A Dongxiang student in school.
|Regions with significant populations|
|621,500 (2010 census) in Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, and Xinjiang|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Mongols, Bonan, Hui|
|Islam in China|
|Islam in China portal|
The Dongxiang people (autonym: Sarta or Santa (撒尔塔); simplified Chinese: 东乡族; traditional Chinese: 東鄉族; pinyin: Dōngxiāngzú; Xiao'erjing:دْو سِيْا) 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, while others groupings can also be found in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province, and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. According to the 2010 census, their population numbers 621,500.
Origin and development
The Dongxiang are closely related to the Mongolians. 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.
One possible origin is that they are descendants of Mongolian troops posted in the Hezhou area by Genghis Khan (1162-1227 AD) during his journey westward, while another possibility is that they could be a mixture of many peoples including Mongolian, Han, and Tibetan groups.
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, the nephew of Ma Chuanyuan, at age 12, learned to write and speak Chinese in school, he was an alumnus of Tianjin's Nankai Middle School, and Nanjing's Military College.
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. It was even said that Ma Fuxiang himself was of Santa descent, who had assimilated into the Hui community.
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.
The Dongxiang have Mongol, Han Chinese, Hui, and Tibetan surnames. Dongxiang with Han Chinese surnames such as Wang, Kang, Zhang, Gao, Huang claim descent from Han Chinese. Those with surnames such as Ma and Mu are descended from Hui.
Some Dongxiang have said in the rare instances that they do marry with other people, it is only with Hui and Han, but not Tibetans.
A town called Tangwangchuan (唐汪川) in Gansu had a multiethnic populace, the Tang 唐 and Wang 汪 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.
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.
Tangwangchuan and Hanjiaji were notable for being the lone towns with a multiethnic community, with both Non Muslims and Muslims.
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 food like mutton and milk tea.
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
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 with a strong Dongxiang influence, in particular in its grammar.
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.
Famous Dongxiang people
- Jim Yardley (March 7, 2006). "Poor, illiterate and unaware they're in China". THE NEW YORK TIMES. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- American Asiatic Association (1940). Asia: journal of the American Asiatic Association, Volume 40. Asia Pub. Co. p. 659. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- Hartford Seminary Foundation (1941). The Moslem World, Volumes 31-34. Hartford Seminary Foundation. p. 182. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- Pamela Kyle Crossley (2002). A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology. University of California Press. p. 142. ISBN 0-520-23424-3. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- Louis M. J. Schram (2006). The Monguors of the Kansu-Tibetan Frontier: Their Origin, History, and Social Organization. Kessinger Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 1-4286-5932-3. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- Christian Literature Society for India, Hartford Seminary Foundation (1920). Samuel Marinus Zwemer, ed. The Moslem World, Volume 10. Hartford Seminary Foundation. p. 379. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
- James Stuart Olson (1998). An ethnohistorical dictionary of China. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 66. ISBN 0-313-28853-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- 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 0-914584-17-0. Retrieved 17 July 2011.(Original from the University of Michigan )
- Richard V. Weekes (1984). Richard V. Weekes, ed. Muslim peoples: a world ethnographic survey, Volume 1 (2, illustrated ed.). Greenwood Press. p. 238. ISBN 0-313-23392-6. Retrieved 17 July 2011.(Original from the University of Michigan )
- Colin Legerton, Jacob Rawson (2009). Invisible China: A Journey Through Ethnic Borderlands. Chicago Review Press. p. 156. ISBN 1-55652-814-0. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- Gail Hershatter (1996). Gail Hershatter, ed. Remapping China: fissures in historical terrain (illustrated ed.). Stanford University Press. p. 102. ISBN 0-8047-2509-8. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
- M.E. Sharpe, Inc, International Arts and Sciences Press (2007). Chinese sociology and anthropology. M.E. Sharpe. p. 42. Retrieved 17 July 2011.(Original from the University of Virginia) 
- Jonathan Neaman Lipman (1997). Familiar strangers: a history of Muslims in Northwest China (illustrated ed.). University of Washington Press. p. 145. ISBN 0-295-97644-6. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
- M.E. Sharpe, Inc, International Arts and Sciences Press (2007). Chinese sociology and anthropology. M.E. Sharpe. p. 51. Retrieved 17 July 2011.(Original from the University of Virginia)
- Henry Serruys, Françoise Aubin (1987). The Mongols and Ming China: customs and history, Volume 1. Variorum Reprints. p. cxv. ISBN 0-86078-210-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- 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 3-11-013417-9.
- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dongxiang people.|
- The Dongxiang ethnic minority (Chinese government site)
- Oliver Corff: The Dongxiang Mongols and Their Language
- Ford Foundation Grant Information: Narisi Primary School of Dongxiang Autonomous County
- Poor, illiterate, and unaware they're in China
- Dongxiang people history and photo gallery