Disney, disaster – and what would Nasreddin ependi say?

After the bloody incident near Turpan a few days ago things have escalated. The death toll has risen, and other violence has been reported from Hotan (和田). The response from the authorities have been to show strength, most obviously by arranging ”pledge meetings to fight terrorism and keep stability” (反恐维稳誓师大会) of the People’s Armed Police force (人民武装警察部队) in Urumqi, Kashgar, Ghulja (固勒扎, also known as Ili 伊犁 or Yining 伊宁), Hotan and Aksu (video here). These forces now also patrol Urumqi and other cities. Some reports also tell of disturbances in Internet traffic.

"Pledge meeting" in Urumqi. It is notable that many vehicles are European Ivecos or American Fords. How does that go along with the arms embargo?
”Pledge meeting” in Urumqi. It is notable that many vehicles are European Ivecos or American Fords. How does that go along with the arms embargo?

Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声) came to Urumqi 29 June to hold a ”meeting for party and state cadres” of the whole region (全区党政干部大会), transmitting directives from Xi Jinping and the special meeting held by the politbureau standing committee in Beijing the day before. Meng Jianzhu (孟建柱), secretary of the Central Politics and Law Commission (中央政法委员会) arrived in Urumqi to speak at the ”pledge meeting”, and the MInister of Public Security, Guo Shengkun (郭声琨) also took part.

Besides this not so subtle show of force and determination, other simultaneous events provide unintentional (?) irony to the whole situation. On 29 June Urumqi was also the place for the 10th International Symposium on Disaster History (第十届中国灾害史国际学术会议), with the theme ”Disaster and Frontier Society” (灾害与边疆社会). The symposium apparently mostly dealt with natural disasters as floods, earthquakes and draughts, but it is impossible not to think of political and social disasters, killings and ”the 5 July incident” (七五事件) 2009.

To further add to the confusion a top news item on the Kashgar Prefecture government website these days is the upcoming completion at the end of 2013 of the ”Disney of Xinjiang” (新疆迪斯尼) in Shufu county (疏附县 Kona Sheher, meaning ”old city”), Kashgar, namely the Ependi Amusement Park (阿凡提乐园). With a total investment of 200 million yuan (c. 25 million Euro) this theme park will hold an ”Ependi grand bazaar” (阿凡提大巴扎), a culture square (文化广场), ”Ependi ethnic village” (阿凡提民俗村), a great Ependi sculpture (阿凡提大型雕塑), reliefs (浮雕), a culture wall (文化墙) and ”Adil dawaz performance centre” (阿迪力达瓦孜演艺中心). Adil Hoshur (阿迪力·吾休尔, b. 1971) is a world renowned tightrope walker. Basically more ”singing and dancing”

Image of Ependi from the 1980 film
Image of Ependi from the 1980 film

But who was Nasreddin ependi? He might have been a Seljuq sufi from Konya in present-day Turkey, living in the 13th century. He might also just be made up. There are thousands of stories about him, sometimes with him as a witty or wise man, sometimes as a fool. Nasreddin is claimed by many Turkic peoples, and among Uyghurs he is known mostly by his courtesy title, Ependi (阿凡提). In the 1980s an very popular animated film was made in China, titled ”The Story of Ependi” (阿凡提的故事). Despite being appropriated and modulated into an ethnic sterotype, and despite calls to make him a ”image ambassador” (形象大使) for Xinjiang, Ependi’s wit is of the kind that could function as a safety valve and also bring hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.