Xinjiang experience: A Journey of cultural integration |
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Xinjiang experience: A Journey of cultural integration

facebook twitter linkedin | Updated: Jun 12, 2024

Uzodinma Chinenye Gerlof [Nigeria]

Beijing Foreign Studies University

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"Have we really arrived in Xinjiang?" This was my first question upon reaching Urumqi, astonished by the city's modernization. Its bustling atmosphere rivals that of major Chinese cities like Beijing and Tianjin. The skyscrapers and busy streets of Urumqi made me realize that Xinjiang is not just an autonomous region in China but also a modernized area connected to the world.

Exploring diversity: A deeper cultural insight

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This much-anticipated trip to Xinjiang, my first visit, filled me with excitement and curiosity. Upon landing in Urumqi, we visited the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum and other cultural institutions such as the Xinjiang Silk Road Museum and the Ancient Ecological Park (Blood-Sweating Horse Base). These visits deepened my understanding of Xinjiang's history and its complex role as a crossroads of multiple ethnicities. The artifacts told stories of ancient Silk Road trade and local ethnic cultures. I was particularly fascinated by exhibitions showcasing traditional Kazakh and Uyghur clothing and musical instruments, reminiscent of some Nigerian ethnic attire and instruments.

I learned that "Xinjiang" means "new frontier," signifying its crucial role in Chinese history and culture. This unique region, straddling the heart of the Eurasian continent, is a melting pot of various cultures, religions, and commercial activities, making it invaluable for study. The Silk Road Museum’s ancient silk, ceramics, and handicrafts highlighted the commercial importance of the Silk Road and the cultural exchanges between East and West.

Experiencing and interacting: Cultural expression in daily life

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In the lively atmosphere of the International Bazaar, I experienced Xinjiang’s market culture and distinctive architecture. The bazaar, with its stalls selling traditional foods and handicrafts, alongside performers of traditional dance and music, showcased the vibrant cultural life. Engaging with locals, especially young people eager to share their culture and history, made me feel warmly welcomed, reminiscent of a Nigerian community. I was even invited to join a group of young people in dancing traditional Xinjiang dances, despite being a novice. Their patience and joyful laughter made me feel at home, drawing parallels with Nigerian traditional dances.

Academic exchange: Learning at Xinjiang University

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Participating in academic activities and lectures at Xinjiang University provided a valuable opportunity to academically understand the region’s culture and history. A lecture by Professor Meng Nan, Dean of the History Department, titled "History and Culture of Xinjiang," offered in-depth insights into Xinjiang's historical evolution and cultural diversity, emphasizing its significance in China and Asia. Interacting with local students and faculty deepened my understanding of cultural differences and commonalities, shaping my worldview.

Personal reflections: The value of cross-cultural experience

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In this globalized era, cultural exchange is key to promoting global harmony and understanding. This study trip to Xinjiang offered unique perspectives and profound insights. I realized that despite their uniqueness, every place, including Xinjiang and Nigeria, shares remarkable similarities and resonance. Such cross-cultural exchanges enrich our worldviews, fostering mutual understanding and respect. Through this cultural journey, I witnessed the power of cultural exchange, hoping to continue promoting dialogue and cooperation wherever I go.

The above content is provided by Beijing Foreign Studies University and only represents the author's views, not the stance of China Daily website.