The Dongxiang people (autonym: Sarta or Santa (撒尔塔); simplified Chinese: 东乡族; traditional Chinese: 東鄉族; pinyin: Dōngxiāngzú; Xiao'erjing: دْوݣسِيْاݣذُ) are one of 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. Most of the Dongxiang live in the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture and surrounding areas of Gansu Province in northwestern China. According to the 2010 census, their population numbers 621,500.

Dongxiang minority student
A Dongxiang student in school.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
621,500 (2010 census) in Gansu
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Bonan, Hui, Hazaras

Origin and development

The Dongxiang are closely related to other Mongolic peoples like the Monguor and Bonan. Scholars speculate that their identity as an independent ethnic group arose through contact with Central Asians, due to whom the Dongxiang converted to Sunni Islam in the 13th century.

They are believed to be descendants of Mongolian troops posted in the Hezhou area by Genghis Khan (1162-1227 AD) during his journey westward, mixed with Sarts from Central Asia. Another possibility is that they could be a mixture of many peoples including Mongolian, Han, and Tibetan groups.[1]

The American Asiatic Association published an account of the Dongxiang's origins in the "Asia, Volume 40". A Muslim Mongol, Ma Chuanyuan, who was the supermagistrate of five districts, was interviewed, and gave a story on his people's origins. The conversion to Islam by a clan descended from Genghis Khan angered their relatives, who drove them all the way to Eastern Linxia. This occurred at the twilight of the Yuan dynasty. East Linxia was described as a land of "thorns and yellow earth". The author estimated a number of 100,000 Mongolian Muslims. They spoke Mongolian but were all illiterate. The account described them as a community of one hundred thousand, Mongol by race, Islam by religion and Chinese by culture. The majority of them were monolingual.[2][3]

Dongxiang were also known as Santa (San-t'a) people, it was reported that many of them served in the army of the Hui General Ma Fuxiang.[4] It was even said that Ma Fuxiang himself was of Santa descent, who had assimilated into the Hui community.[5]

Their autonym, sarta, may also provide a contradictory clue to their origin: a similar word Sart was formerly used in Central Asia to refer to Arab traders, later to the local (mostly) Turkic-speaking city dwellers. Their official name of Dōngxiāng meaning "eastern villages" stems from the fact that their settlements are east of the major Han Chinese settlements.

Like other Muslims in China, the Dongxiang served extensively in the Chinese military. It was said that they and the Salars were given to "eating rations", a reference to military service.[6]

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. Ma Fulu along with 100 Dongxiang and Hui troops died in fierce combat at Zhengyang Gate in Beijing against the Alliance forces as they fought to the death to hold the Alliance at bay.[7]

Dongxiang, Baoan, Hui, Salar, and Tibetan troops served under Ma Biao in the Second Sino-Japanese War against the Japanese.[8][9]


The Dongxiang have Mongol, Han Chinese, Hui, and Tibetan surnames.[10] Dongxiang with Han Chinese surnames such as Wang, Kang, Zhang, Gao, and Huang claim descent from Han Chinese. Those with surnames such as Ma and Mu are descended from Hui.[11][12]

Many of the Muslim descendants of Confucius are descended from the marriage of Ma Jiaga (马甲尕), a Muslim woman, and Kong Yanrong (孔彦嵘), 59th generation descendant of Confucius in the year 1480 and their descendants are found among the Hui and Dongxiang peoples.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22]

Some Dongxiang have said that, in the rare instances that they do marry with other people, it is only with Hui and Han, but not Tibetans.[23]

A town called Tangwangchuan (唐汪川) in Gansu had a multiethnic populace, the Tang (Chinese: ) and Wang (Chinese: ) families being the two major families. The Tang and Wang families were originally of non-Muslim Han Chinese extraction, but by the 1900s some branches of the families became Muslim by "intermarriage or conversion", while other branches of the families remained non-Muslim.[24] People in the area have changed their ethnicity by marrying members of other groups or converting to their religion. The Tang and Wang families are now composed of all three different ethnic groups, with Han Chinese, Hui, and Dongxiang people. The Dongxiang and Hui are Muslims.[25] Tangwangchuan and Hanjiaji were notable for being the lone towns with a multiethnic community, with both non-Muslims and Muslims.[26]

The cuisines of various ethnicities have spread across boundaries in the area of Hehuang, with different groups such as Mongolians, Tibetan, Dongxiang, and Hui eating each other's cuisines, such as mutton and milk tea.[27]


The base of the economy of Dongxiang is agriculture. The main products are potatoes, maize and wheat. They are also recognized craftsmen, specializing in the elaboration of traditional carpets.

