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Bonan in China


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Bonan in China map
Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
12,000 Bonan Islam 0.00 % 0.00 % No No   

Bonan in China

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The Bonan are the eighth smallest of China's 55 official minorities. After decades of intermarriage with other peoples such as the Hui, Han, and Tu, a distinct people group formed who came to call themselves Bonan, which means "I protect you." This name refers to their long history as the soldiers and protectors of the people in the area.

The Bonan speak a Mongol language, altered from their original Mongol tongue by 700 years of isolation. Today, Bonan is more similar to the Dongxiang and Tu languages than to modern Mongolian. A 1960 study of 3,000 words found that approximately half of the Bonan vocabulary were loanwords from other languages.

During the Mongolian world empire, large numbers of people from Central Asia were mixed together and sent to China as troops and administrators. These garrisons settled down after the collapse of the empire and gradually formed into their own people groups. It is believed the Bonan were originally Mongol troops sent to their present location on the edge of Chinese territory to act as watch guards against the fierce Tibetans. In 1862 religious friction between Muslim Bonan and those who had embraced Tibetan Buddhism caused the two groups to split. These religious disputes and a quarrel over water rights caused the Muslim Bonan to move east to their present location in Gansu.

The Bonan are renowned for their famous Bonan knife. It is a skillfully made knife with engraved oxhorn handles. Profits from sales of the knife, along with farming and logging, are the main sources of income for the Bonan. The Bonan send the pick of their young people to study at the Northwest Nationalities Institute in the city of Lanzhou.

The majority of Bonan are Sunni Muslims. They worship in their own mosques and no longer consider the Tibetan Buddhist Bonan to be their brothers. The Bonan are linguistically related to the Dongxiang Muslims in the area and live downstream from the Muslim Salar people of Xunhua. First converted to Islam by Muhammed Amin in 1750, Xunhua County contained 73 mosques in the early 1980s.

The Bonan are an unreached people group. There has never been a Bonan church nor a single known Bonan believer. Missionaries worked among the neighboring Salar until the 1950s, but no church was established.6 Little has changed since the 1920s when a plea went unheeded for workers to the Muslims in Gansu, "to give their whole time to each of these tribes."

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Country: China
Continent: Asia
Region: Asia, Northeast
Persecution Rank:27 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:Approximately 10,000 Bonan inhabit areas of southwest Gansu Province. In addition, 4,000 members of the Tu minority speak Bonan as their first language. The Bonan occupy several townships and villages in Jishishan County. The Jishi Mountains have long been an effective defense against approaching armies. For centuries the Bonan have lived on the edge of both Tibetan and Chinese civilizations.
(Source: Operation China, 2000)
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Ethnolinguistic Map:University of Texas or other map
Linguistic Map:Ethnologue language map
  Peoples [3]
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People Name in Country: Bonan
People Name General: Bonan
Alternate People Names:
ROP3 Code: 114014
Joshua Project People ID: 18419
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 12,000
Population all Countries: 12,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: East Asian Peoples
People Cluster: Chinese-Hui
People Name General: Bonan
Ethnic Code: MSY41y
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
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Primary Language: Bonan (12,000 Speakers)
Language Code (ISO): peh    Ethnologue Listing
Primary Dialect:Tongren
Dialect Code:8293
Total Languages: 1
Religion [4]
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Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religions:
Buddhism10.00 % 
Christianity0.00 %(Evangelical: 0.00 %)
Ethnic Religions0.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam90.00 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant0.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic0.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
GSEC Status:Level 1   Less than 2% Evangelical. Some evangelical resources available, but no active church planting within past 2 years
Bible Translation Status
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Bible Portions: Help start a Bible Translation
New Testament: None Reported
Complete Bible: None Reported
Ministry Resources [7]
None Reported
Ministry Activity
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Data Notes
Data Sources

Bonan in China

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Chinese-Hui     Asia, Northeast    
      Bonan China    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Bonan in China          
      Religion Language  
      Islam     Bonan  
    All Religions                              

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