The vocabulary of sharp implements in Xinjiang

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Public notification posted in villages of Makit County (Màigàití xiàn 麦盖提县; Mәkit nah̡iyisi / Мәкит наһийиси مەكىت ناھىيىسى) near Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR):


A few key terms:  kěn 垦 means "reclaim; reclamation".  Sìshíwǔ tuán 四十五团 refers to a particular military-agricultural bīngtuán 兵团 ("corps; brigade") in Xinjiang.  Some of my archeological investigations in Xinjiang were carried out in areas belonging to such bingtuan.  Life in these bingtuanis usually harsh and the land is generally stark.  One of the main tasks of the bingtuan is to reclaim desert land and make it suitable for agricultural use.

Jǐnjí tōngzhī

Guǎngdà jūmín tóngzhì:

Xiàn jiē dào kěnqū gōng'ān jú yāoqiú, yào duì běn xiáqū jūmín jiāzhōng suǒyǒu lìqì, jí càidāo, fǔzi, tiěqiāo, chútóu, tiěchā, gāngguǎn, pí jiákè xiǎodāo děng lìqì shàng jìnxíng dǎyìn shēnfèn zhèng hàomǎ, xiànqí 10 yuè 5 rì zhì 8 rì sān tiān, dìdiǎn zài gè xiǎoqū dàmén chù, fán bù jìnxíng dǎmǎ de dāojù, yījīng jiǎnchá yīlǜ mòshōu, wèi pèihé hǎo dǎmǎ gōngzuò, jūmín xūyào xiédài běnrén shēnfèn zhèng, bìng měi jiàn dǎmǎ yòngjù shōufèi 4 yuán, tècǐ tōngzhī.

Sìshíwǔ tuán yī shèqū

2017 nián 10 yuè 5 rì






Urgent Notice

All residents-comrades:

Now, in responding to the reclamation area Public Security Bureau's requirement, it is necessary to stamp national ID numbers on all sharp implements, such as kitchen knives, axes / hatchets, shovels / spades, hoes, pitchforks, steel pipes, leather jacket knives (VHM:  presumably knives that are small enough to be put in the pocket of a leather jacket), etc. in the houses of all community residents in this jurisdictional area within the time limit of three days between October 5th and October 8th. The location is at the main gate of all communities. All tools which are not stamped with ID numbers will be confiscated upon examination. In order to coordinate with the task of stamping ID numbers, community residents must bring their own national ID card and will be charged 4 Yuan for each implement that is stamped. It is hereby announced.

The 45th Corps Community No.1


[h.t. Geoff Wade; thanks to Jinyi Cai]


  1. DaveK said,

    October 10, 2017 @ 3:59 pm

    Could " leather jacket knives" = "sheath knives"?

  2. tangent said,

    October 11, 2017 @ 1:33 am

    Does "steel pipe" as a type of "sharp implement" make more sense in the original?

  3. tangent said,

    October 11, 2017 @ 1:41 am

    Google tells me that fee is $0.60 per implement.

    Also that per capita income of Xinjiang farmers and herdsmen was $703 in 2010, so about three implements on one day's income.

    Relative to U.S. income it would be $23 per knife.

  4. Victor Mair said,

    October 11, 2017 @ 7:45 am


    Thank you for your good question and your astute observation.

    No, "steel pipe" does not make more sense as a "sharp implement" in the original. What it has in common with the other implements named in the notification is that — in the eyes of the CCP authorities — it can be used as a lethal weapon.

    I was thinking exactly along the same lines as you about the high cost — to the commoners — of stamping all these items. Since a commoner's household would normally have more than three "sharp implements", the cost of stamping them all would quickly become prohibitive. That means they would have to hand in / throw away most of the tools they use in their daily existence.

    Given the hysterical climate of anti-Uyghur sentiment among the CCP authorities, there is another surreal aspect to such administrative decrees. Namely, the demographics of the bingtuan in Xinjiang are such that the Han constitute nearly 90% of the population who are resident in them.

    Han 2,204,500 88.1
    Uyghur 165,000 6.6
    Hui 64,700 2.6
    Kazakh 42,700 1.7
    Mongol 6,200 0.3
    others 18,100 0.7


    The reason for such a large number of Han living and working on the bingtuan is because they are essentially enormous military encampments populated mainly by soldier-farmers / workers brought from the eastern parts of the PRC. As mentioned in the o.p., I am intimately familiar with the operation of bingtuan like the 45th corps. One I worked in for awhile had a large prison, most of whose inmates were Han from outside of Xinjiang, and they were expected to work on reclamation and other enterprises and projects related to agriculture and manufacturing.