Language and education

The Dongxiang speak the Dongxiang language, a member of the Mongolic family.[28] The Dongxiang people also have a rich tradition of oral literature, and use the Arabic alphabet.

As a result of the language shift, some 20,000 people in several villages in the northeastern Dongxiang County now speak the so-called "Tangwang language": a creolized version of Mandarin Chinese with a strong Dongxiang influence, in particular in its grammar.[29]

Government statistics show that the Dongxiang are among the poorest and least literate of China's minorities, with most Dongxiang having completed only an average of 1.1 years of schooling, a problem aggravated by the lack of a written language.

In 2004, the Ford Foundation provided US$30,000 in grant money for a pilot project to promote bilingual education in Dongxiang and Mandarin, in an effort to reduce school drop-out rates. The project is credited with the publication of a Dongxiang-Chinese bilingual dictionary as well as recent rises in test scores.


The East Asian O3-M122 Y chromosome Haplogroup is found in large quantities in other Muslims close to the Hui like Dongxiang, Bo'an and Salar. The majority of Tibeto-Burmans, Han Chinese, and Ningxia and Liaoning Hui share paternal Y chromosomes of East Asian origin which are unrelated to Middle Easterners and Europeans. In contrast to distant Middle Eastern and Europeans whom the Muslims of China are not related to, East Asians, Han Chinese, and most of the Hui and Dongxiang of Linxia share more genes with each other. This indicates that native East Asian populations converted to Islam and were culturally assimilated to these ethnicities and that Chinese Muslim populations are mostly not descendants of foreigners as claimed by some accounts while only a small minority of them are.[30]

Distribution of Y-chromosome haplogroups in Dongxiang:[31]











In another study in 2010 found that the majority of the Dongxiang belonged to Haplogroup R1a (R1a : 54%).[32]

