Prayer Profile
The Kalmyk of China

[IMAGE] The Kalmyk-Oirats, or Oirats, are not recognized as one of China's 55 official minorities. Instead they are considered as belonging to the Mongolian race. In the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Oirats left their homeland in Dzhungaria (present day Xinjiang province) to settle in the rich pastures of the northern Caucasus Mountains. However, in 1771, most of them decided to return to Dzhungaria to flee Russian imperialism. The descendants of those who had stayed in Russia became known as the Kalmyks, which means, in the Turkic language, "to remain or stay behind."

In 1943, the Kalmyks were deported to Siberia where many died from the cold. Of the Oirats who left Russia, only a small group survived the long, arduous journey back to Dzhungaria. The rest died from famine or fell victim to the hostile raids of neighboring tribes. Those who survived the journey were granted pasturelands for their flocks.

What are their lives like?
The Oirats are known for their love of fine horses and horse racing. Most of them learn to ride at a very early age. Besides raising horses, they also raise cattle, camels, goats, and sheep.

Some of the Oirats are nomads, continually moving from place to place throughout the year. They live in tents made of felt on lattice frames. Their diet consists of grains, milk, tea, dairy products, and mutton. Others are farmers who live in permanent dwellings. Grains, corn, hay, mustard seed, and sunflowers are their main crops.

Marriage was traditionally an important symbol of adulthood among the Oirats. Monogamy was predominant, but polygamy (having more than one wife at a time) was practiced among the chiefs and the well-to-do. Marriages were usually arranged by parents who consulted an astrologist about the compatibility of a bride and groom. Couples were sometimes engaged as early as 6 or 7 years of age, then married some years later. Today, couples usually marry and have children while in their early to mid-20's.

The family unit is ordinarily an extended one. It is made up of parents, married sons and their families, and unmarried children. Today, divorce is becoming increasingly more common. Legal abortion is the principal means of birth control, since the Chinese government only allows one child per family (except among minorities).

The typical Kalmyk dress includes velvet hats, loose fitting coats, heavily padded long pants, and high, homemade leather boots. The men often shave their entire heads except for one small area in the back that is worn in a pony-tail.

What are their beliefs?
The Mongols were traditionally animists and shamanists (believing in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits). They believed that the shaman, or medicine man, was the only one to contact the spirits and cure the sick. In the late sixteenth century, they adopted Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism, which became quite popular. Today, 60% of the Oirats are Buddhists and 35% are Shamanists.

The Kalmyks traditionally believed that death occurred the moment the soul left the body. Consequently, the deceased were left out in the fields to be eaten by wild animals. This was believed to facilitate the release of the soul from the body. Today, only some of the Oirats continue this practice, while most bury their dead in community graveyards. The obo (a heap of stones thought to be inhabited by local spirits) often serves as a site for performing various rituals.

What are their needs?
Medical facilities are insufficient among the Oirats. A limited water supply, poor hygiene, an inadequate diet, and high consumption of alcohol have all contributed to a high infant mortality rate and a low life expectancy.

While portions of the Bible are available to the Oirats, no other mission tools or agencies are operative in their region. These are a people who desperately need to know the love of Christ.

Prayer Points

  • Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Kalmyk-Oriats bound.
  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to China and share Christ with the Kalmyk-Oirats.
  • Pray that the doors of China will soon open to missionaries.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Kalmyk-Oirat Christians.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete translation of the Bible into the Kalmyk language.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Kalmyk-Oirats towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will open the hearts of China's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Kalmyk-Oirats by the year 2000.

See also the following related groups:
The Kalmyk of Russia; and The Durbet of Mongolia.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Kalmyk
  • Country: China
  • Their language: kalmyk
  • Population: (1990) 139,200
    (1995) 147,100
    (2000) 154,700
  • Largest religion: Buddhists (Tantrayana) 60%
    Ethnic religionists (Shamanists) 35%
    Nonreligious 4.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 147
  • Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
  • 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: 19,300 (13%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 7,500 (5%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 11,800 (8%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 127,800 (87%)
  • Country: China
  • Population: (1990) 1,135,043,400
    (1995) 1,199,901,200
    (2000) 1,262,195,800
  • Major peoples in size order: Han Chinese (Mandarin) 67.7%
    Han Chinese (Wu) 7.5%
    Han Chinese (Cantonese) 4.5%
  • Major religions: Nonreligious 55%
    Chinese folk-religionists 17%
    Atheists 12.7%
  • Number of denominations: 42

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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