Exiled by Definition:The Salar of Northwest China

David SG Goodman


The reform of state socialism came relatively late to Qinghai Province in the Northwest of the People’s Republic of China. One of Qinghai’s most dynamic groups in the social leadership of reform has been the Salar. The Salar were one of the officially recognized nationalities identified in the People’s Republic of China during the 1950s. A relatively small group of some 100,000 currently live along the upper reaches of the Yellow River, on the borders of Qinghai and Gansu Provinces. The Salar are characterised by their commitment to both Islam and China, and by their belief that they live in permanent exile, though there is considerable uncertainty about their origins. The evidence of recent research in Qinghai suggests the perspective of being Chinese citizens, yet a people in exile, significantly shapes recent Salar social and economic activism.


The Salar; exile; Qinghai province China;

Full Text:



Chen, Yaun 1986, Ma Bufang jiazu tongzhi Qinghai sishinian [The Ma Bufang clan's 40-year control of Qinghai], rev. ed., Xining, Qinghai renmin chubanshe.

Chen Yaunfang & Fan Xianshen 1988, Salazu [The Salar] Beijing, Minzu chubanshe.

Chen Yunfeng 1991, Dangdai Zhongguode Qinghai [Contemporary China's Qinghai] Beijing, Dangdai Zhongguo chubanshe, vol.1

Chih-yu, Shih 2002, Negotiating Ethnciity in China: Citizenship as a response to the state London, Routledge.

Cui Yonghong (ed.) 1994, Ma Bufang zai Qinghai 1931-1949 [Ma Bufang in Qinghai, 1931-1949] Xining, Qinghai renmin chubanshe.

Diktter, Frank, The Discourse of Race in Modern China, Standford University Press, 1992.

Dwyer, Arinne 1994, 'The Salars of China' in Borevi, K. Borevi and Svanberg, I Uppsala Multiethnic Papers No.32.

Dwyer, Arrine 1996, Salar Phonology, doctoral dissertation, University of Washington.

Ekvall, Robert 1939, Cultural Relations on the Kansu-Tibetan Border, University of Chicago Press.

Fei, Xiaotong 1981, Towards a People's Anthropology Beijing, Foreign Languages Press.

Gong Jinghan 1981, Xunhua zhi [Gazeteer of Xunhua] Xining, Qinghai renmin chubanshe.

Gong Yin 1992, 'Qinghai tusi' ['Qinghai Headmen'] in Zhonguo tusi zhidu [China's Headman System] Kunming, Yunnan minzu chubanshe, 1319-49.

Goodman, David S.G. 2004, 'Qinghai and the Emergence of the West: Nationalities, communal interaction, and national integration' in The China Quarterly no.178, June.

Hahn, Rienhard F. 1988, 'On the Origin and Development of the Salar Language' in Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hung Vol. XLII, no.2-3, 235-75.

Han, Deyan 1999, 'The Salar Khazui System' in Central Asiatic Journal Vol.43, no.2, 204-214, trans. Ma Jianzhong and Kevin Stuart.

Han Fude and Han Derong (eds) 1988, Salazu Minjian Gushi [Salar Folktales] Xunhua, Xunhuaxian wenhuaguan.

Han Fude (ed.), Minjian Geyao [Folk Songs].

Han Fude (ed.), Minjian Yanyu [Folk Proverbs].

Han Jianye 1988, 'Xiandai Salayu' ['Modern Salar Language'] in Qinghai minzu yanjiu [Qinghai Nationalities Research] no.1, 46-79.

Harrell, Steve (ed.) 1995, Cultural Encounters on China's Ethnic Frontiers, University of Washington Press.

Hunsberger, M.R. 1978, Ma Pu-fang in Chinghai Province, doctoral dissertation, Temple University, 1978.

Hunsberger, M.R. 1994, Ma Bufang zai Qinghai 1931-1949 [Ma Bufang in Qinghai Province 1931-1949] Xining, Qinghai renmin chubanshe.

