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Title: Dungans  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Demographics of Kazakhstan, Demographics of Kyrgyzstan, Demographics of Russia, Hui people, Kyrgyzstan, Karakol, Chuy Province, Naryn Province, Osh Province, Issyk Kul Province
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Shor-Tyube, Kazakhstan.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Kyrgyzstan (2009 census) 58,409[1]
 Kazakhstan (1999 census) 36,900[2]
 Russia (2002 census) 801[3]
 Uzbekistan 1,900
 Ukraine 133[4]
 Tajikistan 6,000[5]
 Mongolia 5,300
Related ethnic groups

Dungan (Russian: Дунгане Dungane, Dungan: Хуэйзў Huejzw) is a term used in territories of the former Soviet Union to refer to a Muslim people of Chinese origin.[6] Turkic-speaking peoples in Xinjiang Province in China also refer to members of this ethnic group as Dungans. In both China and the former Soviet republics where they reside, however, members of this ethnic group call themselves Hui.

In the censuses of the now independent states of the former Soviet Union, the Dungans, who are enumerated separately from Chinese, can be found in Kazakhstan (36,900 according to the 1999 census), Kyrgyzstan (58,409 according to the 2009 census), and Russia (801 according to the 2002 census).[1][2][3]


Migration from China

In the Ferghana Valley, the first Dungans to appear in Central Asia originated from Kuldja and Kashgar, and were slaves captured by raiders, they mostly served in private wealthy households. After the abolition of slavery by the Russian conquest of Central Asia, female Dungan slaves still stayed where they were originally held captive, Russian ethnographer Validimir Petrovich Nalivkin and his wife said that "women slaves almost all remained in place, because they either were married to workers and servants of their former owners, or they were too young to begin an independent life."[7] Dungan women slaves were of mean status, and not regarded highly in Bukhara.[8]

Slave raiders from Khoqand did not distinguish between Hui Muslim and Han Chinese, enslaving any Chinese they could in Xinjiang.[9][10]

The Dungan in the former Soviet republics are Hui who fled China in the aftermath of the Hui Minorities' War in the 19th century. According to Rimsky-Korsakoff (1992), three separate groups of the Hui people fled to the Russian Empire across the Tian Shan Mountains during the exceptionally severe winter of 1877/78:

  1. The first group, of some 1000 people, originally from Turpan in Xinjiang, led by Ma Daren (马大人, 'the Great Man Ma'), also known as Ma Da-lao-ye (马大老爷, 'The Great Master Ma'), reached Osh in southern Kyrgyzstan.
  2. The second group, originally from Didaozhou (狄道州) in Gansu, led by ahong Ma Yusu (马郁素夫),[11] also known as Ah Yelaoren (阿爷老人, 'the Old Man Ah Ye'), were settled in the spring of 1878 in the village of Yrdyk (Russian: Ирдык or Ырдык) some 15 km from Karakol in Eastern Kyrgyzstan. They numbered 1130 on arrival.
  3. The third group, originally from Shaanxi, led by Bai Yanhu (白彦虎; also spelt Bo Yanhu; often called by his followers "虎大人", 'The Great Man Hu', 1829(?)-1882), one of the leaders of the rebellion, were settled in the village of Karakunuz (now Masanchi), in modern Zhambyl Province of Kazakhstan. It is located 8 km north from the city Tokmak in north-western Kyrgyzstan. This group numbered 3314 on arrival. Bai Yanhu's name in other romanizations was Bo-yan-hu or Pai Yen-hu, other names included Boyan-akhun (Akhund or Imam Boyan) and Muhammad Ayyub.[12]

The next wave of immigration followed in the early 1880s. In accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881), which required the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the Upper Ili Basin (the Kulja area), the Dungan (Hui) and Taranchi (Uyghur) people of the region were allowed to opt for moving to the Russian side of the border. Many chose that option; according to Russian statistics, 4,682 Hui moved to the Russian Empire under the treaty. They migrated in many small groups between 1881 and 1883, settling in the village of Sokuluk some 30 km west of Bishkek, as well as in a number of locations between the Chinese border and Sokuluk, in south-eastern Kazakhstan and northern Kyrgyzstan.


In the Russian Empire, Soviet Union, and the post-Soviet states, the Dungans continue to refer to themselves as the Hui people (Chinese: 回族, Huízú; in Cyrillic Soviet Dungan spelling, xуэйзў).

The name Dungan is of obscure origin. One popular theory derives this word from Turkic döñän ("one who turns"), which can be compared to Chinese (huí), which has a similar meaning. Another theory derives it from the Chinese 东甘 (Dong Gan), 'Eastern Gansu', the region to which many of the Dungan can trace their ancestry; however the character gan (干) used in the name of the ethnic group is different from that used in the name of the province (甘).

