The Buryat of China
Most of the Buryat live in southern Siberia in the region surrounding Lake Baikal. However, almost 78,000 Buryat can also be found in northern China, in the vast region known as Inner Mongolia. They inhabit the extreme northern part of Inner Mongolia, near the Russian and Mongolian borders.
The Buryat are closely related to the Mongols, and the two groups share similar histories, cultures, religious beliefs, and lifestyles. Due to these cultural similarities, the Chinese government has classified the Buryat as part of the Mongolian ethnic group, one of China's 55 officially registered minorities. The Buryat speak their own language, also called Buriat, which belongs to the Mongol branch of the Altaic language family.
The Buryat in China are separated from the larger Buryat family in Siberia and Mongolia by several hundred miles. They have been living in China only since the 1700's. In recent years, many of the Chinese Buryat have immigrated back to Russia.
What are their lives like?
The lifestyle of the Buryat is similar to that of other Mongol peoples in China. Traditionally, they have lived as nomadic herdsmen. Their culture, society, and economy were rooted in raising horses, sheep, goats, cattle, and other animals. Today, however, a few of the Mongol-related peoples of northern China have begun farming for a living, growing mostly wheat.
The Buryat traditionally lived in portable yurts, which are large, circular felt tents stretched over light wooden frames. The yurts, which stood seven to eight feet high, were ideal for their nomadic lifestyle, as they could be pitched or dismantled in about two hours. During the twentieth century, most of the Buryat began to abandon their nomadic wanderings, settling down to raise their animals in one area. As a result, they left their tents and moved into houses built to look like yurts.
The Buryat have two traditional types of marriage: marriages arranged by the parents and marriages by abduction. In the latter type, the friends or relatives of the prospective groom kidnap the bride with or without her consent. Young men usually marry when they are between the ages of 18 and 25, while young women generally marry when they are between 17 and 21. During the wedding ceremony, the bride will traditionally perform a ritual in which she throws small pieces of fat at the chest of her father-in-law. If she has accurate aim, this is taken as a sign of fertility.
Buryat women usually bear many children. Since the infant mortality rate was very high in previous years, people held many rituals to protect their children from evil spirits. They would commonly try to confuse the spirits by giving girls' names to boys and boys' names to girls.
What are their beliefs?
The Buryat follow Lamaistic Buddhism, a form of the Buddhist religion that embraces the teachings of the Dalai Lama. This sect was developed in Tibet and then later spread among the Mongols. One of the fundamental beliefs of Buddhism is the doctrine of reincarnation, or the continual cycle of death and rebirth. The Buryat believe that a person's soul lives countless lives in different bodies, beginning a new life soon after the previous one ends. Buddhists attempt to follow the teachings of the founder of their religion, Buddha, in order to be freed from the cycle of reincarnation and enter a state of eternal bliss called nirvana.
After the Communist takeover of China in 1949, all religious practices were discouraged, and the importance of religion declined for the Buryat. Today, many of their Buddhist beliefs have been intermingled with animism (belief that non-human objects have spirits).
What are their needs?
Because they are geographically isolated and live in a Communist country, the Buryat of China have long been prevented from hearing God's Word. Only portions of the Bible have been translated into the Buriat language, and neither the Jesus film nor Christian materials are currently available to them. Intercession is needed to break down the strongholds that are keeping the Buryat in spiritual bondage.
- Pray for greater freedom to live and work among the Buryat of China.
- Ask the Lord to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask God to speed the completion of the Jesus film and other Christian materials into the Buryat language.
- Pray that the Lord Jesus will supernaturally reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and visions.
- Pray that God will raise up qualified linguists to complete the translation of the Bible into Buryat.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Buryat bound.
- Pray that God will open the hearts of China's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Buryat by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Buryat
- Country: China
- Their language: Buryat
- Largest religion:
- Christian: 1%
- Church members: 779
- Scriptures in their own language: Portions
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 14,800 (19%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 63,100 (81%)
- 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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