With a population of 1,250,458, the Kazak ethnic minority is mainly in Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, Mori and Barkol Autonomous Counties in Xinjiang, as well as in Qinghai and Gansu Provinces.
Kazak language belongs to the Turkic group of Altaic phylum. The Kazak language is written based on Arabian letters, but many people can use Chinese, Uigur and Mongolian.
In the past, the Kazak ethnic minority believed in the Shamanism. In about the 11th century, they began to turn to Islam while some continued to admire nature, soul and fire like the Shamanists. Many festivals, such as the Corban Festival which is also celebrated among the Hui ethnic minority, are close related to their religion.
People and Their Life:
Only a few of the Kazak people have settled down and are working in agriculture with most living a nomadic life as the alternation of seasons. This also affects all facets of their way of life.
The Kazaks are unconstrained, warm-hearted, and sincere in how they treat others. They love music so much that nearly every one is good at singing and dancing. The musical instrument, the Dongbula, is famous for its exotic timber. During festivals or other times of entertainment, lively girls and boys will sing with the Dongbula, and hold many activities. Horse-riding, wrestling, sheep-snatching and lady-chasing are their favorite.
They are deft at making various crafts. Felt and woolen products are practical and attractive, and wooden, iron, jade, silver and bone wares are also of high quality. The clothes of the herdsmen are made of leather and the hides of livestock. In winter, men often wear woolen coats with a strap and a knife around their waist while women wear skirts decorated with silver pieces. Girls are especially fond of feather of owl which is collected to be tassel of their hats.
Meat and milk are their staple foods every day. They enjoy the meat and milk of sheep, goats, oxen and camels. Milk tea is necessary for their daily life. Kumiss, mixed with horse milk, is quite a precious beverage. When visiting Kazak families, distinguished guests will be very lucky if they have the chance to taste this delicious drink.
For convenience, intelligent Kazaks invented a movable house - the yurt. Made up of woolen felt, palisades stay bars, a round roof, and shades; the yurt can be dismantled and reassembled. When they are migrating to another place, these 'houses' are easily carried by camels or oxen.
There are many customs in their routine life that also mirror their pasture culture. For example, when a baby is born, no one except its parents can ask about its gender. When the child is 40 days old, a ceremony will be held when many guests will give gifts and the senior most will name the baby. Only then can the gender be announced. When children reach the age of 5, they will attend the Riding Ceremony while being decorated with a feather on the head and visiting all the families. Those visited will give them saddles, horsewhips, cinches, and so on. Between the ages of 5 - 7, boys will wear new clothes and a white waist belt, ride a horse lead by others to call on again at relatives and receive gifts.