Kazakhs in China

The Kazak mainly live in the Ili Kazak region, and is one of the biggest ethnic minority group in the northwestern Xinjiang Province. Except for a few settled farmers, most of the Kazaks live by animal husbandry. They migrate to look for pasturage as the seasons change. In spring, summer and autumn, they live in collapsible round yurts and in winter build flat-roofed earthen huts in the pastures.

In a Kazak yurt, living and storage spaces are separated. The yurt door usually opens to the east, the two flanks are for sleeping berths and the center is for storing goods and saddles; in front are placed cushions for visitors. Riding and hunting gear, cooking utensils, provisions and baby animals are kept on both sides of the door.

Kazak women seem to do everything in yurts. When a man step into the yurt, even if he is not family, the women would serve drinks and food to him, roll out the mattress for him to rest, lay out the pallets for the night and manage the temperature in the yurt, they are always the first to wake up, boil water, put away the pallets, make breakfast and mind the needs of the children. The cycle repeats every day.

Kazak hospitality lies in the blood. They entertain all guests, invited and uninvited alike, with the best things they have. At dinner, the host presents a dish of mutton with the sheep's head to the guest, who cuts a slice off the right cheek and puts it back on the plate as a gesture of appreciation. He then cuts off an ear and offers it to the youngest among those sitting round the dinner table, and gives the sheep's head back to the host. 

The pastoral Kazaks live off their animals. They produce a great variety of dairy products. Butter is made from cow's and sheep's milk. By custom, they slaughter animals in late autumn and cure the meat by smoking it for the winter. In spring and summer, when the animals are putting on weight and producing lots of milk, the Kazak herdsmen put fresh horse milk in shaba (barrels made of horse hide) and mix it regularly until it ferments into the cloudy, sour horse milk wine, a favorite summer beverage for the local people. 

Like many of the pastoral communities, the Kazaks, men and women alike, are good horse riders. Young men like wrestling and a game in which horsemen compete for a sheep. There are horsemanship displays on the grasslands during festivals.