Meet some of the people groups who live along China’s Silk Road

You may know that China is Atheist, Buddhist and Christian.
But did you know that 10 different Muslim people groups also call China their home?
We long to see China's Silk Road people blessed by the abundant love of God.

Han man and son

Han

China’s majority ethnic group, and the world’s largest ethnic group. They comprise around 92% of the population of China.

Population: 1.2 billion

Language: Mandarin Chinese

Young couple in a park, China's Silk Road

Hui

A diverse people group, skilled in trade. They live scattered all across China.

Population: 10.6 million

Language: Mandarin Chinese

Young Uyghur boys on the Silk Road

Uyghur (Uigur)

An ethnically Turkic people who take great pride in their traditional lifestyle, music & dance.

Population: 10.1 million

Language: Uyghur, related to Turkish

kazak-horse-rider

Kazak (Kazakh)

Originally nomadic herders, influenced by shamanism. Even today, they identify themselves according to their horde (tribe).

Population: 1.5 million

Language: Kazak, a Turkic language

dongxiang-mum-and-daughter

Dongxiang (Sarta)

A mixed group of Mongolians, Han and Tibetans who intermarried after converting to Islam around 800 years ago.

Population: 622,000

Language: Dongxiang, related to Mongolian

Kyrgyz men

Kyrgyz (Kirgiz)

Semi-nomadic herders who settled in the mountains of northwest China. They affirm their heritage through the long traditional poem, “The Epic of Manas”.

Population: 187,000

Language: Kyrgyz, a Turkic language

salar-girl

Salar

The Salar are 14th century migrants from Central Asia who have retained the language and some of the traditions of their previous home.

Population: 131,000

Language: Salar, related to Turkmen

Each person is an exquisite detail in this living tapestry of cultures

along the Silk Road, carpet factory merchant
tajik-baby

Tajik

Although they call themselves Tajik, they are an extension of the Shi’a Muslim Pamiris found in eastern Tajikistan. They find inspiration in the strength and beauty of eagles.

Population: 51,000

Languages: Sarikoli and Wakhi

baoan-family

Bonan (Bao’an)

Ethnically Mongolian Muslims who live in Gansu province. They are famous for their hand-made knives.

Population: 20,000

Language: Bonan, related to Mongolian

Uzbek man selling snacks

Uzbek

Silk road traders who settled in China around 500 years ago. Traditionally they wear long embroidered robes and leather boots.

Population: 10,500

Language: Uzbek

along the Silk Road, boys herding sheep down tree-lined road

Tatar

A group of mixed Russian and Mongolian ancestry. They enjoy sports competitions at their “Plough Head Festival” each spring.

Population: 3,500

Language: Tatar, a Turkic language

News & Stories from the Silk Road

“My Cup Overflows” – Psalm 23:5

In the book of Isaiah, heaven is described as “a feast of rich food for all peoples” (25:6). Some cultures do their very best to recreate this extravagant hospitality on earth. You Prepare a Table for Me “Boldi, boldi,” Amangul says impatiently to her mom. I look at Amangul blankly. When she’s with her mother, [...]

Through the Darkest Valley – Psalm 23:4

Pain and heartache arrive in most of our lives at some point. May God be our hope for the future in the face of trauma and broken relationships. How much longer? My sister is crying again. She hardly makes a sound. There’s just the silent shaking of bony shoulders, and tears rolling down a pale [...]

“In Green Pastures” – Psalm 23:2

Wherever we live, our lives are punctuated by rhythms of work, and of rest. But, even if our bodies are resting, our souls may still be burdened by many worries. Rest Time “回来咯” Mr Ma calls out, “I’m back.” Only silence answers. The room is strewn with dishes and toys. An abandoned bowl of rice [...]

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want

This Ramadan, we have asked different friends to share short reflections with us, all on our theme of Psalm 23. This is a very special moment in history, when the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our lives and shaking our confidence. What does God have to say to us through this Psalm for our lives, right here, [...]

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