The Tungshiang of China
The 395,000 Tunghsiang live along the rivers that flow out of the Qilian Mountains of north central China. Most of their villages are located in the Gansu Province. Before 1950, the Tunghsiang were known as the "Mongolian Huihui," a Chinese name that means "the Eastern village."
In the thirteenth century, the Mongolian army established the largest empire the world has ever known. As a result of many brutal battles, the Mongols (led by Ghengis Khan and later by his nephew, Kubla Khan), had gained the territories from southern China to eastern Europe, including most of Russia and the Middle East.
In an effort to retain control over all the land he had captured, Ghenis Khan relocated some of his soldiers from Iran and Afghanistan into China. These soldiers refused to intermarry with the Chinese, and so gradually developed into their own distinct ethnic group. It is believed that the Tunghsiang are the direct descendants of the Mongolian soldiers.
What are their lives like?
Farming is the backbone of the Tunghsiang economy. Their major crops include potatoes, wheat, barley, millet, and corn. "Potato mash," which is grainy and sweet, is used to make various snacks, liquors, vinegar noodles, and many other favorite foods of the Tunghsiang. Potato mash is also enjoyed by other ethnic groups living in the Gansu and Qinghai provinces.
The Tunghsiang are located in one long spread out valley of the Gansu province. This region is a very dry, desolate place, with a moon-like landscape. It is illegal for foreigners to go there.
The language that is spoken by the Tunghsiang is called "Dongxiang." It seems to be a mixture of an ancient Middle Eastern dialect and Mongolian.
China's economy has undergone many changes since the late 1970's. Free markets for food items and homemade goods have re-opened, schools have been built, and irrigation projects have been started. The Communist system of "collective farming" was dismantled in the rural areas. Even Chinese peasants were encouraged to develop new enterprises. The government also assisted in the planting of trees and grass to help prevent soil erosion, a problem that has been severe for many years. Factories for manufacturing tiles, farm tools, generators, bricks, and cement were also built.
As a result of such changes, the standard of living has been rising rapidly in inner China. Unfortunately, however, the Tunghsiang, like many other Chinese minority peoples, are located in a very remote region. Improvements in their living conditions have been few.
What are their beliefs?
When the Tunghsiang came to China, they brought with them their strong Islamic beliefs; and today they are still staunch Muslims. Prior to the Communist revolution, two-thirds were Sunnis and the majority of the others were Shi'ites. In 1949, when the Communists took over China, there was only one mosque for every thirty Tunghsiang families, and one paid Muslim worker for every nine families. Today, each village has at least one mosque, and there are more than 500 total mosques in the region.
What are their needs?
The physical needs of the Tunghsiang are numerous. The quality of health care, housing, utilities, and education is poor. Spiritually, however, their needs are even greater. The Bible has not yet been translated into Dongxiang; the Jesus Film is not available; and there are no Christian radio or television broadcasts in their area.
Because it is still illegal for a foreigner to go into this region of China, there are no missions agencies working among the Tunghsiang. They are one of the most unreached of China's 55 official minority people groups.
Though attempts have been made at evangelizing the Tunghsiang, there are only 198 known believers among them today. Only 8% of the Tunghsiang have heard the Gospel; and more than 90% (over 360,000) have never once heard the name of Jesus.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of China's government leaders to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go into China and share Christ with the Tunghsiang.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will soften the hearts of the Tunghsiang Muslims to the Gospel.
- Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Tunghsiang believers.
- Pray that Christian literature, radio broadcasts, and television programs will soon be made available in the Dongxiang language.
- Ask God to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into Dongxiang.
- Pray that a strong local church will be raised up among the Tunghsiang by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Tungshiang
- Country: China
- Their language: dongxiang
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 198
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: None
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 31,900 (8%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 363,800 (92%)
- Country: China
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 42
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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