Salar people

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Salar
SalarTurkmensXian.jpg
Salar people in Xi'an celebrating Sabantuy
Total population
104,503 (2000 census)
Regions with significant populations
China: provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Xinjiang
Languages
Salar, Chinese
Religion
Muslim
Related ethnic groups
Turkmen people, Hui people, Han chinese, Tibetans

The Salar people (Salar: Salır; Chinese: 撒拉族; pinyin: Sālāzú) are an ethnic minority of China who largely speak Salar, in the Oghuz branch of Turkic languages.

The Salar people numbered 104,503 people in the last census of 2000. They live mostly in the Qinghai-Gansu border region, on both sides of the Yellow River, namely in Xunhua Salar Autonomous County and Hualong Hui Autonomous County of Qinghai and the adjacent Jishishan Bonan, Dongxiang and Salar Autonomous County of Gansu. There are also Salars in Xinjiang (in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture).

The Salars' ancestors were migrating Oghuz Turks who intermarried with Han Chinese, Tibetans, and Hui.[1] They are a patriarchal agricultural society and are predominantly Muslim.

History[edit]

Origin stories[edit]

According to Salar tradition, they are the descendants of the Salur tribe, belonging to the Oghuz Turks tribe of the Western Turkic Khaganate. The word Salur meant "those who wave swords, spears and hammers everywhere." During the Tang Dynasty period, the Salur tribe dwelt within China's borders — later moving west towards Central Asia.

The two brothers Haraman and Ahman, forefathers of the present day Salar tribe once lived in the Samarkand area. They were highly ranked at local Islamic mosques, thus led to prosecution from local king and rulers. The two brothers fled along with eighteen members of the tribe on a white camel with water, soil, and a Koran before heading east.[2] The group trekked through the northern route of the Tian Shan mountain ranges into the Jiayuguan pass and passing through the present day Suzhou District, Ganzhou district, Ningxia, Qinzhou District, Gangu County, and eventually stopping at the present Xiahe County

Later, another forty people from Samarkand joined the group. The group passed through the southern route of the Tian Shan mountain ranges and entered Qinghai. They arrived at the present Guide County, and twelve of them settled there.

The remaining twenty eight travellers met up with the Haraman group at Ganjiatan, and travelled to the present Xunhua region. The group later found that the soil at the area was fertile and settled there since then. As time progressed, these Samarkand people intermarried with the local Tibetan, Hui, Han Chinese and Mongolian, eventually forming the Salar group.[3]

The Koran the Salars brought on their journey to China is to this day still preserved in Xunhua at Jiezi Mosque.[4] The Nanjing Museum has repaired the Koran to protect it from decay.[5]

Ming Dynasty[edit]

The Salars voluntarily joined the Ming Dynasty. The Salar clan leaders each capitulated to the Ming Dynasty around 1370. The chief of the four upper clans around this time was Han Pao-yuan (Han Baoyuan) and Ming granted him office of centurion, it was at this time the people of his four clans took Han as their surname.[6] The other chief Han Shan-pa (Han Shanba) of the four lower Salar clans got the same office from Ming, and his clans were the ones who took Ma as their surname.[7] The ethnogenesis of the Salar started from when they pledged alleigance to the Ming dynasty under their leader Han Bao.[8]

The Kargan Tibetans, who live next to the Salar, have mostly become Muslim due to the Salars. The Salar oral tradition recalls that it was around 1370 in Ming Hongwu's third year reign in which they came from Samarkand to China.[9][10]

The Salars were permitted an enormous amount of autonomy and self-rule by the Ming dynasty, which gave them command of taxes, military, and the courts.[11]

The Ming and Qing dynasty often mobilized Salars into their militaries as soldiers, with the Ming recruiting them at 17 different times for service and the Qing at five different times.[12]

Qing Dynasty[edit]

In the 1670s, the Kashgarian Sufi master Āfāq Khoja (and, possibly, his father Muhammad Yūsuf even earlier) preached among the Salars, introducing Sufism into their community.[13] In the mid-18th century, one of Āfāq Khoja's spiritual descendants, Ma Laichi, spread his teaching, known as Khufiyya among the Salars, just as he did among their Chinese-speaking and Tibetan-speaking neighbors.[14]

Throughout the 1760s and 1770s, another Chinese Sufi master, Ma Mingxin, was spreading his version of Sufi teaching, known as Jahriyya throughout the Gansu province (which then included Salar's homeland in today's Qinghai). Many Salars became adherents of Jahriyya, or the "New Teaching", as the Qing government officials dubbed it (in opposition to the "Old Teaching", i.e. both the Khufiyya Sufi order and the non-Sufi Gedimu Islam). While the external differences between the Khufiyya and the Jahriyya would look comparatively trivial to an outsider (the two orders were most known for, respectively, the silent or vocal dhikr, i.e. invocation of the name of God), the conflict between their adherents often became violent.[15]

Sectarian violence between the Jahriyya and Khufiyya broke out repeatedly until the major episode of violence in 1781.[16] In 1781, the authorities, concerned with the spread of the "subversive" "New Teaching" among the Salars, whom they (perhaps unfairly) viewed as a fierce and troublesome lot, arrested Ma Mingxin and sent an expedition to the Salar community of Xunhua County to round up his supporters there.[17] This started the 1781 Jahriyya Rebellion.

