Last King of Kuqa: Uyghur Author Patigül Launches her Xinjiang Historical Novel

First enfeoffed by Qing Emperor Qianlong in 1758, this Uyghur dynasty in northeastern Xinjiang eventually boasted a line of eleven monarchs, popularly known as the “King of Kuqa” (库车王). Kuqa was an ancient Buddhist kingdom located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert, but to most Chinese today, the term signifies the city of Kuche. The last in the line, Dawut Makosuti (达吾提·麦合苏提), passed away in 2014.

Over the centuries, the various sovereigns met with different fates depending upon palace intrigue and politics of the era. According to Chinese-language Wikipedia (庫車回部多羅郡王), for instance, the 9th sovereign (買甫思) reportedly died in prison in 1941.

Dawut Makosuti himself, a member of the government during the 1940s, was officially dethroned in 1949 with the establishment of the People’s Republic, and demoted to the more humble position of “translator.” Things got worse during most of the fifties, when he was posted to Aksu and underwent “Reform through Labor” (劳改).  His fate in the Cultural Revolution is not annotated in Wikipedia — hopefully Patigül’s novel will shed some light on those years! — but in 1984 he was rehabilitated, and designated Deputy Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. In 2004, his palace (库车王府) was refurbished by the government, and he lived there briefly before his death.

A seminar to promote discussion of the soon-to-be published novel (柯卡之恋) will be held in Yuyao, Zhejiang (浙江余姚) on September 11. It was previously partially published in Jiangnan magazine (江南) under the title, 最后的王. In attendance will be the female author, Patigül (帕蒂古丽), who was raised in a multiethnic Xinjiang village by her Hui mother and Uyghur father, and speaks fluent Uyghur, Kazakh and Mandarin. Her tumultuous, semi-autobiographical family saga, portrayed in moving detail in One Hundred Year Bloodline (百年血脉), has been translated into English by Natascha Bruce, and should be published within 2017 by Chinese Translation & Publishing House.

Patigül’s piece on leaving Xinjiang for life in Zhejiang, Life of a Mimic, also touches boldly on sensitive interethnic issues in China today in a way that simply cannot be matched by mainstream Han authors.

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