Famous Dongxiang people


  1. ^ Jim Yardley (March 7, 2006). "Poor, illiterate and unaware they're in China". THE NEW YORK TIMES. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  2. ^ American Asiatic Association (1940). Asia: journal of the American Asiatic Association, Volume 40. Asia Pub. Co. p. 659. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
  3. ^ Hartford Seminary Foundation (1941). The Moslem World, Volumes 31-34. Hartford Seminary Foundation. p. 182. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
  4. ^ Pamela Kyle Crossley (2002). A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology. University of California Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-520-23424-6. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  5. ^ Louis M. J. Schram (2006). The Monguors of the Kansu-Tibetan Frontier: Their Origin, History, and Social Organization. Kessinger Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-4286-5932-2. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  6. ^ Christian Literature Society for India, Hartford Seminary Foundation (1920). Samuel Marinus Zwemer, eds. The Moslem World, Volume 10. Hartford Seminary Foundation. p. 379. Retrieved 2011-06-06.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
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  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "民国少数民族将军(组图)". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  10. ^ James Stuart Olson (1998). An ethnohistorical dictionary of China. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-313-28853-1. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  11. ^ Henry G. Schwarz (1984). The minorities of northern China: a survey. Volume 17 of Studies on East Asia (illustrated ed.). Western Washington. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-914584-17-9. Retrieved 17 July 2011.(Original from the University of Michigan )
  12. ^ Richard V. Weekes (1984). Richard V. Weekes, ed. Muslim peoples: a world ethnographic survey, Volume 1 (2, illustrated ed.). Greenwood Press. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-313-23392-0. Retrieved 17 July 2011.(Original from the University of Michigan )
  13. ^ "孔子后裔中有14个少数民族 有宗教信仰也传承家风--文化--人民网". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  14. ^ "孔子后裔中有14个少数民族 有宗教信仰也传承家风-中新网". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-10-06. Retrieved 2016-07-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "孔子后裔中有14个少数民族 有宗教信仰也传承家风--山东频道--人民网". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  17. ^ "西北生活着孔子回族后裔--文化--人民网". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  18. ^ "孔子后裔有回族--地方--人民网". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  19. ^ "孔子后裔有回族? - 宁夏百科". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  20. ^ "孔子后裔有回族? - 回族百科". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-13. Retrieved 2016-03-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-13. Retrieved 2016-03-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Colin Legerton; Jacob Rawson (2009). Invisible China: A Journey Through Ethnic Borderlands. Chicago Review Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-55652-814-9. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  24. ^ Gail Hershatter (1996). Gail Hershatter, ed. Remapping China: fissures in historical terrain (illustrated ed.). Stanford University Press. p. 102. ISBN 978-0-8047-2509-5. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  25. ^ M.E. Sharpe, Inc, International Arts and Sciences Press (2007). Chinese sociology and anthropology. M.E. Sharpe. p. 42. Retrieved 17 July 2011.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)(Original from the University of Virginia) [1][2][3]
  26. ^ Jonathan Neaman Lipman (1997). Familiar strangers: a history of Muslims in Northwest China (illustrated ed.). University of Washington Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-295-97644-0. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
  27. ^ M.E. Sharpe, Inc, International Arts and Sciences Press (2007). Chinese sociology and anthropology. M.E. Sharpe. p. 51. Retrieved 17 July 2011.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)(Original from the University of Virginia)
  28. ^ Henry Serruys; Françoise Aubin (1987). The Mongols and Ming China: customs and history, Volume 1. Variorum Reprints. p. cxv. ISBN 978-0-86078-210-0. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  29. ^ International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies (1996). Atlas of languages of intercultural communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas, Volume 2, Part 1. (Volume 13 of Trends in Linguistics, Documentation Series). Walter de Gruyter. pp. 875–882. ISBN 978-3-11-013417-9.
  30. ^ Yao, Hong-Bing; Wang, Chuan-Chao; Tao, Xiaolan; Shang, Lei; Wen, Shao-Qing; Zhu, Bofeng; Kang, Longli; Jin, Li; Li, Hui (1 December 2016). "Genetic evidence for an East Asian origin of Chinese Muslim populations Dongxiang and Hui". Scientific Reports. 6 (1). doi:10.1038/srep38656. PMID 27924949. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  31. ^ 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
  32. ^ 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.
  •  This article incorporates text from The Moslem World, Volume 10, by Christian Literature Society for India, Hartford Seminary Foundation, a publication from 1920 now in the public domain in the United States.

External links

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.

Chinese Tatars

The Chinese Tatars (simplified Chinese: 塔塔尔族; traditional Chinese: 塔塔爾族; pinyin: Tǎtǎ'ěrzú; Tatar: Cyrillic Кытай татарлары, Latin Qıtay tatarları) form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China.

Their ancestors are Volga Tatars tradesmen who settled mostly in Xinjiang and Crimean Tatars who suffered from Joseph Stalin's expulsion at 1940s.

The number of Chinese Tatars is close to 5000 as of the year 2000, and they live mainly in the cities of Yining, Tacheng, and Ürümqi in Xinjiang.

Chinese Tatars speak an archaic variant of the Tatar language, free from 20th-century loanwords and use the Arabic variant of the Tatar alphabet, which declined in the USSR in the 1930s. Being surrounded by speakers of other Turkic languages, Chinese Tatar partially reverses the Tatar high vowel inversion. They do have a writing system.

Chinese Tatars are Sunni Muslims.Jadid schools were founded in Xinjiang for Chinese Tatars.

Guanghe County

Guanghe County (simplified Chinese: 广河县; traditional Chinese: 廣河縣; pinyin: Guǎnghé Xiàn; Wade–Giles: Kuang-ho Hsien, Xiao'erjing: ﻗُﻮْا حْ ﺷِﯿًﺎْ‎) is a county in the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, located in the province of Gansu of the People's Republic of China. It contains an ethnic minority of the Dongxiang.

