From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Regions with significant populations|
|513,805 (2000 census) in Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, and Xinjiang|
|Predominantly Sunni Muslim|
|Related ethnic groups|
|History of Islam in China|
The Dongxiang people (autonym: Sarta or Santa (撒尔塔); Simplified Chinese: 东乡族 Traditional Chinese︰東鄉族; Pinyin: Dōngxiāngzú) 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 2000 census, their population numbers 513,805.
 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. 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 traditional clothes of Dongxiang is not uniform and varies according to the different towns. The men usually dress in dark colors, mainly in brown black and the women in the traditional dress of Islam. 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 Dongxiang language, a member of the Mongolic family. The Dongxiang people also have a rich tradition of oral literature, but do not have their own writing system. 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.
 External links
- 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
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