manuscript was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The Berlin State Library's East Asia Department has taken special care of these valuable works and has assigned a dedicated person to organize, digitize and put them online. After several years of intensive work, it was put on a special website called "Cross Asia" and offered to users for free.

It is truly shocking that these precious documents came to light at a time when the Uyghur people and culture were being massacred on an unprecedented scale in history. As far as we know, the original copies of these documents were purchased by Mr. Sugawara Jun, a Japanese Uyghur scholar in charge of this research project, and presented to Xinjiang University in Urumqi in September 2014. Under that contract, the donor of the manuscripts could also make their digital copies available to other institutions. Mr. Sugawara Jun used this option to donate a high-quality digital copy of this document collection to the Berlin State Library. Thus, in the State Library of Berlin, one of the largest libraries in Europe, this wonderful collection of documents has been created that will delight Uyghur culture researchers.

Inheritance - "Kashgar Contract Documents" Prepared by our columnist Ablat Samet from Berlin

More than 70 percent of these documents are "judge documents" or "judge decisions" completed according to Uyghur religious and local customs. When paying attention to the content structure of the documents, it can be seen that they are not very different from the document structure used by the Uyghurs before they accepted Islam. These characteristics prove once again that the Uyghur people are a nation that has always paid special attention to preserving and protecting its cultural characteristics. The documents that make up the remaining 30 percent of the collection are documents that were completed chronologically later.

The main part of these documents is English, and it is an indispensable source for studying the characteristics and usage of the Uighur language at that time. Among the documents are also documents written in Chinese, Persian and Arabic. In addition, a small number of documents with mixed or parallel English-Chinese texts also attract our attention. Some of the documents were first prepared according to Sharia law and after being stamped by the judge, they were taken to the relevant local government offices, and Chinese printed and written copies of the documents were prepared according to the government law. Official copies of documents are stamped or fingerprinted upon completion. Some documents were first prepared in English and then translated into printed and written documents in both English and Chinese languages.

The Berlin State Library was home to two important collections from the Uyghur diaspora prior to the arrival of this new collection of documents. One of them is more than 120 manuscripts which were bought from Kashgar and Jerkan and brought to Berlin by the famous German Orientalist Martin Hartmann between 1902 and 1903 and are kept today under the name "Martin Hartmann Collection". The other is a collection collected from all over the Uyghur region during four research trips organized by the German National Museum of Ethnography in the Uyghur region from 1902 to 1914 and brought to Berlin. This library contains 22 types of writings and more than 40,000 pieces of ancient manuscripts in more than 20 languages ​​from the 2nd century to the 14th century AD, as well as the famous "Turpan Manuscript Collection".

The arrival of these new documents at the Berlin State Library provides invaluable information for the study of human relations, various laws and customs of the darkest period of Uyghur life from 1799 to 1968, and will help researchers of recent Uyghur life and social conditions. Very pleased.

During the so-called "Cultural Revolution" that lasted from 1966 to 1976, the biggest victims of the brutal search and burning were historical documents and their custodians. In those years, people who found any historical documents or written wills in their homes were severely punished. In the 1980s, China's ethnic policy softened, but the Uyghur people, who had already lost faith in the government's unstable policies, dared not keep some of the documents left in the corners of their homes, threw them away or sold them at a low price, and even burned some of them with their own hands. The "Kashgar Contract Documents" were collected by some collectors or smugglers at this time and sold at a high price to people like Mr. Sugawara Jun.

The tradition of preserving manuscripts for generations, copying and updating them when it is not possible is one of the great features of the history of Uyghur literature and source studies. The Uyghur tradition of guarding valuable manuscripts and documentary heritage from their ancestors has continued until recent years. So it's not surprising that works from some families date back hundreds of years. However, the Chinese government sometimes accuses such wonderful practices of "nationalism" and sometimes accuses them of "superstition." After 1949, such works were collected and even burned many times. Arrests and punishments for the keepers of such historical manuscripts or documents continue to occur. From 1956 to 1959, "Collection of Linguistic Materials" was carried out in the Uyghur region, during which a large number of works were collected from the people. Most of them were submitted to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Xinjiang University Library, Uighur Autonomous Region Religious Affairs Bureau, and Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. In the process, although many manuscripts were collected, most of them have never been seen again.

The first local documents found in the Uyghur period related to the Islamic era were found in 1911 in Yarkan, and these documents are land sale documents dating back to the end of the 11th century AD. These documents were taken to Britain by Sir George Macartney, the then British consul in Kashmir. One part of these documents was written in Arabic and Persian script, and another part was written in the Turkish-Uyghur script of that time. On these documents later W. Famous scientists such as V. Minorsky, Shinasi Tekin, Sir Gerard Clauson and Marcel Erdal conducted research.

Among the manuscripts in the "Gunnar Jarring Collection" that were bought from Kashgar in the late 1920s and are kept in the library of Lund University in Sweden, the Tarqan label, the Suiurgar label, and its copies kept in the Houghton Library of Harvard University have attracted the attention of researchers a long time ago. Research on the documents in this collection, which began in the 1930s with Gustav Raquette, was later deepened by Korean historians Kim Hodung and Japanese Jun Sugawara.

This time, the large and valuable "Kashgar contract documents" were placed on the Berlin State Library's network and made available for free use by researchers around the world, and they were brought together with tens of thousands of ancient Uyghur language documents stored in this library. This means that Germany has become an important center for Uyghur studies. These manuscripts, in turn, are of great significance in showing the world the great cultural heritage of the Uyghurs, who are facing racial and cultural genocide in China today, as well as realizing their national pride.


  1. The discovery and digitization of the "Kashgar Contract Documents" by the Berlin State Library shed light on nearly 170 years of Uyghur history. Despite cultural suppression, this collection stands as a testament to the Uyghur people's enduring legacy and resilience.

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