Han Kitab

The Han Kitab (simplified Chinese: 汉克塔布; traditional Chinese: 漢克塔布; pinyin: Hàn kètǎbù; Arabic: هان کتاب‎) was a collection of Chinese Islamic texts, written by Chinese Muslims, which synthesized Islam and Confucianism. It was written in the early 18th century during the Qing dynasty. Its name is similarly synthesised: 'Han' is the Chinese word for Chinese, and 'kitab' means book in Arabic. Liu Zhi wrote his Han Kitab in Nanjing in the early 18th century. The works of Wu Sunqie, Zhang Zhong, and Wang Daiyu were also included in the Han Kitab.The Han Kitab was widely read and approved of by later Chinese Muslims such as Ma Qixi, Ma Fuxiang, and Hu Songshan. They believed that Islam could be understood through Confucianism.

Hu Dahai

Hu Dahai (Chinese: 胡大海; pinyin: Hú Dàhǎi; died 1362), courtesy name Tongfu (通甫), was a Chinese military general who lived in the 14th century. He is best known for helping Zhu Yuanzhang (the Hongwu Emperor) establish the Ming dynasty in China.

Islam during the Song dynasty

The transition from the Tang to the Song dynasty (960–1279) in China did not greatly interrupt the trends of Muslims established during the Tang.

Islam in Macau

Islam in Macau is a minority religion in the region. Currently there are around more than 400 Muslims in Macau in which they call themselves as The Macau Islamic Society. According to the Islamic Union of Hong Kong, together with all of the foreign Muslim workers combined (such as from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Pakistan), Muslims in Macau accounted for more than 10,000 people.

Islamic Association of China

The Islamic Association of China (simplified Chinese: 中国伊斯兰教协会; traditional Chinese: 中國伊斯蘭教協會; pinyin: Zhōngguó Yīsīlánjiào Xiéhuì; Wade–Giles: Chung-kuo I-szŭ-lan-chiao Hsieh-hui) claims to represent Chinese Muslims nationwide in China. It is a national religious organization for Muslims of all ethnic groups. Its governing body is the national congress, and its headquarters is in Beijing.

Kangle County

Kangle County (simplified Chinese: 康乐县; traditional Chinese: 康樂縣; pinyin: Kānglè Xiàn; Wade–Giles: K’ang-lo Hsien) is a county in the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu province of the People's Republic of China. With ethnic minority of the Dongxiang.

According to Chapter of Geography of History book of Song Dynasty (Chinese: 宋史地理志), Kangle County was first established in 1073 (sixth year of the Emperor Shenzong of Song era, Northern Song dynasty: Chinese: 北宋熙寧六年).

Ma Gui (general)

Ma Gui (1543–1607) (simplified Chinese: 麻贵; traditional Chinese: 麻貴; pinyin: Má Guì; Wade–Giles: Ma2 Kui4) was the general of the armies of the Ming Dynasty between 1589 and 1610. A member of the Hui minority of China, he served the Han rulers with great loyalty. He participated in various campaigns against the Mongols in his career, and serving with great distinction, he led Ming force in the second Japanese Invasions of Korea his final position was the commander of Liaodong Peninsula.Also, Ma Gui is the founder of one of the Korean clan, Shanggu Ma clan.

Ma Qixi

Ma Qixi (1857–1914; simplified Chinese: 马启西; traditional Chinese: 馬啟西; pinyin: Mǎ Qǐxī; Wade–Giles: Ma Chi-hsi, Xiao'erjing: ﻣَﺎ چِ ثِ‎), a Hui from Gansu, was the founder of the Xidaotang, a Chinese-Islamic school of thought.

Ma Yize

Ma Yize (traditional: 馬依澤, simplified: 马依泽, ca. 910 - 1005) was a Muslim Hui Chinese

astronomer and astronomer who worked as the chief official of the astronomical observatory for the Song dynasty.

In the early 10th century, the Chinese emperor of the Song dynasty encouraged the advancement of the study of astronomy and its related disciplines. In 961, the Emperor Taizu (r. 960-976) appointed Ma Yize (910?-1005) as the chief official to take charge of the government observatory.

