Posts in "Translation"

Chinese colonialism in translation

Chinese colonialism in translation: Translation of Uyghur names into mandarin under communist China 

Aziz Isa Elkun

Chinese colonialism in translation

In this paper I focus on the historical and contemporary context and conception of Uyghur names and places in translation under the Manchu Qing dynasty, Chinese Nationalists and Chinese communist rulers of the region in the last two centuries. More recently this has combined with the current so called ”Bilingual education” policies that have unofficially abandonned Uyghur language instruction in Uyghur education to produce a real threat to Uyghur identity and sense of ownership over this territory.

It is useful to remind ourselves that similar procedures and methods were applied by the British and Russian empires during their vast colonial exapnsion over the last three centuries, and it is now aggressively copied and implemented by China in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

I ask whether the Chinese state can ultimately achieve its Sinification of Uyghur geographical place names, or whether Uyghurs will be able to preserve the Uyghur language names that currently co-exist with the Chinese names in the Uyghur region.  

With the lack of Uyghur language representation in the Chinese offical press and in international media, will there be any future change in the current understanding, usage and representation of Uyghur language names and Mandarin names in the Uyghur region. It is likely that the situation will become still more problematic after China’s recent more agressive implementation of Chinese language usage among the Uyghur people.

If we look at history we can see that western colonial powers were able to obtain the wealth by depending on their warship and cannons. In return they introduced their own culture and languages to the the local inhabitants and even renamed the indigenous peoples names and their towns. This all ultimately helped to achieve a full colonization of the subject countries.  

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I miss you my country

translated by Aziz Isa Elkun

(poet unkown)


The pain in my soul and tears in my eyes

If I see a Uyghur person coming in the distance
My desire will come flooding in like the sea
I miss you my country. 

I can’t stand a moment without thinking of you
You are there at the most beautiful cliff
I can’t stay a moment without thinking of you
You are there in my beautiful dreams.
I buried my greatest hopes inside you
I miss you my country. 

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Sweetheart

(Lewen yala – لەۋەن يالا  Uyghur folk song)

Translated by Aziz Isa Elkun

Lewen yala.mp3 – by Rahimä Mahmut

Young children are playing
They use willow twigs as a hobby horse
The exiles weep for their homeland
Oh my sweetheart

Oh, how miserable I am!
Sad and weeping in the desert

We settled on the mountains
Because we could not stay in our gardens
This is the life we are living
Not surrendering to our enemy
Oh my sweetheart

Oh, how miserable I am!
Sad and weeping in the desert

I play my dutar all alone
My black eyes are crying
I am a wanderer in your town
No one hears my words
Oh my sweetheart

Oh, how miserable I am!
Sad and weeping in the desert

Oh, how miserable I am!
Sad and weeping in the desert