    Since the intent of such decrees as the one announced in this notification is to prevent insurrections and rebellions on the part of the Uyghurs, the paranoia of the CCP in Xinjiang is palpable. Such notices would make much more sense (to the authorities) if they were posted in primarily Uyghur communities. Of course, inasmuch as this notice was put up by the Public Security Bureau, similar announcements surely were not circulated only on the lands of the 45th and other corps that are occupied primarily by Han, but were probably posted widely throughout large parts of Xinjiang, including areas occupied mainly by Uyghurs.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    October 11, 2017 @ 1:27 pm

    In Xinjiang, Household Knives Must Be ID'ed

    Since 2014, as part of a nationwide crackdown on terrorism, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has seen a host of new restrictions over many facets of everyday life–from internet controls that surpass those in the rest of China to bans on any outward displays of Islamic religious belief, including the wearing of beards and veils or the use of qurans or prayer mats. In the run-up to the 19th Party Congress in Beijing, controls in Xinjiang are tightening further still. Some civil servants and other residents were not allowed to take the national "Golden Week" holiday last week in order to "prepare" for the congress. As far away as Shenzhen, hotels have been ordered not to accept guests from the predominately Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority group. Party leaders in one Xinjiang county have been ordered to send 40% of the population to reeducation through labor camps for exhibiting signs of "religious extremism," according to a report from Radio Free Asia.

    A new order, issued by neighborhood organizations, requires some Xinjiang residents to get all household knives stamped with an identifying QR code. One such order, issued in September, reads:

    According to the demands of present stability maintenance work, all neighborhood households' cutting tools with blades exceeding 10 centimeters must have QR codes embossed on them. Scrap knives must be handed in for safekeeping. Pass this message on.

    Zuo'anmingzhu neighborhood authentication time: September 9-10 2017 (two days)

    On Twitter, China Law Translate notes a knife engraving requirement from January in Wensu County, Aksu, Xinjiang:

    Translation by Josh Rudolph.

  6. tangent said,

    October 11, 2017 @ 3:17 pm

    The prohibitive cost and even sheer impossibility. A plumber can't throw away all their pieces of steel pipe. What about a builder's steel rebar, or even wooden 2x4s. Many people will have this threatening them if the authorities wish to use it.

  7. Scott P. said,

    October 12, 2017 @ 8:08 pm

    As folks have pointed out, things seem a bit off here. First of all, what does putting a stamp on every sharp object do? Even if they create a database of knife owners, these are presumably things that can be relatively easily sold, borrowed, or stolen. Second, it seems impossible to enforce. Do they propose to search every house for unregistered knives?

    I question whether the purpose of this is not to actually get every such object registered, but to ensure that nearly everyone will own some 'contraband', giving authorities excuse to arrest them whenever it is felt necessary.

  8. Clint Twist said,

    October 13, 2017 @ 2:47 am

    "sheath knives" seems a more likely explanation. A knife small enough to be carried in the pocket of a leather jacket can also be carried in the pocket of any other kind of jacket, or in a jeans pocket; so why not just say "pocket knife"? Do leather jackets have the same negative connotations in China (motorcycle hooligans) as they do in Europe and N.America.
    In the UK knives are very tightly regulated; citizens are only permitted to carry a 5-cm blade folding knife of a non-locking type. Carrying any other type of knife in public is illegal. In official statements about individual crimes the police tend to use the phrase "bladed implement".

    With regard to Xinjiang, what is the status of scissors and screwdrivers?

    For the record, my immediate reaction was that "leather jacket knives" = switchblades.

  9. Jonathan Smith said,

    October 13, 2017 @ 2:04 pm

    As far as I can tell 皮夾克小刀 is not a thing. One explanation would be that this was meant to be 皮夾小刀 "leather-sheath small knife" and that the typist used jiake 夾克 to generate 夾 and then neglected to delete 克 (happens often). 皮夾刀 may be more or less (?) the same as 信用卡刀 credit (card) knife 折疊刀 folding knife (折疊式 folding-style) card knife 皮包刀 wallet knife, etc. "Credit card knife" is also a thing a English it seems…

  10. Crane W. said,

    October 14, 2017 @ 11:30 am

    皮夹克小刀 is most likely a casual transliteration of Uyghur word "پىچاق" (pichaq), cognate with Turkish bıçak.

  11. Jonathan Smith said,

    October 15, 2017 @ 11:27 pm

    @ Crane W. Ah… that is much better.

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