Bonan people

The Bonan people (保安族; pinyin: Bǎo'ān zú; native [bɵːŋɑn]) are an ethnic group living in Gansu and Qinghai provinces in northwestern China. They are one of the "titular nationalities" of Gansu's Jishishan Bonan, Dongxiang and Salar Autonomous County, which is located south of the Yellow River, near Gansu's border with Qinghai.

Numbering approximately 17,000 the Bonan are the 7th smallest of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.

Total population
16,505 (year 2000 census)
Regions with significant populations
People's Republic of China, mostly concentrated in Gansu province and a small number in Qinghai.
Bonan (traditional), Mandarin Chinese
Predominantly Sunni Islam, minority Tibetan Buddhist (Qinghai)
Related ethnic groups
Mongols, Dongxiang, Hazaras


The Bonan people are believed to be descended from Muslim Mongol soldiers stationed in Qinghai during the Yuan or Ming dynasties.

They are agriculturalists and also knife makers. They are mixed between Mongols, Hui, Han Chinese, and Tibetans, and wear Hui attire.[1]

The ancestors of today's Bonan people were Lamaist, and it is known that around 1585 they lived in Tongren County (in Amdo Region; presently, in Qinghai Province), north of the Tibetan Rebgong Monastery. It was in that year that the town of Bao'an was founded in that area.[2]

Later on, some of the members of the Bonan-speaking community converted to Islam and moved north, to Xunhua County. It is said that they have been converted to Islam by the Hui Sufi master Ma Laichi (1681?- 1766).[3] Later, in the aftermath of the Dungan Rebellion (1862–1874) the Muslim Bonans moved farther east, into what's today Jishishan Bonan, Dongxiang and Salar Autonomous County of Gansu Province.[2]

It were the members of this Muslim part of the original Bonan community who are officially recognized as the separate "Bonan" ethnic group in today's PRC. Their brethren who have remained Lamaists, and stayed in Tongren, are now officially classified as part of the Monguor (Tu) ethnic group, even though they speak essentially the same Bonan language. The official concept of the "Bonan ethnic group" still remains somewhat artificial for the Bonans themselves.[2]

Dongxiang, Baoan, and Hui troops served under Generals Ma Fulu and Ma Fuxiang in the Boxer Rebellion, defeating the invading Eight Nation Alliance at the Battle of Langfang.[4]

Dongxiang, Baoan, Hui, Salar, and Tibetan troops served under Ma Biao in the Second Sino-Japanese War against the Japanese.[5][6]


Both the Muslim Bonans in Gansu and their Buddhist cousins in Qinghai (officially classified as Monguor) have historically spoken the Bonan language, a Mongolic language. The Buddhist Bonan of Qinghai speak a slightly different dialect than the Muslim Bonan of Gansu. Whereas the Bonan language of Gansu has undergone Chinese influences, the Bonan language of Qinghai has been influenced by Tibetan.[2]

They have no script for their language.[7]

The Muslim Gansu Bonans are more numerous than their Buddhist Qinghai cousins (the estimates for the two groups were around 12,200 (in 1990), and around 3,500 (in 1980), respectively). However, it has been observed that in Gansu the use of Bonan language is declining (in favor of the local version – the "Hezhou dialect" – of Mandarin Chinese), while in Qinghai the language keeps being transmitted to younger generations.[2]


Distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroups in Bonan:[8]










In another study in 2010 found:[9]











The Bonan share many traditions with the Dongxiang and Hui. Their traditional dress includes elements of Tibetan, Hui and Dongxiang clothing. Married Bonan women wear black veils, while unmarried women wear green veils. Bonan men typically wear black or white head coverings and white jackets.

Bonan knives are renowned for their beauty and hardness and their manufacture and sale form an important part of the local economy, along with farming and ranching.


  1. ^ Shoujiang Mi, Jia You (2004). Islam in China. 五洲传播出版社. p. 58. ISBN 978-7-5085-0533-6. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  2. ^ a b c d e Janhunen, Juha (2003). The Mongolic languages. Volume 5 of Routledge language family series. Routledge. pp. 325–326. ISBN 978-0-7007-1133-8.
  3. ^ Lipman, Jonathan Neaman (1998). Familiar strangers: a history of Muslims in Northwest China. Hong Kong University Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-962-209-468-0. Lipman's source is a book by Ma Tong.
  4. ^ 抗击八国联军的清军将领——马福禄 - 360Doc个人图书馆
  5. ^ "马家军悲壮的抗战:百名骑兵集体投河殉国(1)". 军事-中华网. 19 September 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-04-11. Retrieved 2014-10-30.
  6. ^ 民国少数民族将军(组图)2 - 360Doc个人图书馆
  7. ^ Shoujiang Mi, Jia You (2004). Islam in China. 五洲传播出版社. p. 57. ISBN 978-7-5085-0533-6. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  8. ^ Wen, Shaoqing; Xu, Dan (2017), "The Silk Road: Language and Population Admixture and Replacement", Languages and Genes in Northwestern China and Adjacent Regions, Springer, Singapore, pp. 55–78, doi:10.1007/978-981-10-4169-3_4, ISBN 9789811041686
  9. ^ Xiao, Chun-Jie; Tang, Wen-Ru; Shi, Hong; Tan, Si-Jie; Dong, Yong-Li; Wei, Chuan-Yu; Qiao, En-Fa; Shou, Wei-Hua (May 2010). "Y-chromosome distributions among populations in Northwest China identify significant contribution from Central Asian pastoralists and lesser influence of western Eurasians". Journal of Human Genetics. 55 (5): 314–322. doi:10.1038/jhg.2010.30. ISSN 1435-232X. PMID 20414255.

External links


Bao'an may refer to:

Bonan people, or Bao'an (保安族), an ethnic group living in Qinghai and Gansu

Bao'an dialect, spoken in Shenzhen and the New Territories, Hong Kong


Bonan, or Bao'an may refer to:

Bonan people

Bonan languagePlacesBonan, Iran

Bönan, SwedenSee alsoJishishan Bonan, Dongxiang and Salar Autonomous County, China

Isaabad-e Sar Bonan, IranPeopleEdmond Bonan (born 1937), French mathematician

Heiko Bonan (born 1966), football coach

Marcelo Bonan (born 1981), Brazilian footballer

Narcisse Bonan (born 1984), Ivorian footballer

Bonan language

The Bonan language (pronounced [p⁼aoˈnaŋ], Baonang) (Chinese 保安语 Bǎo'ān yǔ, Amdo Tibetan Dorké) is the Mongolic language of the Bonan people of China. As of 1985, it was spoken by about 8,000 people, including about 75% of the total Bonan ethnic population and many ethnic Monguor, in Gansu and Qinghai Provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture. There are several dialects, which are influenced to varying degrees — but always heavily — by Tibetan and Chinese, while bilingualism in Wutun is less common. The most commonly studied is the Tongren dialect. There is no writing system in use. The language is also referred to as "Manegacha", natively.

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