A Living Tapestry

China’s Silk Road regions have been a meeting point for trade and cultural exchange for over 20 centuries. In these areas, diverse peoples live alongside one another; like a living tapestry of cultures. Discover more about their lifestyles and pray for them to know God’s joy.


Population: 1.2 billion Language: Mandarin Chinese

At 92 per cent of the country’s population, the Han are the largest ethnic group in China, and the largest ethnic group globally. They value education, and strive to bring honour to their family through personal success. Pray for Han Chinese as their influence in our world grows. Pray for them to relate well to those from different cultures and backgrounds.

Hui {hway}

Population: 10.6 million Language: Mandarin Chinese A diverse people group, skilled in trade. They are scattered across China. One of their traditional snacks is sanzi, noodles hand-pulled to around two metres long, folded together and deep fried. Hui-run noodle restaurants can be found in cities throughout China. Thank God for the skills in trade that he has given to Hui people. Pray for their business deals to be filled with justice and compassion.

Uyghur {wee-ger}

Population: 10.1 million Language: Uyghur, related to Turkish

An ethnically Turkic people who have traditionally been farmers and traders throughout China’s northwestern regions. The changing culture and economy in that region is leading to rapid changes to Uyghur lifestyle and identity. Pray for wisdom and grace for Uyghur people as they forge a new identity in the fast-paced society of modern China.

Kazak {kah-zahk}

Population: 1.5 million Language: Kazak, a Turkic language

Although many Kazaks now live in towns, their hearts are most at home in the hills. They are traditionally nomadic herders who live in felt yurts. Their lineage is important to them. Even today, Kazaks can usually recite their family tree to seven generations, and tell you which of the three ‘hordes’ (tribes) their family belongs to. Praise God for the shepherding heritage of Kazaks, would they learn more of this as a picture of the pastoral heart of God.

Dongxiang {dong-shyahng}

Population: 622,000 Language: Dongxiang, related to Mongolian A mixed group of Mongolians, Han and Tibetans who intermarried after converting to Islam around 800 years ago. They are Mongolian by heritage, Chinese by culture and Islamic by faith. Dongxiang communities are sometimes looked down on for their lower educational level. Pray for God’s blessing on government initiatives to bring development to Dongxiang areas.

Kyrgyz {keer-geez] 187,000 Kyrgyz, a Turkic language Semi-nomadic herders who settled in the mountains of northwest China. But today many Kyrgyz are moving to the cities. If you were a special guest in a Kyrgyz home, you might be served Olobo, sheep’s lungs marinated in milk and spices. Pray for Kyrgyz adjusting to working in the city – the transition can be hard.

Salar {sah-lahr}

Population: 131,000 Language: Salar, related to Turkmen

The Salar people emigrated to China from Central Asia in the 14th century. Their epic journey involved following a white camel carrying a hand-copied Qur’an. This Qur’an is China’s oldest and is now on display in a museum in the Salar home town. Pray for Salar people, to find a good balance between holding on to their ethnic heritage and adapting to modern life. Tajik {tah-jeek} 51,000 Sarikol, Wakhi and Tor Semi-nomadic herders who live in the mountains in the far west of China. The majority of Tajiks in China speak the Sarikol language, which is related to Persian, but has no written script. Pray for good communication among the different ethnic groups along China’s Silk Road. Mandarin Chinese is the country’s national language, but minority groups often don’t speak it fluently. This can lead to frustration and misunderstanding.

Bonan {boh-nan}

Population: 20,000 Language: Bonan, related to Mongolian

The Bonan people converted to Islam from Buddhism in the 18th century. They moved east within China after disputes with their neighbours. They are famous in China for their hand-made knives. Pray for the Bonan as they adapt to the changing economy in the region. Their traditional skills often need to be adapted or changed completely, in order to survive. Pray for wisdom and guidance for those who are struggling to make a living.

Uzbek {uhz-bek}

Population: 10,500

Uzbek Silk Road traders who settled in China around 500 years ago. Like several of China’s Silk Road peoples, the Uzbeks also have a homeland in Central Asia, where their population is much larger (in this case, Uzbekistan). Chinese Uzbeks speak the same language as Uzbeks in Uzbekistan but use some different vocabulary. Pray for good relationships between Uzbeks, and other Silk Road people groups within China, and their national territories in Central Asia. Pray that these countries will also understand each other well.

Tatar {tah-tar}

Population: 3,500 Lanuage: Tatar, a Turkic language

A group of mixed Russian and Mongolian ancestry, the Tatars moved to China in the 19th century. They came to engage in business or to escape persecution. They enjoy sports competitions at their ‘Plough Head Festival’ each spring. Give thanks for how God has woven together this living tapestry of different cultures. Pray for opportunities for Silk Road peoples to discover his abundant love.

Exploring the Silk Road in 60 Seconds from OMF International Media on Vimeo.

Learn more about China’s Silk Road peoples at omf.org/silkroad