Prayer Profile
The Tajik of China

[IMAGE] The 35,500 Tajiks that live in China represent less than one percent of all Tajiks, the majority of whom live in Tajikistan. In China, most of them can be found in the eastern Pamir Mountains, which are located in the far western portion of the country. Though the Tajiks represent merely a fraction of China's total population, in this area, they are a majority. They are a semi-nomadic people who have always lived a semi-agricultural lifestyle.

With the opening of the silk road some two thousand years ago, the Pamir Mountains became a hub of East-West communication. Since that time, the Tajiks have developed and maintained close relationships with the people of central China.

The language of the Tajiks, which belongs to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family, is called "Sarikoli" or "Tajiki." Although the Uighur script is used for writing, many of the youth also speak and write Han Chinese.

What are their lives like?
Most of the time, Tajiks live in compact villages located at high elevations within the Pamir Mountains. Constructed of wood, sod, and stone, their homes have very thick walls for protection against the extreme cold. The roofs are flat to ensure that a heavy layer of snow will serve as added insulation. "Kangs," which are raised heated platforms, line the inside perimeters of the houses. People sleep or sit on these warm platforms. Animal shelters and cooking areas are usually separated from the houses, and a stone wall encloses each family's buildings.

Since the Tajiks are semi-nomadic tribesmen, the seasons dictate most of their economic activities. In the springtime they live in villages and plant highland barley, wheat, and a few other crops. In early summer, they move their herds of sheep, horses, yaks, and camels to highland pastures and live in felt tents or mud huts. When it is time for fall harvest, they once again return to their village homes.

Tajiks live in three-generation households, with the oldest male serving as the head. With few exceptions, they do not marry non-Tajiks and marriages are still arranged for the children by their parents. A "bride price," which may include items of silver, gold, animals, and clothing, must be paid to the bride's family. Among the Tajiks, women have no legal rights of inheritance.

In Tajik folklore, the eagle is the symbol of heroism. For this reason, their dances often imitate the flight of the eagle. Flutes are also commonly made of eagles' bones.

What are their beliefs?
The Tajiks were first converted to Islam in the tenth century, and have remained strong in their faith for a thousand years. Though they were originally Sunni Muslims, they switched over to the Ismail Branch of the Shi'ite sect in the eighteenth century. As members of this branch, they have no mosques, but instead meet weekly for prayer.

The Tajiks have also retained some "animistic" beliefs (beliefs that non-human objects have spirits) from an earlier age. They rely heavily on amulets to fight off the evil spirits that the believe are living in various objects of nature. These amulets are fashioned from bits of paper that have been written on by a Pir (Islamic priest) and carefully stored in small boxes or pieces of cloth, then worn around their necks.

What are their needs?
The physical needs of the Tajiks are numerous. The quality of health care, housing, utilities, and education is poor. Spiritually, the needs are even greater. The mixture of their Islamic beliefs with animism makes them extremely difficult to penetrate with the Gospel.

The Bible has not yet been translated into Sarikoli; the Jesus Film is not available; and there are no Christian radio or television broadcasts in their language. There are only four known Tajik believers living in China, and no missions agencies are working among this people group. Eighty-seven percent (over 30,000) of the population has never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to China and share Christ with the Tajiks.
  • Pray that the doors of China will soon open to missionaries.
  • Ask God to encourage, and protect the four known Tajik Christians.
  • Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into Sarikoli.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of these Muslims towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that God will call teams of Christian doctors to work among the Tajiks.
  • Ask God to open the hearts of China's government leaders to the Gospel.
  • Pray that a strong local church will be raised up among the Tajiks of China by the year 2000.

See Also the following Tajik groups:
the Afghani Tajik of Pakistan and Afghanistan; the Chinese Tajik;
the Tajik of Kazakstan; Kyrgyzstan; Iran; Russia; Tajikistan; and Uzbekistan.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Tajik
  • Country: China
  • Their language: sarikoli
  • Population: (1990) 33,600
    (1995) 35,500
    (2000) 37,400
  • Largest religion: Muslims (Ismaili) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 4
  • 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: 4,600 (13%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,100 (3.1%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 3,500 (9.9%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 30,900 (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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