The poem Dance in Heytkah reads as follows,

12th September - Kurban Eid
I saw the dance of Sama
In the modern world
Magic mirror on the wall
My beloved hometown
From ancient history fill now
The sama happens in Atekar
Filled with vibrance
I pass by
And see the beautiful view
And it brings me to my youth
I see myself
Among the dance
Tears dropping with happiness
Yet so much joy in me
My heaven - my beloved hometown
I missed you dearly
You are the centre of the Silk Road
You you the pram
Cradled arts of all
What a treasure - tradition
Inherited by you
Wish you a thousand years
Of happiness like this
No bad eye may touch you
My dear hometown

What does he mean by "no bad eye may touch you" in this context?

2 Answers 2


If we interpret the poem as attempting to personify Kashgar, I think may no evil eye touch you might be a better translation; otherwise, may no villainous gaze land upon you would be suitable.

In Asian cultures, including the Turkic one from which the Uyghurs originate, blessings like "may you remain safe from the evil eye" are frequent, as are preventative measures to ward off gazes with designs treacherous or lecherous.

Persecution of the Uyghurs has found expression in policies that have aimed to destroy parts of Kashgar, a place historically important for the Uyghurs; it's a form of cultural genocide. See "Kashgar's Old City Destruction Emblematic of Beijing’s Cultural Campaign Against Uyghurs", "Kashgar: Images of Demolition from the Cradle of Uyghur Culture," and "Demolishing Kashgar's History".

Thus Tohti is wishing for her "beloved hometown" to remain free and safe, capable of providing future generations with memories as dear as those she was able to make.


This is an elaboration of, not a substitute for, @CDR's accurate answer. The last few sentences of the poem use expressions common in many Asian cultures for wishing longevity to something or (more commonly) someone cherished:

Wish you a thousand years
Of happiness like this
No bad eye may touch you
My dear hometown

No bad eye may touch you is literal, but somewhat inept; a better translation would be something like May you be safe from envious glances. Particularly when someone is being praised, it is common to use this form of words immediately after.

The idea is that (for example) if I see a baby and say something like, "What a cute child!," the compliment might cause others to look toward the baby with envy. Someone might overhear me, look at the baby, and think: "I hope that baby gets a scar so that everyone recognizes my baby as the cute one!" It is common in some cultures to put a black smudge on babies' faces to disguise their cuteness and thus ward off such envious thoughts. Or (to take another example), if I get an A minus on an exam and you get an A, when I say, "Congratulations!," my compliment might be tinged with envy. I could perhaps be secretly wishing that you fall ill on the day of the next exam so I will do better. I am regarding your success with a bad eye.

So a sincere well-wisher of yours may add something like chashm-e-badduur, "evil eyes, begone!" It would not be considered impugning my motives for that sincere well-wisher to say that, because the conventional interpretation would be that said well-wisher is guarding against someone else, such as an evil djinn, who might get jealous on hearing my compliment, not against my possible jealousy. So even if the sincere well-wisher does suspect me of envying your better grade, I have no grounds to take offense.

So common is the superstition of the evil eye, it's often used as an explanation for a calamity. Say if a handsome and successful young man is cut down in his prime due to illness or an accident, people might say Someone's [evil] gaze fell on him. It's not that people necessarily believe the superstition; it's merely a ritualized utterance, the way many otherwise rational people in the West will say "knock wood" (while rapping their foreheads with their knuckles) after talking of anticipated good fortune. It's the same idea: the knocking will drive away evil spirits who could be envious.

It's therefore common for people giving compliments to immediately follow up with this phrase to ward off the evil eye, both to indicate their own sincerity and to protect the person being complimented from the envy of others. So in context, the poet is singing Kashgar's praises. All his talk of Kashgar's beauty and glory might very well bring bad luck to the city, as potential conquerors or rival cities might start plotting its destruction. The poet therefore follows up his compliments with conventional phrases asking that the city prosper for æons (Wish you a thousand years / of happiness like this) and be kept safe from envious eyes of those who wish evil upon it (No bad eye may touch you).

Finally, why is this bad eye said to touch? This phrasing comes from now-superseded emission theory, which held that visual perception occurs when beams from the eye fall upon the object looked at. It's a short step from the idea that sight involves something from my eye touching what I'm looking at, to the idea that looking with envy damages the object of my envy. Again, the persistence of the phrasing May no evil gaze touch you doesn't necessarily indicate that emission theory is still believed in those cultures. It was after all an Arab philosopher, Ibn al-Haytham, who propounded the current theory of optics some ten centuries ago. But we still use phrases like my gaze fell on him or it caught my eye all the time, without necessarily believing that something from our eyes has literally fallen or gotten caught.

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