Sala (Salar) of China :
This page was last updated on: May 27, 2017
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Currently there are 10 Islamic Ethnic groups that remain in China. Some of these groups are very small while others count millions of members.

First and Foremost are the Uyghurs, most of whom are Chinese Muslims originating from Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region, and a minority from Hunan and Henan Provinces. There are currently about 7.2 million Uygurs in China.
Islamic Ethnic Minorities in China :
The second important group are the Hui. The Hui are of Arab and Persian descent and are spread all over China. The Hui are nationally the most found Islamic Ethnic group. The population of Hui is around 8.6 million strong. Main concentrations can be found in Ningxia (Hui) Province, in Qinghai and Gansu Provinces, Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region, Shaanxi Province (Xi'An), Shandong Province, Hebei, Inner Mongolia AR and Yunnan Province.

After these main Islamic Ethnic Groups follow no less than 8 other groups found in China.
The others are: The Kazaks, the Khalkhas, the Uzbeks -found in Urumqi, Yining, Tacheng and Kashgar-, Tajiks living in the Pamir Mountains (Tashkurkan Tajik Autonomous County) near Kashgar and The Tatars, the latter of whom only number 5 to 6000 souls found in the Grasslands of Western Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region, the Kirgiz, the Salas of mixed Turkmenic and Tibetan descent some 900.000 of whom live in their own autonomous prefecture in Qinghai Province, the Dongxiang of Linxia Prefecture in Gansu Province and last the small group of remaining Bao'An People.
The Salar are found in Qinghai Province, where they mainly reside inside the Xunhua Salar Autonomous County of Qinghai Province. Other Salar reside in their communities in Hualong Autonomous County of the Hui Nationality, and in Gansu Province in Jishishan Autonomous County where they live together with the Bonan, Dongxiang Nationalities. Last there are Salar Communities in Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region inside the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture.
In the 1990 National Census there were reportedly 87,900 Salar in China. By 1995 AD the number of Salar had risen to 92,900. According to the Year 2000 National Census there were 104.500 Salar in China.
The Salar originally made their living by hunting, forestry and livestock farming.
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Today's Salar are struggling. Persecuted by the Central Government in the past they were desperately poor and literacy was among the lowest of all ethnic groups. Since the 1990's cooperation with Authorities has improved and through educational efforts initiated by the Central Government and the development of the west outlined in the last two Five Year Plans, conditions for the Salar are gradually improving.
In recent years Xunhua County of Qinghai has been successfully developing. The mainstays of the local economy are energy production - through two hydro-electric dams on the yellow river as well as through wind turbine technology, the export of labor outside the county, the wool industry - a traditional occupation of the Salar and the production of cloths and clothing with Islamic religious significance. Through mechanization of the production processes the expansion of the woollen goods industry has been remarkable.
Dress of the Salar, in general is equally similar to the Hui. Salar traditional wear includes a round cap - white or black, somehat resembling a fez and higher than the Hui caps. The Salar caps are usually thicker and warmer than the traditional Hui caps. The men further dress in black coats and white shirts. Many Men, if not all have beards of various sizes.
For Women there is the obligatory head-scarf, not a veil, which varies according to age group, married status and the like.
Salar traditions and festivals resemble those of the Hui in the same area. As do other tribes, the Salar like singing and dancing. They especially pay attention to their lyrics. A peculiar instrument the Salar use is the Kouxi or Kouxuan, a small copper or silver-made instrument that produces sounds by touching it. The instrument is usually played by women and many Salar girls learn to play the instrument even today. Other traditional women's activities are embroidery and paper cutting.
Major Salar festivals are the Lesser Bairam and the Qurban (Corban, the Almsgiving). Wedding Ceremonies have special Salar customs and are always a major event in this small community of close kin. Among things before the bride departs from her family home she must cry whilst singing to demonstrate her reluctance to leave her family home and start a new life with her new family. During wedding ceremonies the Salar perform 'Camel Dances' in groups of four.

A Salar Dance Group on You
Agricultural products of the Salar are wheat, highland barley, buckwheat, walnuts, potatoes and other vegetables. Fruits are those commonly found in the China and the North-West, namely melons, apples, grapes, and apricots.
Salar foods resemble those of the Hui. Their staple diet is made of flour with some potatoes added. Frequently eaten are steamed buns, noodles, and vegetable soup. Pork meat (not Halal) is avoided but also the meat of the donkey and horse. Both are considered more useful alive.
The Salar insist on drinking tea with milk. Due to their religion alcohol is strictly forbidden. They are also fond of wheat tea, and they have their own tea rituals and preperations.
- Ethnic Minorities of China in General
- Islamic Minorities in China
- Manchu-Tungusic Peoples in China
- Mongolians , Mongol Ethnic Minority
- Ethnic Minorities of European Descent in China
- Korean Ethnic Minority
- Tibetans and Other Ethnic Minorities
- History of Islam in China
- First Period of the Spread of Islam in China
- Second Period of the Spread of Islam in China
- Third Period of the Spread of Islam in China
- The Ching Dynasty and Islam
- Famous Muslims in Chinese History
- Islamic Ethnic Minorities in China Today
Muslim Rural Resident of Qinghai Province Smiling, China
Muslim Rural Resident of Qinghai Province Smiling, China Photographic Print
Evans, David
However today the Salar's main lifestyle is agricultural and self-sustaining while living in a semi-desert area. The Salar also keep sheep for wool and their favored dish of mutton. Some Salar extend their activities to gardening, leather working and processing and in gardening and forestry.
Alternative names for the Sala are Salar, Salacu and Salahui, the latter referring to their cultural assimilation with the Hui. The Salar name themselves as Salar'Er.