The Jahriyya Salars of Xunhua, led by their ahong (imam) nicknamed Su Sishisan ("Su Forty-three", 苏四十三), responded by killing the government officials and destroying their task force at the place called Baizhuangzi, and then rushed across the Hezhou region to the walls of Lanzhou, where Ma Mingxin was imprisoned.[17]

When the besieged officials brought Ma Mingxin, wearing chains, to the Lanzhou city wall, to show him to the rebels, Su's Salars at once showed respect and devotion to their imprisoned leaders. Scared officials took Ma down from the wall, and beheaded him right away. Su's Salars tried attacking the Lanzhou city walls, but, not having any siege equipment, failed to penetrate into the walled city. The Salar fighters (whose strength at the time is estimated by historians to be in 1,000-2,000 range) then set up a fortified camp on a hill south of Lanzhou.[17] Some Han Chinese, Hui, and Dongxiang (Santa) joined the Salar in the rebellion against the Qing.[18]

To deal with the rebels, Imperial Commissioners Agui and Heshen were sent to Lanzhou. Unable to dislodge the Salars from their fortified camp with his regular troops, Agui sent the "incompetent" Heshen back to Beijing, and recruited Alashan Mongols and Southern Gansu Tibetans to aid the Chinese Lanzhou garrison. After a three months' siege of the rebel camp and cutting off the Salars' water supply, Agui's joint forces destroyed the Jahriya rebels; Su and all his fighters were all killed in the final battle.[17] Overall, it is said that as much as 40% of their entire population was killed in the revolt.[citation needed]

As late as 1937, a folk ballad was still told by the Salars about the rebellion of 1781, and Su Sishisan suicidal decision to go to war against the Qing Empire.[19]

The Qing deported some of the Salar Jahriyya rebels to the Ili valley which is in modern day Xinjiang. Today, a community of a few thousand Salars speaking a distinct dialect of Salar still live there. Salar migrants from Amdo (Qinghai) came to settle the region as religious exiles, migrants, and as soldiers enlisted in the Chinese army to fight rebels in Ili, often following the Hui.[20] The distinctive dialect of the Ili Salar differs from the other Salar dialects because the neighboring Kazakh and Uyghur languages in Ili influenced it.[21] The Ili Salar population numbers around 4,000 people.[22] There have been instances of misunderstanding between speakers of Ili Salar and Qinghai Salar due to the divergence of the dialects.[23] The differences between the two dialect result in a "clear isogloss".[24]

In the 1880s-90s, sectarian strife was rife in the Salar community of Xunhua again. This time, the conflict was among two factions of the Hua Si menhuan (order) of the Khufiyya, and in 1895 the local Qing officials ended up siding with the reformist faction within the order. Although the factional conflict was evident not only in Salar Xunhua but in Hui Hezhou as well, the troops were first sent to Xunhua - which again precipitated a Salar rebellion, which spread to many Hui and Dongxiang communities of Gansu too.[25][26] It turned into the Dungan Revolt (1895), which was crushed by a loyalist Hui army.

The Hui people were also known as the "White capped" HuiHui used incense during worship, while the Salar, also known as "black capped" HuiHui considered this to be a heathen ritual and denounced it.[27]

Republican China[edit]

Like other Muslims in China, the Salars served extensively in the Chinese military. It was said that they and the Dongxiang were given to "eating rations", a reference to military service.[28]

Modern Era[edit]

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Salar troops and officers served in the Qinghai army of Chinese Muslim army General Ma Bufang, and they battled extensively in bloody battles against the Japanese in Henan province. The Qinghai Chinese, Salar, Chinese Muslim, Dongxiang, and Tibetan troops Ma Bufang sent fought to the death against the Imperial Japanese Army, or committed suicide refusing to be taken prisoner, instead, they committed suicide when cornered by the enemy. When they defeated the Japanese, the Muslim troops slaughtered all of them except for a few prisoners to send back to Qinghai prove that they were victorious. In September 1940, when the Japanese made an offensive against the Muslim Qinghai troops, the Muslims ambushed them and killed so many of them they were forced to retreat. The Japanese could not even pick up their dead, they instead cut an arm from their corpses limbs for cremation to send back to Japan. The Japanese did not dare make an offensive like that again.[29]

Han Youwen, a Salar General in the National Revolutionary Army and member of the Chinese Kuomintang party, defected to the Communist People's Liberation Army, serving in numerous military positions and as vice chairman of Xinjiang. He had led Chinese Muslim forces against Soviet and Mongol forces in the Pei-ta-shan Incident.

