Dispatches From Xinjiang: Chen Zhifeng, Billionaire, Patron of the Arts

Chen Zhifeng featured image
Chen Zhifeng is a “self-made” billionaire, founder of the Western Regions Photography Society, and a major force in Xinjiang’s art scene. He is part of a newly minted cohort of Xinjiang capitalists: the Xinjiang 8 (or 9), who have taken advantage of Chinese-Central Asian market development and the post-Reform oil and gas economy. His Wild Horses Corporation brings in an annual income of $700 million selling Chinese-made women’s underwear and TVs in Russia and Kazakhstan. Yet, unlike some other Xinjiang elites, Chen has reinvested his wealth in Xinjiang.

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Gendered Futures, “Mother Tongue,” And Berna The Uyghur City Girl

Berna pt 2
Last week I wrote about the way endearing child stars such as the seven-year-old Berna are being mobilized as a method for securing the future of Uyghur ways of knowing and speaking. Yet Uyghur “mother tongue fever” has a long legacy. The famous Uyghur poem Ana Til, or “Mother Tongue,” was composed by the poet Haji Qutluq Shewqi in the mid-19th century when a love of Uyghur was directed in opposition to the dominance of Persian and Arabic in Uyghur education. While the vectors of linguistic force have found new centers of gravity in the past few decades...

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Uyghur Memories And Berna, A 7-Year-Old Pop Star From Ürümchi (Part 1)

Uyghur Memories And Berna, A 7-Year-Old Pop Star From Ürümchi
As has been well documented in discussions of the cultural situation in Xinjiang, many minority people in Xinjiang feel the future of their language and culture is insecure. Efforts to replace Uyghur-medium education begun in 2004 have intensified as the capillary spread of Chinese capitalism embeds its network and ideology deeper and deeper into southern Xinjiang.

Fall In Love With Xinjiang In Christoph Rehage’s “The Longest Way 2.0”

The Longest Way - Back to Xinjiang
In 2008, Christoph Rehage walked more than 4,500 kilometers through China, grew a beard, and made an incredible video that made it to No. 8 on Time.com's list of top viral videos of 2009. It was called "The Longest Way." Rehage's follow-up, "The Longest Way 2.0 - Back to Xinjiang," is just as stunningly good. Released two weeks ago on Vimeo, it details Rehage's 865-kilometer "summer stroll" from Urumqi to Khorgas, featuring footage from 2010 to 2012.

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Aspirational Desire, Migrant Masculinity And “Dao Lang”

Dao Lang pt 2 - Lover
Luo Lin’s voice and melodies are extremely catchy. In a true sense of the term, he catalyzes -- that is, he channels energy toward, and thereby accelerates -- an aspirational ethos for many migrant workers in Northwest China. Last week I wrote about those who resist his catalytic charge by jealously guarding their indigenous cultural heritage. Yet, clearly, critiquing Luo Lin’s “Dao Lang” persona does not deny the very real force of his voice. He is an immensely talented performer; he has proved himself to be very adept at tuning in to desires particular to a Chinese rendering of an alien environment inhabited by displaced people.

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Cultural Appropriation And The Singer Luo Lin, a.k.a. “Dao Lang”

Dao Lang, ie Luo Lin
I first heard of “Dao Lang” from an economics professor on the way to a fancy dinner at a four-star hotel on the northwest corner of the People’s Square in downtown Urumqi. We had been discussing taste in cars as we slowly careened across three lanes of traffic and walkers. The professor said she found the American Hummer to be the best car, and then turning, as though catalyzed by the brawn and force of a combination of army machine and Michigan muscle, she asked if I had ever heard of Dao Lang. She said he was the best Xinjiang singer.

Dispatches From Xinjiang: The Affect Of Ethnic Friendship And The Music Video “Harmonious Xinjiang”

Harmonious Xinjiang 3
A smart person once told me that the feeling she gets when certain people enter the room is the same feeling she gets when she encounters the dank scent of mildew on damp, bath towels. It’s a livable smell, that palpable acrid taste in the air, but for her it also brings with it a constant grating and discomfort. Even worse, people who project this feeling on others with condescending smiles and cheerful helping hands are often “true believers” with the very best of intentions. They move and talk as though under an ideological spell. Their hope is that when they enter the atmosphere of a situation the positive vibes, the affect, or “wisdom of the body,” they emit will radiate like an emotional contagion.

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Abdulla, King Of Uyghur Women, The Leonard Cohen Of Northwest China

Dispatches from Xinjiang - Leonard Cohen of China
Please give a hearty Beijing Cream welcome to Beige Wind, an anthropology doctoral student who studies urban living, popular culture and the arts in the cities of Northwest China. He runs the website The Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia, and will swing by these parts periodically to enlighten us with stories from Xinjiang. This is the third post in a multi-part series on Abdulla Abdurehim.

Geese Are Helping Fight Crime In Xinjiang, Apparently

Geese fight crime in Xinjiang
Geese are apparently being used to help law enforcement officers in Xinjiang, according to People's Daily. We're tempted to make a chengguan joke here, but we'll refrain. The Telegraph has the full report for you, which you should read here. We're going to isolate the quotes from the article, because taken together, they provide a lesson in ridiculousness.

Jiaku The Gorilla Has Quit Smoking, So Please Stop Giving Him Cigarettes

Jiaku the gorilla
A 23-year-old gorilla named Jiaku became famous at Tianshan Wildlife Zoo in Xinjiang for being a "heavy smoker." He was known to perform tricks -- doing handstands, turning in circles, clapping his hands, even performing ballet moves -- to get visitors to throw him a smoke, and would sometimes get desperate without his nicotine fix. His trainer, however, out of concern for his health, has recently tried to wean him off cigarettes. The method has been to lace his ciggies with chili pepper and to apply an ointment on the end.