The Kazakhs are the descendants of the ancient Wushu tribes. These tribes were driven from their homelands in the Hexi Corridor, but became an established power in the Ili region by the first century BC, when the Chinese envoy Zhang Qian courted them.
The Kazakhs have their own language and letters that are based on Arabic letters. The Kazakhs lived in mixed communities with the Hans, Uigurs and Mongolians. They have assimilated many words from these languages.
Most of the Kazakh people engage in stockbreeding. A small number of the population deals with agriculture and trade. The Kazak people are also good hunters and horse riders. The Silk Road threading through Xinjiang's deserts and mountains carried China's trade westward and eventually opened the way for Islam's expansion eastward. Seven of the 12 minorities here are Muslim, most speak Turkic languages and for centuries used Arabic script. The Kazakh, renowned for their horsemanship, have reduced their pastoral wanderings as herders of sheep and goats and live in communes during the winter. The Kazakh are found in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. They are part of the Altaic Turkic ethno linguistic group.