An elderly Uygur man's diary

Telling stories would educate later generations about harmonious ethnic relations

Characters team Jun 27. 2017
by Characters team

Mamat Kasim, 73, has written 26 volumes of his diary over the past 40 years.

His first record was about a pair of shoes.
In 1965, a Uygur orphan, in rural Kuqa County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, received a new pair of shoes from a Han neighbor, which moved him to tears.

Kuqa, in Aksu Prefecture, has a population around 500,000, consisting of mainly Uygur people and 13 other ethnic groups.

In Mamat's diary, he recorded anecdotes of mutual help between Uygur and Han people in his village, hoping the stories would educate later generations about harmonious ethnic relations.

"In 1976, 16 Uygur men carried the coffin of a dead Han villager to the graveyard five kilometers away, because there were not enough local Han people," he remembered. "To show their gratitude, the family of the deceased treated them to a Uygur-style dinner," he said.

Other things he wrote included a Uygur man offering a family of migrant cotton collectors a room to live for three years free of charge; Han people's donations for a local child's medical care, and his own experience of being saved by his neighbor Tian Kailin.

In 1997, a tractor overturned, crushing Mamat's chest.
"Seeing he was in critical condition and no cars responded my waving gesture, I just threw myself in the middle of the road to make a vehicle stop and take him to hospital," Tian recalled. "I didn't know it was my neighbor Mamat under the vehicle at first, but I would have done the same even for a stranger."

Mamat's latest record was written six days ago, recording a Uygur grocer returning the wallet a Han cadre had left at his store.
"The wallet was valuable as there was a pair of earrings in it," said Mamat.

Among 314 households in Mamat's village, 28 are Han. The first Han from neighboring Gansu Province migrated to the village six decades ago, when the province suffered from famine.

Wang Shouyi, 66, arrived at the village with his parents at the age of nine.
"We had to mime as they did not speak mandarin at all," Wang recalled. He now speaks fluent Uygur.

It was when local Uygur people gave them a hand.
"They often spared us a bowl of porridge, which was life-saving at that time," he said. Uygur villagers also helped the family of three build their house. Han people like Wang brought new farming skills to locals, including fertilizers, weeding and quality seed.
"With these skills, they found their yield almost doubled," said Wang, adding nearby villages also followed suit.

To express gratitude to Han people for their help in the harvest, Mamat wrote Chairman Mao Zedong a letter in 1959, hoping the central government would send another 50 households there. Several days later, he received a reply.

The letter, issued by General Office of Central Committee of Communist Party of China, congratulated Mamat on the harvest and asked him to learn more about farming technology.
He still keeps the letter, protected in a plastic cover and locked in an iron box. Wherever he goes, he carries the key with him.

Because of his poor eyesight and trembling hands lately, Mamat now has his son and daughter-in-law write his diary for him.
He also has a small library at home, offering free book readings to local villagers. Five or six villagers come to read every day.
Works about agricultural technology, government policies and the law are among the most read.

"If only the young generations are better educated, their life will be much better in the future," he said.
Source:  China Xinhua News
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