Culture[edit]

Most Salars live in Qinghai province
Quran of the Salar people

The Salar had their own unique kinship clanships. They are patrilineal, and exogamous, encouraging clan members to marry out, with marriage amongst clan members being banned.[30]

The Salar are an entrepreneurial people, going into multiple businesses and industries.[31] They practice agriculture and horticulture.[32] They cultivate chili and pepper in their gardens.[33] Buckwheat, millet, wheat, and barley are among the crops they grow.[34]

The typical clothing of the Salar very similar to other Muslim peoples in the region. The men are commonly bearded and dress in white shirts and white or black skullcaps. The tarditiona clothing for men men is jackets and gowns.[35]

The young single women are accustomed to dressing in Chinese dress of bright colors. The married women utilize the traditional veil in white or black colors.

Originally girls were not allowed to be educated according to Salar tradition.[36] Muslim Salars and Muslim Hui people are against coeducation (grouping male and female students together) due to Islam, Uyghurs are the only Muslims in China who do not mind coeducation and practice it. Secular education was given to girls.[37]

They have a musical instrument called the Kouxuan. It is a string instrument manufactured in silver or in copper and only played by the women.

The Salars have been in Qinghai Province, China since the Mongol Yuan period. For centuries they've maintained their Oghuz language remarkably similar to the Turkmen language spoken in the Qaraqum.

However, culturally they have strictly conformed to the Naqshbandi ways of their Hui coreligionists. Therefore many nomadic Turkmen traditions have been lost, and Turkmen music was forbidden. More secular minded Salars have resorted to appropriating Tibetan or Moghol (a Qinghai Mongolic Muslim group) music as their own.

The ethnic Salars of Qinghai celebrated on March 21, 2010 their first "Nowruz" in modern times, as a revived Turkmen holiday.

Hui General Ma Fuxiang recruited Salars into his army, and said they moved to China since Tang dynasty. His classification of them is in two groups, five inner clans, eight outer clans. Ma said the outer group speaks Tibetan, no longer knowing their native language. Salars only married other Salars. Uighurs have said that they were unable to understand the Salar language.[38]

Ma and Han are the two most widespread names among the salar. Ma is a Salar surname for the same reason it is a common Hui surname, Ma substitutes for Muhammad.[39][40] The upper four clans of the Salar assumed the surname Han and lived west of Xunhua.[41] One of these Salar surnamed Han was Han Yimu, a Salar officer who served under General Ma Bufang. He fought in the Kuomintang Islamic Insurgency in China (1950–1958), leading Salars in a revolt in 1952 and 1958.[42][43] Ma Bufang, enlisted Salars as officers in his army by exclusively targeting Xunhua and Hualong as areas to draw officers from.[44]

Westerners who encountered Salars said that they were racially mixed, of Turkic, Mongol, Tibetan, Han chinese, and Hui descent, and had features from these different races.[45]

During the Qing dynasty, according to the Encyclopædia of religion and ethics the akhunds of the Salar spoke Persian, and the Salar commonly consumed alcohol in addition to knowing the Arabic script. They wore Chinese attire.[46]

Singing is part of Salar culture.[47][48] A style of singing called Hua'er is shared among the Han, Hui, Salar, and Tibetans in Qinghai province.

Matchmakers and parents arrange marriages among the Salar.[49]

In Amdo, Salar language has heavy Chinese and Tibetan influence. It was originally Turkic, but major linguistic structures have been absorbed from Chinese. Around 20% of the vocabulary is of Chinese origin, and 10% is also of Tibetan origin. Yet the official Communist Chinese government policy deliberately covers up these influences in academic and linguistics studies, trying to emphasize the Turkic element and completely ignoring the Chinese in the Salar language.[50] The Salar use the Chinese writing system since they do not have their own.[51]

The Turkic origins of the Salars have been stressed by Chinese writings while non-Turkic influences like Chinese Muslim, Tibetan, and Mongol elements in Salar have been almost completely disregarded.[52]

Language[edit]

Main article: Salar language
Salar Flag[citation needed]

