Falcon Hunters of Xinjiang

During my last visit in Beijing I went to the antiques market in Pingjiayuan road.

Between the old magazines I found an interesting copy of Mingzuhuabao (Minorities Magazine of November 1984.

I always found in this old magazine more information about the social changes in the Chinese social structure than when I’m talking to his people. This is due to the education system and to big masses movements within the northern and western provinces since 1949.

Nowadays most of the Chinese minority groups individuals in China have often forgotten or hidden their origins. Han ethnic group members themselves often don’t know from which part of China their families are actually originary, or if between their direct ancestor there are some mix within Han and other minorities. But in these magazines is still possible to see how displacements of the masses took place in PRC.

The article I’m highlighting today is about Kazak falconiers in Xinjiang.

Between the Kazakh there is a motto,: ” Three are treasures of the nomads in the plateau: a horse, a hound and a falcon”.

Around the different regions of Xinjiang the falconry has different names, all coming from the word ”falcon”. For example in Altain mountains is called “Akeyike”(阿克依克), in the Bogda mountains is called “Quegele”(却格勒), and Yili areas instead is called “Dusilema” (都斯勒玛), etc.

The Kazakh have a long tradition on training falcons, a practice that is believed to have his origins in high plateaus of Central Asia, and that at the time of Mongolian and Turkic ords invaded new territories had been transferred to other parts of Asia and Europe. Others believe that falconry is a practice that arose simultaneously around the continents. For example in Italy as well falconry has a long tradition.

Falconry requires a lot of energies, dedication and attention to understand all the signals that the animal is transmitting.

Moreover a good falcon master needs to develop an excellent understanding of the fauna in his territory, of the falcons diet, and how predicting the weather can turn a hunt in a successful one.

Every March in the region of Yili the falcons are making between one to three eggs each. This is the months when the free falcons hunt the most, so they can feed their chicks. After just six months the little falcons will be able to start flying themselves.

The falcon hunters are not supposed to rise the little falcons, which instead will learn themselves how to survive once able to fly. The falconers instead prefers to choose their own falcons by catching them using a special falcon net. This happens in winter, the period when the falcon are more voracious for food and less cautious. Once caught the falconers put little mask on the head of the falcon to cover the eyes, this is his the beginning of their training.

The falconers spend usually the winter time to proceed the training, establishing a close relationship with their falcons. One of this exercises is to throw little pieces of meat to reward the bird when is coming back to them. When the winter ends, the falcon is ready for hunt.

In the pictures above are described the processes of the hunting: going out to hunting, the falcon waits for the falconer, the falcon attach and kills his prey, and the reward of the falcon.

The teaching from this article is that in this world there are traditions so beautiful and sophisticated in their simplicity to let the writer to forget to teach for once about politics and social morals, and omissions that shows another face of China, free from the one of the high buildings and their shiny lights.