Images of Xinjiang and the Cultural Revolution (part two)

This morning I stumbled upon a large collection of photographs capturing a variety of events from Xinjiang during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), and decided to make a quick follow-up to a post I made a few months back on Images of Xinjiang and the Cultural Revolution. They appear to come from a variety of sources, though mostly from a 2014 photo essay by a Xinjiang-based website named Yaxin. The piece from Yaxin, entitled “Xinjiang History: The People’s Militia of the Tarim Basin”, also features some brief comments on the wider context of the time, which I have also included below.

I would just like to add a very brief note regarding the reception of these pictures on Weibo. I noticed a number of netizens expressing a sense of nostalgia for what they perceive to have been a time of ethnic harmony and unity. Now, they wrote, with the arrival of “religious extremism” in Xinjiang, no one would dare share weapons of the sort pictured below with Uyghur people. One comment, which garnered over 40 ‘likes’ had a very different take and is worth translating in full:

“When many old Uyghur people come to Beijing, once they get to Tiananmen and see the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, they begin to cry. They tell children about the past and how good Mao was at that time. Later, when they go to sort out accommodation for the night, people take one look at their ID card (身份证), see they are from Xinjiang, and refuse to let them stay. In the whole of Beijing, they can find nowhere to stay. Sigh.” 

Starting in the 1970, the military districts in southern Xinjiang mobilised the masses across all ethnic groups, rural and urban, to establish an organisation for a people’s militia. An attendance so large and a momentum so great had never been seen before. The organisation of the people’s militia, in safeguarding social peace and rushing to deal with calamities, brought into play their important role, especially the battalions on the front lines for border defence. Every house is a guard building, every person is a guard.

In 1972, the southern Xinjiang military area decided to convene the people’s militia congress meeting. In order to prepare well, Yuan Guoxiang took the Working Group along the Tarim (Ch. Talimu) Basin to research, and also took many photographs.

Yuan Guoxiang said that the peoples of each ethnic group knew very well that a life of happiness was not easy to come by, and that there was high enthusiasm for joining the people’s militia. The militia organised a training session every year. Through defending the country and guarding the borders, maintaining social order, advancing production and development, they played a significant role.

The advanced achievements of the ethnic minority division of the people’s militia of the armed forces of Baicheng County (southern Xinjiang military district) were once made into a film by CCTV. In particular, the shots of the Laohu Tai People’s Militia training in combat readiness and scenes of tending and herding in remote mountainside all left a deep impression on viewers.

Work of the people’s militia at Kashgar textile factory has always been at the forefront. They once built a anti-aircraft gun and even mastered shooting techniques, making a contribution to Kashgar’s air defence combat readiness. In 1991, when riots occurred in Baren county, all ethnic groups of textile factory were dispatched throughout the night to co-ordinate with the armed forced and surround the rebels. Very quickly,through outstanding military service, the riot was quelled.

Not only did the people’s militia train tirelessly, they also participated in local development, making contributions to the local economy.

Born in Moyu County, militia battalion commander Noor Mohammad (pictured below), encouraged and led tens of militia members into the desolate fringes of the Taklimakan Desert to clear weeds and sand dunes, reclaiming large tracts of farmland and leading to many peasant households setting up home. He also served as a representative of the people’s militia, and went to Beijing to take part in the first national people’s militia congress, and was received by Chairman Mao, Commander-in-Chief Zhu, and other senior officials.


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1. Yasheng•Kuerban, captain of Laohutai army forces assigning tasks to the militia

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2. The bold and brave women of the militia

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3. The people’s militia working hard to practice their bayonet skills

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4. After Moyu County’s people’s militia battalion commander, Noor Mohammad arrives home, he brings an automatic rifle awarded to him by the Central Military Commission and gives an account of the occasion of seeing Chairman Mao.  

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5. April, 1960, Chairman Mao, Commander-in-Chief Zhu, and other senior officials receive representatives of the people’s militia congress in Beijing

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6.  After Tulupu of Pishan county people’s militia gloriously sacrificed himself, the people’s militia go to comfort his motherScreen Shot 2016-08-13 at 16.20.10

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7. People’s Militia ride camels to pursue fleeing rebels

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8. In 1965, Premier Zhou chats with female textiles worker from Kashgar

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9. People’s militia member Wangdui’s father is killed by rebels. He vows to avenge his father

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10. Both male and female militia members cherish their weapons and study shooting theory

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11. Brave and bold female militia members 


And here are some pictures from taken during the 1970s by Li Qiuwei, the director of the People’s Liberation Army Pictorial, while he worked in Xinjiang. These pictures were posted together with the above in a recent Weibo post.

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Tajik Youth (1970) 

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Xinjiang’s Ala Shan Watchtower(1971)

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A Time of Happiness (1971)

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Female Kazakh Member of the People’s Militia (1971)

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Reclamation of Wasteland by army (1971)

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Gongnaisi Grasslands (October, 1973)

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Nadam Fair (a Mongolian traditional fair) on the Grasslands (1973)

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No details

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During the Cultural Revolution, the PLA stationed in the motherland’s northwest regions and the people of the Uyghur areas were in close unity, mutually developing and safeguarding the frontiers. This is a member of the army and a local man carrying out a land survey.

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Xinjiang Pictorial (1973)

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During the Cultural Revolution, a soldier and a one hundred year old Uyghur man study The Selected Works of Chairman Mao

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Ethnic Unity, Close Kinship

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During the Cultural Revolution, the soldiers and the people enjoyed feelings of kinship. Here is an Uyghur man named Ada bringing fresh spring water from a fair away place to convey greetings to the soldiers developing and safeguarding the frontier.

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Turpan (Ch. Tulufan) grapes have ripened. Chairman Mao and the people of Xinjiang stand together.

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Issue one of the Xinjiang Pictorial (1966)

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Issue one of the Xinjiang Pictorial (1972)

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Picture from Xinjiang Pictorial 1966

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Picture from Xinjiang Pictorial (1966)

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Picture from Xinjiang Pictorial (1966)

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Picture from Xinjiang Pictorial (1966)

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Picture from Xinjiang Pictorial (1966)

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Picture from Xinjiang Pictorial (1966)

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Picture from Xinjiang Pictorial (1966)

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Picture from Xinjiang Pictorial (1966)

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Picture from Xinjiang Pictorial (1966)


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