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Wondrous Xinjiang: Uygur man depicts life on hand-painted drums

by Xinhua Writer Liu Hongxia

URUMQI, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- There are a thousand ways to depict the lives by a thousand people. Henijan Yunus from northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region chooses to paint life on traditional hand drums.

The Uygur man in his 50s runs a hand drum store inside the Xinjiang International Grand Bazaar, one of the largest bazaars in the regional capital of Urumqi.

The hand drum is an ethnic instrument that is commonly used in Xinjiang. Unlike most other stores that sell drums designed and produced on factory assembly lines, Henijan Yunus insists on painting on every hand drum by himself.

His paintings depict breathtaking natural landscapes and Uygur folk culture in Xinjiang, which are fairly popular among tourists.

"Uygur culture is an integral part of the Chinese culture. No wonder friends from other parts of China are fond of the ethnic culture," Henijan Yunus said, adding that up to 90 percent of his customers come from outside Xinjiang.

Henijan Yunus was born in the ancient city of Kashgar in southern Xinjiang and developed an interest in painting as a child.

"My neighbor was a folk artist good at carving, and his works attracted me to his yard every day," Henijan Yunus recalled.

While learning to carve from his neighbor, he got obsessed with painting and started to paint on the ground and walls.

His inspiration for painting on drums came when he saw his father, a hand drum maker, create drums.

"I was painting when I noticed my dad making a drum. Then it occurred to me, why not paint on drums," he said.

Henijan Yunus went to Urumqi in 1996 and opened a hand drum store. In 2003, when the grand bazaar opened, he moved his store to the complex, which now has become a must-go place for hundreds of millions of tourists from at home and abroad.

Over the years, he keeps painting on drums. When it is warm, he paints in front of his store, drawing a lot of curious visitors. When it is cold outside, the pigment freezes easily, so he chooses to paint at home after the store closes in the evening.

During the tourist rush season, he earns about 15,000 yuan (about 2,100 U.S. dollars) a month. Four members of his family have to work in the store to meet customers. "Even in the off-season, I can earn around 5,000 yuan per month," he said.

Henijan Yunus finds solace in the knowledge that his two sons are also quite interested in making and painting drums.

"I hope we can pass on the skills from generation to generation," he said. Enditem

(Intern Guzalnur Tayier contributed to the story.)