The term "Dungan" ("Tonggan", "Donggan") has been used by Central Asian Turkic-and Tajik-speaking people to refer to Chinese-speaking Muslims for several centuries. Joseph Fletcher cites Turkic and Persian manuscripts related to the preaching of the 17th century Kashgarian Sufi master Muhammad Yūsuf (or, possibly, his son Afaq Khoja) inside the Ming Empire (in today's Gansu and/or Qinghai), where the Kashgarian preacher is told to have converted 'ulamā-yi Tunganiyyān (i.e., "Dungan ulema") into Sufism.[13]

Presumably, it was from the Turkic languages that the term was borrowed into Russian (дунгане, dungane (pl.); дунганин, dunganin (sing.)) and Chinese (simplified Chinese: 东干族; traditional Chinese: 東干族; pinyin: Dōnggānzú), as well as to Western European languages.

In English and German, the ethnonym "Dungan", in various spelling forms, was attested as early as 1830s, sometimes typically referring to the Hui people of Xinjiang. For example, James Prinsep in 1835 mentions Muslim "Túngánis" in "Chinese Tartary".[14][15] In 1839, Karl Ernst von Baer in his German-language account of Russian Empire and adjacent Asian lands has a one-page account of Chinese-speaking Muslim "Dungani" or "Tungani", who had visited Orenburg in 1827 with a caravan from China; he also mentions "Tugean" as a spelling variant used by other authors.[16] R.M. Martin in 1847 mentions "Tungani" merchants in Yarkand.[17]

The word (mostly in the form "Dungani" or "Tungani", sometimes "Dungens" or "Dungans") acquired some currency in English and other western languages when a number of books in the 1860-1870s discussed the Dungan Rebellion in Northwestern China. At the time, one could see European and American authors apply the term Tungani to the Hui people both in Xinjiang,[18] and in Shaanxi and Gansu (which at the time included today's Ningxia and Qinghai as well). Authors aware of the general picture of the spread of Islam in China, viewed these "Tungani" as just one of the groups of China's Muslims.[19]

Marshall Broomhall, who has a chapter on "the Tungan Rebellion" in his 1910 book, introduces "the name Tungan or Dungan, by which the Muslims of these parts [i.e., NE China] are designated, in contradistinction as the Chinese Buddhists who are spoken of as Kithay"; the reference to "Khitay" shows that he was viewing the two terms as used by Turkic speakers.[20] Broomhall's book also contains the translation by the report on Chinese Muslims by the Ottoman writer named Abd-ul-Aziz. Abd-ul-Aziz divides the "Tungan people" into two branches: "the Tunagans of China proper" (including, apparently all Hui people in "China proper", as he also talks e.g. about the Tungans having 17 mosques in Beijing), and "The Tungans of Chinese and Russian Turkestan", who still look and speak Chinese, but have often also learned the "Turkish" language.[21]

Later authors continued to use the term Dungan (in various transcriptions) for, specifically, the Hui people of Xinjiang. For example, Owen Lattimore, writing c. 1940, maintains the terminological distinction between these two related groups: "T'ungkan" (i.e. Wade-Giles for "Dungan"), described by him as the descendants of the Gansu Hui people resettled in Xinjiang in 17-18th centuries, vs. e.g. "Gansu Moslems" or generic "Chinese Moslems".[22] The term (usually as "Tungans") continues to be used by many modern historians writing about the 19th century Dungan Rebellion (e.g. by Denis C. Twitchett in the Cambridge History of China,[23] by James A. Millward in his economic history of the region,[24] or by Kim Ho-dong in his monograph[25]).

Dungan villages in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

The Dungans themselves referred to Karakunuz (Russian: Каракунуз, sometimes Караконыз or Караконуз) as Ingpan (Chinese: 营盘, Yingpan; Russian: Иньпан), which means 'a camp, an encampment'. In 1965, Karakunuz was renamed Masanchi (sometimes spelt as "Masanchin"), after Magaza Masanchi or Masanchin (Dungan: Магәзы Масанчын; Chinese: 马三奇), a Dungan participant in the Communist Revolution and a Soviet Kazakhstan statesman.

The following table summarizes location of Dungan villages in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, alternative names used for them, and their Dungan population as reported by Ma Tong (2003). The Cyrillic Dungan spelling of place names is as in the textbook by Sushanlo, Imazov (1988); the spelling of the name in Chinese character is as in Ma Tong (2003).