Li, Xuewei & Stuart, Kevin 1990, 'The Xunhua Sala' in Asian Folklore Studies Vol.49, no.1, 39-52. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1177948

Lin Lianyun & Han Jianye 1962, 'Salayu gaikuang' ['Outline of the Salar Language'], Zhongguo yuwen [China's Languages] No.120, 517-28.

Lipman, Jonathan N. 1981, The Border World of Gansu 1895-1935, doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.

Lipman, Jonathan N. 1984, 'Ethnicity and Politics in Republican China: The Ma Family Warlords of Gansu' in Modern China vol.10, no.3, July, 285-316. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/009770048401000302

Lipman, Jonathan N. 1996, Hyphenated Chinese: Sino-Muslim Identity in Modern China' in Gail Hershatter, Emily Honig, Jonathan N Lipman, and Randall Stross (ed) Remapping China: Fissures in Historical Terrain Stanford University Press, 97-112.

Lipman, Jonathan N. 1997, Familiar Strangers: A History of Muslims in Northwest China, University of Washington Press.

Ma Chengjun 1990, 'Salaer geyao chutan' ['An initial study of Salar Songs'] in Qinghai minzuyanjiu [Qinghai Nationalities Research] no.1, 82-88.

Ma Chengjun 1992a, 'Salazu wenxue chuyi' ['An initial discussion of Salar literature'] in Minzu wenxue yanjiu [Nationalities Literature Research] no.2, 81-84.

Ma Chengjun 1992b, 'Shilun Qinghai Yisilanjiao wenhuaquan' ['A discussion of Islamic culture in Qinghai'] in Qinghai shehui kexue [Social Sciences in Qinghai] no.5, 95-101.

Ma Chengjun 1999 (ed.), Xunhuaxian shehui jingji ke texu fazhan yanjiu [Research on the Sustained Social and Economic Development of Xunhua County] Xining, Qinghai renmin chubanshe.

Ma, Jianzhong & Stuart, Kevin 1996, ' Stone Camels and Clear Springs:" The Salar's Samarkand Origins' in Asian Folklore Studies Vol.55, no.2, 287-298."

Ma Mingliang 1984, 'Tantan Salayude xingchen yu Yisalanjiaode guanxi' ['Comments on the role of Islam in the formation of the Salar language] in Qinghai minzu xueyuan xuebao [Journal of Qinghai Nationalities College] no.1, 49-52.

Ma, Quanlin, Ma, Wanxiang, & Ma Zhicheng 1993, 'Salar Language Materials' in Sino-Platonic Papers no. 43.

Ma Shengde 1994, 'Cong duiyi aoyinade xiaoshi kan Salazu yishu fazhan huanmande yuanyin' ['An analysis of Salar art development from the perspective of the disappearance of the Camel Dance'] in Zhongguo Salazu [China's Salars] no.1, 64-67.

Ma Wei 1996, 'Salazu yu Zangzu guanxi shulue' ['Brief introduction to the relationship between the Salar and the Tibetans'] in Qinghai minzu xueyuan xuebao [Journal of Qinghai Nationalities College] no.1, 57-61.

Ma, Wei, Ma Jianzhong, & Stuart, Kevin 1999, 'The Xunhua Salar Wedding' in Asian Folklore Studies Vol.58, 31-76. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1178890

Ma, Wei, Ma Jianzhong, & Stuart, Kevin (eds) 2001, Folklore of China's Islamic Salar Nationality Lewiston, Edwin Mellen

Ma, Xueyi and Ma, Chengjun 1989, Salazu Fengsu zhi [Records of Salar Customs] Beijing, Zhongyang minzu xueyuan chubanshe.

Mackerras, Colin, China's Minorities: Integration and Modernization in the Twentieth Century Hong Kong, Oxford University Press, 1994; Colin Mackerras China's Minority Culture: Identities and Integration since 1912 New York, St Martin's Press, 1995.

