ETHNONYMS: Kazakh, Khazak

The number of Kazak people in China in 1990 was 1,111,718; however, this represents only 13 percent of the entire Kazak population, most of whom reside in Kazakhstan. The Kazak in China live primarily in the Xinjiang Uigur autonomous Region, but some live also in western Gansu Province and in Qinghai Province. The Kazak language belongs to the Kipchak Subbranch of the Turkic Branch of the Altaic Language Family and is most closely related to Kirgiz and Tatar. The Kazak language contains many Russian and Chinese loanwords. The term "Kazak" means "secessionists," a name which the people gained when they broke away from the rule of Uzbek Khan (in the lower Syr Darya River region of Kazakhstan) in the fifteenth century.

The Kazak are migratory pastoralists, though a few have become settled agriculturalists. During the summer, they live in round felt tents (known as yurts), which each have a smoke hole in the roof and a door that faces east. The roofs of the yurts of wealthier individuals are embroidered. In the winter, the Kazak live in adobe houses. The Kazak live on the meat and dairy products of their herds of cattle, sheep, and horses. In addition to milk, the Kazak consume yogurt, milk dough, milk skin, cheese, and butter, as well as a fermented drink, horse-milk wine. The most frequently served meat is mutton, which is eaten in large chunks with the hands. Most of the slaughtering takes place in the fall, and they cure the meat by smoking it. Of particular importance to winter survival is horse-meat sausage, which keeps for long periods.

The Muslim Kazak were traditionally members of clans, which were further organized into tribes. There were five tribes (listed in descending order of size): Kereit, Naiman, Kezai, Alban, and Suwan. Traditionally, marriages were arranged and there was a bride-price payment; wealthier families paid up to a hundred animals for a bride, whereas poor families paid nothing. The Kazak also practiced the levirate. Under Chinese influence and new legal codes, the Kazak no longer practice polygyny.

See also Kazakhs in Part One ,


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Hudson, A. E. (1938). Kazakh Social Structure. Yale University Publications in Anthropology. New Haven: Yale University, Department of Anthropology.

Ma Yin, ed. (1989). Chinas Minority Nationalities, 152-162. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.

Moseley, George (1966). A Sino-Soviet Cultural Frontier: The Hi Kazakh Autonomous Chou. Cambridge.

National Minorities Questions Editorial Panel (1985). Questions and Answers about China's Minority Nationalities. Beijing: New World Press.

Schwarz, Henry G. (1984). The Minorities of Northern China: A Survey. Bellingham: Western Washington University Press.

Also read article about Kazak from Wikipedia

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