Dungan villages in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
Village name (and alternatives) Location (in present-day terms) Foundation Current Dungan population (from Ma Tang (2003))
Kazakhstan - total 48,000 (Ma Tang (2003)) or 36,900 (Kazakhstan Census of 1999)
Masanchi (Russian: Масанчи; Kazakh: Масаншы) or Masanchin (Russian: Масанчин; Cyrillic Dungan: Масанчын; 马三成), prior to 1965 Karakunuz (Каракунуз, Караконыз). Traditional Dungan name is Ingpan (Cyrillic Dungan: Йинпан; Russian: Иньпан; Chinese: 营盘, Yingpan) 55|40|N|75|18|00|E|type:city name=Masanchi

}}) Korday District, Zhambyl Province of Kazakhstan (8 km north of Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan)

Spring 1878. 3314 people from Shaanxi, led by Bai Yanhu (白彦虎). 7,000, current mayor: Ishar Ussupovich Lou
Sortobe (Kazakh: Sortobe; Russian: Шортюбе, Shortyube; Dungan: Щёртюбе; Chinese: 新渠, Xinqu) 52|00|N|75|15|15|E|type:city name=Sortobe

}}) Korday District, Zhambyl Province. On the northern bank of the Chui River opposite and a few km downstream from Tokmok; south of Masanchi (Karakunuz)

(Karakunuz group) 9,000
Zhalpak-tobe, (Kazakh: Жалпак-тобе; Chinese: 加尔帕克秋白, Jiarpakeqiubai) Zhambyl District, Zhambyl Province; near Grodekovo, south of Taraz 3,000
Kyrgyzstan - total 50,000 (Ma Tang (2003)
Yrdyk Russian: Ырдык or Ирдык; Dungan: Эрдэх; Chinese: 二道沟, Erdaogou) 27|30|N|78|18|0|E|type:city name=Yrdyk

}}) Jeti Oguz district of Issyk Kul Province; 15 km south-west from Karakol.

Spring 1878. 1130 people, originally from Didaozhou (狄道州) in Gansu, led by Ma Yusu (马郁素), a.k.a. Ah Yelaoren (阿爷老人). 2,800
Sokuluk (Russian: Сокулук; Dungan: Сохўлў; Chinese: 梢葫芦, Saohulu); may also include adjacent Aleksandrovka (Александровка) Sokuluk District of Chuy Province; 30 km west of Bishkek Some of those 4,628 Hui people who arrived in 1881-1883 from the Ili Basin (Xinjiang) . 12,000
Milyanfan (Russian: Милянфан; Dungan: Милёнчуан; Chinese: 米粮川, Miliangchuan) Ysyk-Ata District of Chuy Province. Southern bank of the Chuy River, some 60 km west of Tokmok and about as much north-east of Bishkek. (Karakunuz group (?)) 10,000
Ivanovka village (Russian: Ивановка; Chinese: 伊万诺夫卡) Ysyk-Ata District of Chuy Province. Southern bank of the Chuy River, some 30 km west of Tokmok. (Karakunuz group (?)) 1,500
Dungan community of Osh (Russian: Ош, Chinese: 奥什 or 敖什, Aoshe) Osh City Spring 1878, 1000 people, originally from Turpan in Xinjiang, led by Ma Daren, also known as Ma Da-lao-ye (马大老爷) 800

The position of the Kazakhstan villages within the administrative division of Zhambyl Province, and the total population of each village can be found at the provincial statistics office web site.[26]

Besides the traditionally Dungan villages, many Dungan people live in the nearby cities, such as Bishkek, Tokmok, Karakol.

Soviet rule

During World War II, some Dungans served in the Red Army, Vanakhun Mansuza (Cyrillic Dungan : мансуза ванахун; ; ; ) was a Dungan war "hero" who led a "mortar battery".[27]

Present day

As Ding (2005) notes, "[t]he Dungan people derive from China's Hui people, and now live mainly in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Their population is about 110,000. This people have now developed a separate ethnicity outside China, yet they have close relations with the Hui people in culture, ethnic characteristics and ethnic identity."


Main article: Dungan language

The Dungan language, which the Dungan people call "Hui language" (Хуэйзў йүян or Huejzw jyian), is similar to Mandarin Chinese Zhongyuan dialect which is widely spoken in the south of Gansu and the west of Guanzhong in Shaanxi in China.

Like other Chinese languages, Dungan is tonal. There are two main dialects, one with 4 tones, and the other, considered standard, with 3 tones in the final position in phonetic words and 4 tones in the nonfinal position.

Despite having many common Chinese vocabulary, some Dungan vocabulary may sound 'nostalgic' to Chinese people. They call "President" as "Emperor" (“Хуангди”,huan'g-di), "government offices" as "yamen(ямын,ya-min)", a classical name for mandarin's offices in ancient China. It also contains many loanwords from Arabic, Persian, and Turkic. Since the 1940s, the language has been written in Cyrillic script, demonstrating that Chinese can be written with an alphabet (compare the pinyin system).

Unlike other minority nationalities in Central Asia, such as the local Koreans, most Dungan people are trilingual. More than two-thirds of the Dungan also speak Russian, and a small proportion can speak Kyrgyz or other languages belonging to the titular nationalities of the countries where they live.[28]


The Dungan are primarily farmers, growing rice and vegetables such as sugar beets. Many also raise dairy cattle. In addition, some are involved in opium production. The Dungan tend to be endogamous.

