In Restive Remote China, Uighurs’ Piety and Peace
February 14, 2014
It’s rare to see mainstream news media reports on Xinjiang, China’s western borderland region, that do not invoke “turbulent,” “restive,” “unstable” or some variation. The area has long been the site of ethnic tensions between the majority Han Chinese and the Uighurs, China’s Turkic-speaking Muslim minority. But tight government controls on information and access make reporting on such clashes and protests, as well as everyday life, exceedingly difficult.
主流新聞媒體對中國西部新疆地區的報道 中，不提及「騷亂」、「動蕩」、「不穩定」或某種異常狀況的少之又少。長期以來，這裡一直是在中國占多數的漢族與維族之間發生民族對峙的地方。維族是一個 穆斯林少數民族，說維吾爾語。但由於政府對信息以及出入該地區的嚴格管控，要對此類衝突和抗議活動以及當地日常生活進行報道十分困難。
This contrast is what makes Wang Qing’s series “Rituals in Life” all the more remarkable. Photographed over a span of seven years, the series shows the daily experiences and rituals of several ancient Uighur villages near Turpan, the desert oasis that was once a flourishing trade center on the historic Silk Road.
Instead of images of paramilitary convoys and armed security, Ms. Wang wanted her photos to convey “the constant growing and multiplying of life and the cycle of life and death.” She has captured moments that can only be glimpsed by a patient, unobtrusive observer: a tender moment between a mother and her son, who has just undergone a ritual circumcision; a man praying with his palms open, the rugged expanse of the Flaming Mountains towering behind him (below); a young bride in a moment of reflection at her wedding. For Ms. Wang, a Han Chinese who grew up in Turpan, the religious traditions were familiar. “The environment I grew up in was heavily influenced by the rich Uighur traditions and culture,” she said. “Our lives were all bound up with each other. We ate the traditional Uighur flatbread and lamb and celebrated their holidays. Everything I lived and touched reflected the Islamic culture.”
她沒有拍攝軍車車隊或是荷槍實彈的安全部 隊，而是想通過攝影作品「表達生命不息，生死輪迴的一種含義」。她捕捉到的場景，都來自只有那些有充分耐心、不會驚擾本來狀態的觀察者才能看到的瞬間：一 位母親和她剛剛行完割禮的兒子的溫馨畫面；攤開手掌祈禱的男子——他的身後是綿延起伏的火焰山；一個年輕的新娘在婚禮上的若有所思。作為一名在吐魯番長大 的漢族人，王晴對這些宗教傳統十分熟悉。她說，「我的成長環境受到了維族傳統和文化的極大影響。我們的生活緊密相連。我們吃維族傳統的饢和羊肉，慶祝他們 的節日。我所經歷和感知的一切反映的都是伊斯蘭文化。」
Still, it took years for her to gain the villagers’ trust. The villages primarily depicted in her series are in Tuyugou and Mutougou, deep in the gorge of the Flaming Mountains, the gullied red sandstone hills made famous by the classic 16th-century Chinese novel “Journey to the West.” She was first introduced to the villagers through a friend in 2006 and prepared by studying books on Turpan’s history and Uighur religion and culture to improve her own understanding.
儘管如此，她還是花了好幾年時間才獲得村 民的信任。她的作品中展現最多的是吐峪溝和木頭溝，都位於火焰山的峽谷深處。這座由紅色砂岩構成的、布滿溝壑的山脈因16世紀的中文小說《西遊記》而聞 名。2006年，她通過一個朋友第一次認識了這裡的村民，並通過研讀有關吐魯番歷史的和維族宗教和文化的書籍增加對這裡的了解，為拍攝做準備。
The villagers were always very welcoming, she said, and would invite her into their homes. In the years after, she visited them often, taking candid photos as they went about their daily lives.
“I told them that my goal in taking the photos was to record the Uighur and Islamic religion, etiquette and traditions so as to improve understanding of the people,” she said. “As time went by, we began to build friendship and trust.”
Each time she visited, Ms. Wang brought prints of her photos as gifts for the families. Though the villagers were always delighted, one moment in particular left a deep impression on Ms. Wang. “I would often take photos in this one village home where four generations were living under one roof,” she said. “The head of the family was a man named Jiapa. When Jiapa passed away due to illness, his 92-year-old mother took a photo of him that I had taken and, with tears streaming down her face, thanked me. Her son had passed away, but she could still take his photo and look at him as if he were still living. In this moment, I grieved together with Jiapa’s mother and felt grateful that I could have helped the family in a meaningful way.”
每次拜訪村民，王晴都帶着洗出來的照片， 作為禮物送給村民。村民們一般都會很高興，但有一件事給王晴留下了很深的印象。她說，「我經常去一個四世同堂的家族拍照，族長叫做加帕。加帕病逝時，他 92歲的母親拿着我拍的一張加帕的照片，淚流滿面，向我表示感謝。她的兒子已經去世，但是她仍然可以拿着他的照片，看着他，好像他並沒有離去。這一刻，我 和加帕的母親同樣悲傷，我以一種有意義的方式幫助了這個家庭，這讓我感到很欣慰。」
Being a woman, Ms. Wang said, made it easier to build trust with the female villagers and photograph them more intimately. As an example she cited a photo she had taken of a Uighur bride. In some instances, however, her gender made access difficult. Females are prohibited from attending burials, in accordance with Islamic guidelines. In this situation, Ms. Wang said, having the respect and trust of the village imam was very important. Though she was not allowed to photograph the actual interment, with the approval of the imam and the deceased’s family, she was able to photograph some of the rituals leading up to the burial.
王晴說，作為女性，她更容易與女性村民之 間建立信任，可以更近距離地拍攝她們。她提到了自己拍攝一個維族新娘的例子。不過有時，她的性別也成為一種障礙。按照伊斯蘭教規，女性禁止參加葬禮。王晴 說，在這種情況下，獲得村裡伊瑪目的尊重和信任就非常重要。儘管無法拍攝葬禮，伊瑪目和死者家屬還是會允許她拍攝葬禮之前的一些儀式。
While Ms. Wang plans to continue to take photos in the villages, she is also currently making preparations for a photographic project that will be set in the Wudang Mountains in Hubei Province, a historical center for Daoism dating back to the early Tang dynasty in the seventh century. Her interest in documenting contemporary religions, she said, reflects her deepening belief in the irreplaceable role of tradition in modernizing societies.
“Regardless of how society progresses and no matter how vigorously materialism develops, the needs of the human spirit do not change,” she said. “The place of religious beliefs in the heart remains essentially the same.”
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