Yousoufu, Malu 1984, 'Jianlun Salazu minjian wenxue yu yuyanxuede guanxi' ['An introductory discussion of the relationship between the language and literature of the Salar'] in Qinghai minzu xueyuan xuebao [Journal of Qinghai Nationalities College] no.1, 63-65.

Mi Yizhi 1981, 'Salazude laiyuan he qianxi tanshi' ['Investigation of the Salar's origins and migrations'] in Qinghai minzu xueyuan xuebao [Journal of Qinghai Nationalities College] no.3, 59-66.

Mi Yizhi 1982, 'Salazude lishi fazhan yu Yisilanjiaode guanxi' ['The relationship between Islam and the historical development of the Salar'] in Qinghai shehui kexue [Qinghai Social Sciences] no.1."

Mi Yizhi 1983, 'Lun Su Sishisan fanQing douzheng shijian' ['On Su Fortythree's Anti-Qing Struggle'] in Xibei minzu wencong [Northwest Nationalities Journal] no.3."

Mi Yizhi 1986, 'Salazu shi yanjiu' [Research on the History of the Salar] in Qinghai difang minzushi yanjiu wenxuan [Selected Research on the History of Local Nationalities in Qinghai] Qinghai minzu xueyuan minzu yanjiusuo, vol.1, 287-350."

Mi Yizhi 1990, Salazu zhengzhi shehui shi [Salar Political and Social History] Hong Kong, Huanghe wenhua chubanshe."

Moffat, A.W. 1935, 'The Salar Muhammedans', The Geographical Journal vol.85, 525-530. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1785872

Muchi, Yundengjiacuo (ed.) 1995, Qinghai shaoshu minzu [Qinghai's Minority Nationalities] Xining, Qinghai renmin chubanshe.

Oakes, Tim 2000, 'China's Provincial Identities: Reviving Regionalism and Reinventing Chineseness"' in The Journal of Asian Studies vol.59 no.3 August, 667." http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2658947

Poppe, Nicholas 1953, 'Remarks on the Salar Language' in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies vol.16, no.3-4, 438-477. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2718250

Salazu jianshi bianxiezu (ed.) 1982, Salazu jianshi [Concise History of the Salar Nationality], Xining, Qinghai renmin chubanshe.

Trippner, Joseph 1964, 'Die Salaren: ihre ersten Glaubensstreitigkeiten und ihr Austand 1781' ['The Salars: Their First Belief Conflicts and Rebellion, 1781'] in Central Asiatic Survey vol.9, no.4, 241-76.

Wei, Xinchun 1995, 'Luotuoquan yu Salazu' ['Camel Spring and the Salar'] in Mi Yiqi (ed) Huanghe shangyou diqu lishi yu wenwu [History and Culture of the Upstream Region of the Yellow River] Chongqing chubanshe, 399-411.

Xunhua Salazu zizhixian gaikuang bianxiezu (ed) 1984, Xunhua Salazu zizhixian gaikuang [Survey of Xunhua Salar Autonomous County] Xining, Qinghai renmin chubanshe.

Yang, Xiaoping 1994, Ma Bufang jiazude xingshuai [The Rise and Fall of the Clan of Ma Bufang] Xining.

Ye, Qingwei 1983, 'Yisalanjiao yu Salazu fengsu xiguan' ['Islam and Salar Customs'] in Qinghai minzu xueyuan xuebao [Journal of Qinghai Nationalities College] no.2, 71-75.

Zhang Pu, Jia Dawu & Guo Jing 1996, Dangdai Qinghai jianshi [Brief History of Contemporary Qinghai] Beijing, Dangdai Zhongguo chubanshe.

Zhongguo Salazu [Salar People of China], Journal of the Nationalities Research Institute of Qinghai Nationalities College.

Zhu, Shikui & Zhou Shengwen (eds) 1994, Qinghai fengsu jianzhi [An Introduction to Qinghai Customs] Xining, Qinghai renmin chubanshe.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/portal.v2i1.83