The Salar ancestors were migrating Oghuz Turks who settled in the area and intermarried with local women of the Tibetan Ethnicity, The Hui and the Han Chinese. The Salars ancestors migrated to Qinghai Province at sometime during the 13Th Century when the Mongols ruled the Eurasian Continent at the Yuan Dynasty (1279 AD - 1368 AD) had its brief but glorious period. At this time large migrations from Central Asia entered China, among which the Salar. It is said that they descend from a Turkmen tribe that originated near Samarkand, the former capital of Uzbekistan, an important city of the Silk Road.
For centuries they have maintained their Oghuz language remarkably similar to the Turkmen language spoken in the Karakoram Mountain Range (Qaraqum).

Salar have their own spoken language but no written version. It is closely related to the Uyghur and Uzbek languages. Many Salar known Arabic through their Religious Ceremonies and practice. The Salar language has two large dialect groups. Many Salar, some 30%, however do not speak the Salar Language anymore but speak Chinese or Tibetan, the language of another ethnic group with whom they have long been in contact. For a large part Salar history has been passed on by an oral tradition and the Salar culture knows many tales and folklore's.

The Salar live in close family unit communities where close kinship is the rule. Their houses are of the Central Asian style rather than Chinese or Han. Their homes characterized by the intricately carved pillars, door frames, and eaves. All houses are protected by an outer wall on the inside of which fruit trees are planted. The traditional culture of the Salar is strongly patriarchal. Extended families live together in communities. Marriages are traditionally arranged with a dowry to be payed. Women have few rights. Peculiar Wedding Customs of the Salar include the wedding ceremony to be conducted outside the Bride's house while she waits inside for the Husband to see and fetch her. The largest unit of Salar Community is the Village.

The Salar are Islamic Peoples. In fact, they are said to be the most zealous and pious Muslims in China.
Each village has its own mosque and cemetery. Other than this, their lifestyle very much resembles that of
The Bao'An are also known as Bao'An Huis, to designate their Muslim Faith, however they are a seperate ethnic group with their own language, albeit no written version of it. All Bao'An, some 15.000 in number live in Jishishan in County of Linxia Prefecture in Gansu Province where they live from farming and knife-making among things.

The greater majority of Chinese Muslims, if not all, fall under the Sunni definition of Islam, its culture and its beliefs although especially the Dongxiang practice aspects of Sufism and some sects have adopted aspects of Buddhism as well.
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the Hui, another much larger ethnic minority group on the North and North-West by whom they have been much influenced. The Salar were only converted to Islam during the late 17Th and in the 18 Century after which they have been a militant group. Due to Hui influence the Salar strictly speaking belong to the Naqshbandi (Naqshbandiyya) Order, which is one of the major Tasawwuf orders (tariqa) of Islam. The Naqshbandi are also known as the "Sober Order" which has made its imprints on Salar life. As a result of the adoption of this islamic style and religous zealousy afterwards many Salar Folk lyrics were lost. At times the original turkmen music of the Salar was even outlawed. The Salar not only had their own version of the cultural religion if you will, they also revolted against Central Rule repeatedly in their history.  In the Year 1781 AD there was a Salar uprising against Qing Dynasty Rule under encouragement of the arriving Russian Powers who were seeking to destablize the region at the Time. The Salar uprising however was violently crushed by the Qing Armies. In the events and aftermath 40% of the Salar were killed, decimating their numbers. Throughout the 1950's Salar resistance to the new Communist Chinese state was fairly intense and led to a series of armed attacks and uprisings against the Central Authority. In 1958 AD there were further problems when the Salar rose in Rebellion along with the Tibetans who were out for autonomy and plagued by the same problems with Central Authorities. The Rebellion was received with outrage in Beijing and necessitated the Central Comunist Government to take drastic steps regardless of the ethnic minority laws enacted since 1952 AD. The militant Salar were deported, long prison sentences were meted out to many and all Mullah's of the Salar were removed from office (The Tibetan Spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled Tibet and has been living in exile eversince). However worst for the Salar was the removal of their most treasured Holy Piece, a 13th Century handwritten Koran (one of only three worldwide) to Beijing officially for safe keeping. In this way the Salar were suppresed and culturally held hostage by Beijing for over 24 years.
Only after 1980 AD, when a new and more open policy on religion was adopted nationally, were religious activities among the Salar allowed to resume. Many Mullah's were pardonned and returned from labor camps. The treasured Salar Kuran was returned from Beijing.
There have been no recent accounts of political or ethnic troubles among the Salar, or at least not reported, however the Central State remains its vigilance.
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This page was last updated on: May 27, 2017
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