The ancient Uyghurs believed in many local deities. These practices gave rise to Shamanism and Tengrism. Uighurs also practiced aspects of Zoroastrianism. The strong dichotomy between good and evil was often represented symbolically by fire and darkness. The Uyghur had fire altars like those that existed in regions of Iran, and they were also useful in daily life as a constant source of fire. The exact date that the Uigur people adapted Manichaeismas a state religion has been contested by many academics
The Uighurs are the people whom old Russian travelers called “Sart” (a name they used for sedentary, Turkish-speaking Central Asians in general), while Western travelers called them Turki, in recognition of their language. The Chinese used to call them “Ch’an-t’ou” (‘Turbaned Heads’) but this term has been dropped, being considered derogatory, and the Chinese, using their own pronunciation, now called them Weiwuerh. As a matter of fact there was for centuries no ‘national’ name for them; people identified themselves with the oasis they came from, such as Kashgar or Turfan.
he name “Uyghur” reappeared after the Soviet Union took the 9th-century ethnonym from the Uyghur Khaganate, then reapplied it to all non-nomadic Turkic Muslims of Xinjiang. It followed western European orientalists like Julius Klaproth in the 19th century who revived the name and spread the use of the term to local Turkic intellectuals and a 19th-century proposal from Russian historians that modern-day Uyghurs were descended from the Kingdom of Qocho and Kara-Khanid Khanate formed after the dissolution of the Uyghur Khaganate. Historians generally agree that the adoption of the term “Uyghur” is based on a decision from a 1921 conference in Tashkent, attended by Turkic Muslims from the Tarim Basin (Xinjiang). There, “Uyghur” was chosen by them as the name of their ethnicity, although delegates noted the modern groups referred to as “Uyghur” are distinct from the old Uyghur Khaganate. According to Linda Benson, the Soviets and their client Sheng Shicai intended to foster a Uyghur nationality to divide the Muslim population of Xinjiang, whereas the various Turkic Muslim peoples preferred to identify themselves as “Turki”, “East Turkestani” or “Muslim”