The Dungan are famous for their hospitality and hold many ceremonies and banquets to preserve their culture. They have elaborate and colorful observances of birthdays, weddings, and funerals. In addition, schools have museums to preserve other parts of their culture, such as embroidery, traditional clothing, silver jewelry, paper cuts of animals and flowers and tools.

The Dungan still practice elements of Chinese culture, in cuisine and attire, up to 1948 they also practiced Foot binding.[29] The conservative Shaanxi Dungan cling more tightly to Chinese customs than the Gansu Dungan.[30]

The Dungans have retained Chinese traditions which have disappeared in modern China. Traditional marriage practices are still widespread with matchmakers, the marriages conducted by the Dungan are similar to Chinese marriages in the 19th century, hairstyles worn by women and attire date back to the Qing dynasty.[31]

Shaanxi female attire is still Chinese, though the rest of the Dungans dress in western attire. Chopsticks are used by Dungans.[32] The cuisine of the Dungan resembles northwestern Chinese cuisine.[33][34]

Around the late 19th century the Bride Price was between 240 to 400 rubles for Dungan women. Dungans take other women such as Kirghiz and Tatars as brides willingly, or kidnap Kirghiz girls.[35]

Shaanxi Dungans are even conservative when marrying with other Dungans, they want only other Shaanxi Dungans marrying their daughters, while their sons are allowed to marry Gansu Dungan, Kirghiz, and Kazakh women.


During the Qing dynasty, the term Zhongyuanren was synonymous with being Chinese, especially referring to Han Chinese and Hui Muslims in Xinjiang or Central Asia.

Because of religious reasons, while Hui people do not consider themselves Han and are not Han Chinese, the Hui consider themselves wider Chinese and also refer to themselves as Zhongyuanren.[36] The Dungan people, descendants of Hui who fled to Central Asia, called themselves Zhongyuanren in addition to the standard labels Lao Huihui and Huizi.[37] Zhongyuanren was used generally by Turkic Muslims to refer to general Chinese people. When Central Asian invaders from Kokand invaded Kashgar, in a letter the kokandi commander criticizes the Kashgari Turkic Muslim Ishaq for allegedly not behaving like a Muslim and wanting to be a Zhongyuanren (Chinese).[38][39]


The large majority of Dungan are Hanafi Muslim, with a Hanbali minority. Many Dungan villages contain a mosque run by village elders.

Islam came to the Dungan in the manner it came to Hui people, who were their ancestors. See the article on Hui people for more information.


See also

  • Dungan revolt (1862–1877), rebellion of various Muslim ethnic groups in Shaanxi and Gansu, China
  • Dungan revolt (1895–1896), rebellion of various Muslim ethnic groups in Qinghai and Gansu, China


  • Allès, Elisabeth. 2005. "The Chinese-speaking Muslims (Dungans) of Central Asia: A Case of Multiple Identities in a Changing Context," Asian Ethnicity 6, No. 2 (June): 121-134.
  • Ding Hong. 2005. "A Comparative Study on the Cultures of the Dungan and the Hui People," Asian Ethnicity 6, No. 2 (June): 135-140.
  • Svetlana Rimsky-Korsakoff Dyer. 1979. "Soviet Dungan kolkhozes in the Kirghiz SSR and the Kazakh SSR (Oriental monograph series)". Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University. ISBN 0-909879-11-7.
  • Svetlana Rimsky-Korsakoff Dyer. Karakunuz: An Early Settlement of the Chinese Muslims in Russia, with an English translation of V.Tsibuzgin and A.Shmakov's work. "Asian Folklore Studies", Vol. 51 (1992), pp. 243–279.
  • 马通 (Ma Tong), "吉尔吉斯草原上的东干族穆斯林文化" (Dungans' Muslim culture on the grasslands of Kyrgyzstan), Series "丝绸之路上的穆斯林文化" (Muslim Cultures of the Silk Road), 2003-April–27. (Chinese). (This article has some details additional to Rimsky-Korsakoff (1992)).
  • Сушанло Мухамед, Имазов Мухаме. "Совет хуэйзў вынщүә". Фрунзе, "Мектеп" чубаншә, 1988. (Mukhamed Sushanlo, Mukhame Imazov. "Dungan Soviet Literature: textbook for 9th and 10th grade". Frunze, 1988). ISBN 5-658-00068-8.

External links

  • 'A Very Dungan Wedding' Article on Kyrgyz Dungans
  • Dungans Forum (rus)
  • Soviet Census data analyzed by mother tongue and second language, in English
  • Association of Dungans of the Kyrgyz Republic, in English and Russian
  • Samples of the Dungans' Cuisine
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