ANNIE LUNDGREN WRITES – A Chinese production company recently launched the 3D cartoon series “Princess Fragrant,” which follows a Uyghur girl’s adventures along the Silk Road.

The character, who sports a traditional Uyghur hat and long braids, was inspired by the ancient Chinese legend of “Fragrant Concubine,” the Uyghur consort of an emperor during the Qing dynasty. The legend has been re-imagined into a children’s cartoon aimed to promote a sense of solidarity between ethnic groups in China, particularly Muslim Uyghurs and Han Chinese. China is currently made up of 56 recognized ethnic groups, but the Han make up for more than 90% of the population and control the state and institutions.

The 104-episode series depicts a 10-year-old girl named “Iparhan” in Uyghur language and “Xiangfei” in Mandarin, who ventures to find her father who has been kidnapped by a “greedy western explorer.” Her quest takes her along the Silk Road where she encounters some of China’s diverse cultures.

Iparhan hails from Kashgar, an ancient city that is located on China’s mountainous frontier, near the borders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Lately, the oasis has become the center of deadly attacks and protests, which the Chinese government blames on Islamist separatists and terrorists. On the other hand, many Uyghurs believe the Chinese government has imposed harsh and discriminatory restrictions on Uyghur culture.

The series is part of a number of government-funded projects to encourage social tolerance and assimilation of China’s mainly Turkic-speaking minorities in its far northwestern province. Other tactics to promote social unity and increase national security include cash-incentives for interethnic marriages and a campaign to encourage Chinese-Muslim women to “show off” their beauty by removing their veils in public.

Ethnic clashes between the Uyghur people and China’s Han majority have intensified in recent years due to the increased migration of Hans to the region. The Chinese government’s cultivation of the Xianjing economy and the influx of Han workers have economically isolated many Uyghurs, who are mainly Sunni-Muslim and Turkic-speaking.

May ‘Princess Fragrant’s’ reign pacify these skirmishes and promote positive change among China’s ethnic groups