From Two Uighur Documents on Adoption, to the Class of the Uighur Society of Gao Chang in the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty

Liu Ge

From Two Uighur Documents on Adoption, to the Class of the Uighur Society of Gao Chang in the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty

(55th Meeting, 2012)

The social structure of the Uighurs was complex and the class difference of the people was obvious in the region of Gao Chang during the Mongolian Yuan dynasty. There are many documents proving it in the writings of Uighur contract unearthed in Turpan. The Ado1 and Em01 documents concerning the adoption mention two examples.

In these two documents, the main content of this situation is shown in sentences, which express warning, statement of no contract breaching and the punishment of such breaching. The object of warning includes list names of the department or receiver of fine punishment. This list covers people of different social status from the Mongol emperor and government officials to the common people and main family members. In addition, in the beginning of Em01 document, there are some greetings, which are completely different in tonality and emotion from the sentences of warning, statement and punishment for breaching. However, they all reflect the difference of the social structure and interpersonal relationship in the local people’s eyes: On the top of the Mongolian social hierarchy was the emperor; and then the emperor’s brother, the emperor’s sons, Idiqut, who was the chief executive in the region of Gao Chang (also named Gao Chang Wang) and officials at all levels such as provincial judges and so on.

In the social life of the people, religious representative’s positions are lofty. A small family was composed of a husband and his immediate relatives. They all lived together in the same clan. Concerning an important matter, the husband, the head of the family, had to take decisions. However, the husband’s brothers and relatives have the right to interfere, which shows that they lived together in the same clan of people. The sequence of Em01 greetings shows that, the position of husband’s directly-related members of wife and sons is higher than his collateral relative in some families.

The two documents concerning the adoption both have the sentences to confirm the identity of the adopted related to the adopter in the family. The adopted son named Bintong in the Em01 document, shows that original identity used to be a slave. His adoptive father named Xuesai, the master, bought him back with money. Then the form of document was used to establish his new identity, as his son and a free man. This suggests that in the society existed no freedom but slaves who could be bought and sold at that time. The adopted son had not come from the family of the slave class in the Ado1 document, but the document also has special provisions to explain his free status in the family of the adoptive father. This means that, without the guarantee of these terms, even if some adopted sons had come from free status, they might fall into non-free bottom of the social hierarchy.