Ma Yize assisted Wang Chuna in compiling several important astrological works, including the Yingtianli (Calendar of Corresponding Heavens). His job was to provide observation, and computation of the regularities in celestial phenomena, using the Islamic methods. His findings were used by Wang Chuna in the compilation of Yingtianli, which was completed in 963. The calculation, based on a 7-day week system similar to that in the Islamic calendar, was first adopted in this document, which was the most important occurrence in the Chinese history of calendrical methods.

Ma Yize might have consulted many works of Islamic mathematical astronomy into Chinese, including:

Kitab al-Zij [Al-Battani sive Albatenni Opus astronomicum], 880, by Abu'Abdallah al-Battani [Latin: Albategni or Albatenius], 858-929

al-Zij al-sabi [The Sabian Tables]

Kitab Matali' al-Buruj [On the Ascensions of the Signs of the Zodiac]

Kitab Aqdar al- Ittisalat [On the Quantities of the Astrological Applications]It is possible that Ma was influenced by Al-Battani and Al-Hamdani. Owing to Ma's contribution to the compilation of 'Yingtianli', Ma was made a hereditary noble and his sons later succeeded his position with the Imperial Observatory.


The Mongols (Mongolian: Монголчууд, ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯᠴᠤᠳ, Mongolchuud, [ˈmɔŋ.ɢɔɮ.t͡ʃʊːt]) are an East-Central Asian ethnic group native to Mongolia and to China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. They also live as minorities in other regions of China (e.g. Xinjiang), as well as in Russia. Mongolian people belonging to the Buryat and Kalmyk subgroups live predominantly in the Russian federal subjects of Buryatia and Kalmykia.

The Mongols are bound together by a common heritage and ethnic identity. Their indigenous dialects are collectively known as the Mongolian language. The ancestors of the modern-day Mongols are referred to as Proto-Mongols.

Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang

Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang (born 1963) is an expert in Islamic calligraphy, specializing in the Sini style which originated from the Chinese Muslim tradition. Born in the province of Shandong, he is a lecturer at the Islamic College at Zhengzhou in the province of Henan, and is also a researcher of Islamic culture at the Henan Academy of Sciences. In 1997, Haji Noor Deen was the first Chinese Muslim to be awarded the Egyptian Certificate of Arabic Calligraphy and to be admitted as a member of the Association of Egyptian Calligraphy. His calligraphy is known for its beauty and complexity.

Sini (script)

Sini (from Arabic: صيني‎ Ṣīniy, "Chinese") is a calligraphic style used in China for the Arabic script. It can refer to any type of Chinese Arabic calligraphy, but is commonly used to refer to one with thick and tapered effects such as seen in Chinese calligraphy. It is used extensively in mosques in eastern China, and to a lesser extent in Gansu, Ningxia, and Shaanxi.

One famous Sini calligrapher is Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang.

The Hundred-word Eulogy

The Hundred-word Eulogy (百字讃 bǎizìzàn) is a 100-character praise of Islam and the Islamic prophet Muhammad written by the Hongwu Emperor of China (r. 1368-1398). Copies of it are on display in several mosques in Nanjing, China.

Tibetan Muslims

The Tibetan Muslims, also known as the Kachee (Tibetan: ཁ་ཆེ་, Wylie: kha-che; also spelled Kache), form a small minority in Tibet. Despite being Muslim, they are officially recognized as Tibetans by the government of the People's Republic of China, unlike the Hui Muslims, who are separately recognized. The Tibetan word Kachee literally means Kashmiri and Kashmir was known as Kachee Yul (Yul means Country).


The Utsuls ([hu˩ t͡saːn˧˨]; traditional Chinese: 回輝人; simplified Chinese: 回辉人; pinyin: Huíhuī rén) or Hainan Hui (Chinese: 海南回族; pinyin: Hǎinán huízú), are a Chamic-speaking ethnic group which lives on the island of Hainan, and are considered one of the People's Republic of China's unrecognized ethnic groups. They are found on the southernmost tip of Hainan near the city of Sanya.


Yeheidie'erding (也黑迭兒丁, Yěhēidié'érdīng, ? - 1312), also known as Amir al-Din (Arabic: أمير الدين‎, Amīr al-Dīn), was a Muslim architect who helped design and led the construction of the capital of the Yuan Dynasty, Khanbaliq, located in present-day Beijing, the current capital of the People's Republic of China.

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