Rahile Dawut: Defining the Uyghur Meshrep

The following description is excerpted from Uyghur Meshrep Culture and Its Social Function, by Sawut Pawan, Rahile Dawut, and Saadet Kurban, College of Humanities, Xinjiang University.

Rahile Dawut, a renowned expert in Uyghur folklore, was disappeared by the Chinese government in 2017 and has not been seen since. 

Uyghur Meshrep Culture

A Meshrep is a traditional male Uyghur gathering that typically includes “poetry, music, dance, and conversation within a structural context”, and unique to its own social group depends on the participants’ age group such as young adults or a mixed group of all ages and genders. Uyghur Meshrep is supplemented by a variety of comedy performances in the form of mass entertainment. It combines singing, music, dance, games and is widely spread among the Uyghur people in the north and south of Xinjiang as an integral part of Uyghur traditional folk entertainment. Meshrep typically include music of the “Muqam” variety and ad-hoc tribunals on moral questions. Traditionally, Meshrep were only held on the harvest, weddings, circumcisions, and girls’ comings of age ceremonies. 

Each Meshrep consists of a leader (yigit bashi, an older man), a disciplinarian (passhap begi), and 30 younger men (ottuz oghul), who sit on a carpet according to seniority. As the Meshrep is primarily a male bonding event, the women and children of the host’s family are to stay inside the house and only interact with the men to bring them food or to otherwise serve them. Music is an essential component of the Meshrep, and during the Meshrep, men play progressively faster Muqam melodies on the dutar (two string pear-shaped long-necked lute), while others compete to see who can perform whirling circle dances for the longest period of time. Some Meshreps also feature songs, skits, and lectures from religious leaders. 

Meshrep is very popular among the Uyghur peoples’ holidays, festivals, weddings, and friendly gatherings. As Meshrep is rooted in strong local characteristics, it has many forms. Despite these variations, they share an intimate relatedness. The famous local Meshreps are “Qatar Chay” (rotate tea) and “Seyle” (tour) in Kashgar, “Barawet” (Dinner Party) in Atush, “Kok” (Green Seedling) in Qomul, “Dadur” (Soybean) in Turpan, “Qarliq” (First Snow) in Ili, “Kachung” (Place name) in Yarkend, “Chi- pan” (Place name) in Qarghiliq, and “Dolan” (Place name) in Mekit. Uyghur people say that “life without Meshrep is no vitality” (Dawut 2003). Thus, Uyghur people have to organize Meshrep when an occasion is regarded as worth celebrating. Though Meshrep might be regarded by outsiders as sheer entertainment, it holds strong social and cultural functions among the Uyghur people. 

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