What is Love? An Essay by Jailed Uyghur Writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin


The graves of two fabled Uyghur lovers. Photo: The Opposite End of China/Michael. D Manning >> View larger image

Chinese authorities sentenced a young Uyghur writer, Nurmuhemmet Yasin, to 10 years’ imprisonment in 2005 for publishing a fable, “Wild Pigeon,” which was widely regarded as a veiled attack on Beijing’s rule in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.

According to Dolkun Kamberi, director of RFA’s Uyghur service, who translated the essay into English: “Yasin is a mature Uyghur young writer who already has established literary credentials among Uyghur readers. ‘Wild Pigeon’ is now making him well-known to a broader readership.”

Yasin has published numerous short stories, essays, and three volumes of poetry in recent years, garnering several literary awards. Some of his work has already been selected for inclusion in Uyghur-language middle-school literature textbooks.

After a closed trial in February 2005 at which he was not permitted to hire a lawyer, Yasin was sentenced by the Maralbeshi County People’s Court to 10 years in jail for inciting Uyghur separatism with “Wild Pigeon.” He was transferred in May 2005 to Urumqi No. 1 Prison, and has been permitted no visitors since his arrest.

What is love?

“What is love? This mystical, mythical question goes back to ancient times—without a coherent answer. Each person’s experience of love is uniquely varied, and each person’s understanding of love is different from the next. Love varies from one period to another along the length of a human life; a person can have many loves, but each experience will be different from the next. Summing it up, or pinning it down, are both impossible.

Love is like the sunshine; no matter how tightly you shut down your heart, the sunlight will find a way to shine into it. Love’s process is unstoppable.

“Love is like a continually shattering mirror that always leaves behind images etched in people’s hearts; but it will itself remain a mystery forever.

“Many people give themselves over to this mystery, but while love can produce the most tender and delicate feelings in anyone’s soul, it alone can open a window in the hearts of a very few.

“A simple analogy might be that of spring water which satisfies an extremely thirsty soul. Imagine, in the intense heat of midsummer, a very thirsty shepherd, using both hands to scoop the running water from a roadside creek to drink with a joy that satisfies his thirst. Such a sensation is beyond compare.

This statue marks a Uyghur folk story of two lovers' tragic flight through Tiemenguan Pass. Photo: The Opposite End of China/Michael. D Manning >> View larger image

A transformative process

“Similarly, when a tired and weary person returns home from far away, he says to himself, ‘Finally, I have come home,’ before stretching himself out on his bed to rest. This joy, too, is beyond compare. Again, when a writer who has been up all night working puts the last full-stop at the end of his article; this, too, is boundless consolation for the heart. These all are phenomena of love.

“In fact, love is a sort of deeply pleasing satisfaction, but with various manifestations. It defies explicit definition. Khalil Gibran gives us an extremely vivid description: ‘For even as love crowns you, so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, so shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. That is to say, love can occupy the deepest places of your mind, shake the foundations of your life, and force you to leave your native land. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant; And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.’

“Love is the kind of process described above; it makes you understand yourself. Only through this process, will you be able to become a soul, to become a part of life. Gibran uses a real life image to describe it, precisely because it is so difficult to give an explanation. A profound understanding of the process is even more difficult.

The graves of two fabled Uyghur lovers. Photo: The Opposite End of China/Michael. D Manning >> View larger image

“Everybody has a different explanation and a different definition regarding the love they experience. The majority of people can suddenly fall in love with a stranger. If you ask them what they see in their lover, sometimes they can’t give you a clear answer. But the fact of their regard for each other is indisputable.

“Regardless of the secret mystery of love, it is a process in your feelings and in your heart. Love, too, always manifests itself in the body. Love will appear repeatedly in your life. In fact, the Gibran description of love is also talking about a solid, concrete form of love. Still other forms of love exist secretly in a human life.

'Performance of the self'

“Love is a kind of performance of the self, a satisfaction of the self; love is a kind of need, or is a much-needed satisfaction. Love is a kind of tendency toward both secret transformation and public transition. No matter what, if you fall in love with an actual person, you can feel your body making various unexpected changes. You might also realize that changes are taking place in your thoughts as never before.

“If this kind of phenomenon appears in your life, you may presume you are in love, for these phenomena are a form of love in themselves. Regardless of whether these phenomena last a long time or a short time, whether they are painful or enjoyable, they constitute riches, which will inscribe themselves in your heart forever.

“In brief, as a living human being with a soul, it is impossible not to fall in love in the course of a lifetime. Love is like the sunshine; no matter how tightly you shut down your heart, the sunlight will find a way to shine into it. Love’s process is unstoppable. Therefore, my advice would be: Don’t waste your precious time trying to define the meaning of love. The best definition is already in your own heart and mind.”

Maralbeshi County

Midnight. July 24, 2004

Original Uyghur essay by Nurmuhemmet Yasin. Translated by RFA Uyghur service director Dolkun Kamberi. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.