The people of China and Salar themselves regard the Salar language as a Tujue (突厥語言) language.[53] The Salar language has two large dialect groups. The divergence is due to the fact that one branch in Xunhua county of Qinghai province and Gansu province was influenced by the Tibetan and Chinese languages, and the other branch in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture by the Uyghur and Kazakh languages.[54]

In the late 1990s, it was estimated that out of the some 89,000 Salars, around 60,000 spoke the Salar language.[55]

The Salar do not use any written script for the Salar language,[56] instead using Chinese characters for practical purposes.[57][58][59][60] Salar serves as their spoken language, while Chinese serves them as a both spoken and written language.[61] China offered the Salar an official writing system but it was rejected. The Salars favor the continued use of Chinese characters which shows their "strong attachment to being citizens of the Chinese state".[62] Many of the current generation of Salars are fluent in Chinese.[63]

In Amdo (Qinghai), Salar language has heavy Chinese and Tibetan influence. Although of Turkic origin, major linguistic structures have been absorbed from Chinese. Around 20% of the vocabulary is of Chinese origin, and 10% is also of Tibetan origin. Yet the official Communist Chinese government policy deliberately covers up these influences in academic and linguistics studies, trying to emphasize the Turkic element and completely ignoring the Chinese in the Salar language.[64] The Salar use the Chinese writing system since they do not have their own.[65] Salar language has taken loans and influence from neighboring Chinese languages.[66] It is neighboring variants of Chinese which have loaned words to the Salar language.[67] In Qinghai, many Salar men speak both the Qinghai dialect of Chinese and Salar. Rural Salars can speak Salar fluently while urban Salars often assimilate into the Chinese speaking Hui population.[68]

In addition to Chinese, many Salar also speak Tibetan. Salar is a written language, as Ma et al. (2001) demonstrate, but the written language is rarely used. There are reported similarities with Turkmen.[citation needed]

In Ili Salar, the i and y high front vowels, when placed after an initial glides are spirantized with j transforming into ʝ.[69] Qinghai and Ili Salar have mostly the same consonantal development.[70]

Literature[edit]

  • Ma Jianzhong and Kevin Stuart. 1996. ‘Stone Camels and Clear Springs’: The Salar’s Samarkand Origins. Asian Folklore Studies 55(2):287-298.
  • Ma Wei, Ma Jianzhong, and Kevin Stuart, editors. 2001. Folklore of China’s Islamic Salar Nationality. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen.
  • Ma Wei, Ma Jianzhong, and Kevin Stuart. 1999. The Xunhua Salar Wedding. Asian Folklore Studies 58:31-76.
  • Ma Wei, Ma Jianzhong, and Kevin Stuart. 1999. The Xunhua Salar Wedding. Asian Folklore Studies 58:31-76.
  • Lipman, Jonathan Neaman (1998). Familiar strangers: a history of Muslims in Northwest China. Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962-209-468-6. 
  • Tenišev, E.R: Stroj salarskogo âzyka (The structure of the Salar language). Moscow, Nauka 1976).
  • Lin Lianyun (林莲云): 汉撒拉、撒拉汉词汇 (Chinese-Salar Salar-Chinese lexicon. Chengdu, People's Press of Sichuan. 1992.

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External links[edit]

  • The Salar ethnic minority (Chinese government site)
  • Arienne M. Dwyer: Salar Grammatical Sketch (PDF)
  • Ma Wei, Ma Jianzhong, and Kevin Stuart, editors. 2001. Folklore of China’s Islamic ` Nationality. Lewiston, Edwin Mellen.
  • Ma Quanlin, Ma Wanxiang, and Ma Zhicheng (Kevin Stuart, editor). 1993. Salar Language Materials. Sino-Platonic Papers. Number 43.
  • Ma Wei, Ma Jianzhong, and Kevin Stuart. 1999. The Xunhua Salar Wedding. Asian Folklore Studies 58:31-76.
  • Ma Jianzhong and Kevin Stuart. 1996. ‘Stone Camels and Clear Springs’: The Salar’s Samarkand Origins. Asian Folklore Studies. 55:2, 287-298.
  • Han Deyan (translated by Ma Jianzhong and Kevin Stuart). 1999. The Salar Khazui System. Central Asiatic Journal 43 (2): 204-214.
  • Feng Lide and Kevin Stuart. 1991. Ma Xueyi and Ma Chengjun. Salazu Fengsuzhi [Records of Salar Customs]; Han Fude, general editor. Salazu Minjian Gushi [Salar Folktales]; Han Fude, general editor. Minjian Geyao [Folk Songs]; and Han Fude, general editor. Minjian Yanyu [Folk Proverbs]. Asian Folklore Studies. 50:2, 371-373.