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Chinese Tajiks or Mountain Tajiks in China (Sarikoli: [tudʒik], Tujik; Chinese: 塔吉克族; pinyin: Tǎjíkè Zú), including Sarikolis (majority) and Wakhis (minority) in China, are an extension of the Pamiri ethnic group that lives in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China. They are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the government of China.


Despite the name by which they are known in China, the Tajiks of Xinjiang are not the same as the Tajik people (who speak the Tajik language). The Tajiks in Xinjiang of China, are an extension of the Pamiri people, a different Iranian group who speak the indigenous Eastern Iranian Pamiri languages.


Tashkurgan Town became the capital of the Sarikol kingdom (色勒库尔), a kingdom of the Pamir Mountains.

Qing dynastyEdit

During the Qing dynasty, the Tajiks were administered by a system of Begs like the rest of Xinjiang. During the Qing dynasty the Chinese claimed suzerainty over the Taghdumbash Pamir in the south west of Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County but permitted the Mir of Hunza to administer the region in return for a tribute.

The Tajiks of Xinjiang practiced slavery, selling some of their own as a punishment. Submissive slaves were given wives and settled with the Tajiks. They were considered property and could be sold anytime. Their slaves came from numerous sources, enslaving Sunni captives such as Kirghiz in retaliation for Kirghiz slave raids against the Tajiks since the Kirghiz sold them into slavery in these raids, or from Kunjud, Gilgit, Chitral. Slaves from Chitral and Kunjud passed through there to Bukhara. The Sunnis called them Rafidites and did not consider them Muslim.[1]

Most foreign slaves in Xinjiang were Shia Mountain Tajiks, they were referred to by Sunni Turkic Muslims as Ghalcha.[2] Shia Mountain Tajik Ghalchas made up the majority of slave trafficked and sold in Xinjiang to the Sunni Muslim Turkic inhabitants and they were seen as foreigners and strangers. Serfs were treated in a "wretched" manner.[3]

An anti-Russian uproar broke out when Russian customs officials, 3 Cossacks and a Russian courier invited local Turki Muslim (Uyghur) prostitutes to a party in January 1902 in Kashgar, this caused a massive brawl by the inflamed local Turki Muslim populace against the Russians on the pretense of protecting Muslim women because there was anti-Russian sentiment being built up, even though morality was not strict in Kashgar, the local Turki Muslims violently clashed with the Russians before they were dispersed, the Chinese sought an end to tensions to prevent the Russians from building up a pretext to invade.[4][4][5]

After the riot, the Russians sent troops to Sarikol in Tashkurghan and demanded that the Sarikol postal services be placed under Russian supervision, the locals of Sarikol believed that the Russians would seize the entire district from the Chinese and send more soldiers even after the Russians tried to negotiate with the Begs of Sarikol and sway them to their side, they failed since the Sarikoli officials and authorities demanded in a petition to the Amban of Yarkand that they be evacuated to Yarkand to avoid being harassed by the Russians and objected to the Russian presence in Sarikol, the Sarikolis did not believe the Russian claim that they would leave them alone and only involved themselves in the mail service.[6][7]

Republic of ChinaEdit

In the 1940s around 9,000 Tajiks lived in Xinjiang.[8]

During the Ili Rebellion, Uyghur forces butchered the livestock of the Tajiks as they advanced south.[9] The Soviet backed insurgents destroyed Tajik crops and acted aggressively against the Tajiks and Kirghiz of China.[10]


The population of Tajiks in China numbers 41,028 (2000). They are located in China's western Xinjiang region with 60% living in Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County. Despite the name "Tajik" that is used to refer to them, the Tajiks of China do not speak the Tajik language. Early 20th-century travelers to the region referred to them as Sarikoli,[11][12] "Mountain Tajiks,"[13] or Ghalcha.[14]


In China, the languages of the Tajik people have no official written form.[15] The great majority speak the Sarikoli language, which has been heavily influenced by Uyghur, Chinese, and Wakhi.[16] A small proportion speak Wakhi language.[17] Sarikoli and Wakhi are Iranian languages, commonly classified in the Pamir or Eastern Iranian areal groups.[18]


The Mountain Tajiks in China are adherents of the Aga Khani Nizari Ismaili sect of Shia Islam, and are still a little isolated from the rest of the worldwide Ismaili community, though their communication with other Pamiri (Ismaili) peoples has never stopped. The Chinese authorities allow a few Ismaili religious buildings to function in Xinjiang's Tajik Autonomous District, whose clerics were appointed by the Chinese secular authorities. Restrictions by the Chinese government bars foreign Ismaili preachers from openly working among the Tajiks in China; and the religious leader of the Nizari Ismaili sect, the Aga Khan, was once barred from business with the China's Ismailis.[19] But recently, the Aga Khan has begun to communicate with China more.

From 2–4 April 2012, His Highness the Aga Khan (Aga Khan IV), paid an official visit to Ürümqi, China, at the invitation of the Governor of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Mr Nur Bekri, to discuss collaboration between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the autonomous government of Xinjiang. His Highness and Governor Bekri held constructive talks in the meeting and agreed to collaborate in several thematic areas of mutual interest, including poverty alleviation, education, tourism investment, and financial services.[20] The Aga Khan IV had last visited China in 1981.


Family LifeEdit

In a average traditional family, at least three or more generations of relatives live under the same household. There's also a hierarchy which is determined by a family member's age and gender but the senior male stands as the head of the family. The responsibilities of the men tend to be providing for the family and looking after the children and elderly. The women's responsibilities are to raise the children, do household duties, and to attend to the elderly. The senior male is in charge of managing the entire household and the family's wealth through consulting with the rest of the men in the house. The young men are discouraged from seeking a independent life outside the household unless they get consent from the family. Failure to do so can forfeit them from inheritance. [21]

Rites of passage and Life CyclesEdit

Marriages are usually arranged by the parents of the prospective groom and bride from the asking of the daughter's hand up to the wedding. The families of the couple also decide on the dowry amount, plan the engagements and wedding dates, and choose who can attend. Some three days before the wedding, the families come together and initiate a feast for the people in the area who have lost relatives in the last year or so. These people then approve of the celebration by tapping on a hand drum.[21] Funerals are conducted by first doing the Islamic rites of cleansing the body and praying for the deceased. This is followed by the family who burn incense and close any room or ceiling windows as this is believed to purify the path for the deceased. Every family member is expected to attend the funeral or make up for it with a visit to the family. For forty days after the burial, the closest relatives of the deceased will begin to abstain from personal comforts like by keeping their hair unkempt or uncut. On the last day, friends and family come together to bathe and clean the mourners and to convince them to return to their daily lives.[21]


Because of the harsh and scarce environment in which the locals live in, they mostly rely on cultivating whatever arable land is available and engage in small-scale animal husbandry. Other types of subsistence also include selling traditional embroidery, clothes, hats, and other arts and crafts. However, this is only a seasonal operation. There are also a few governmental wages available but salaried jobs are few and the demand is very high.[21]


  1. ^ Sir Thomas Douglas Forsyth (1875). Report of a mission to Yarkund in 1873, under command of Sir T. D. Forsyth: with historical and geographical information regarding the possessions of the ameer of Yarkund. Printed at the Foreign department press. p. 56. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
  2. ^ Ildikó Bellér-Hann (2007). Situating the Uyghurs between China and Central Asia. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 20. ISBN 0-7546-7041-4. Retrieved 2010-07-30.
  3. ^ Situating the Uyghurs Between China and Central Asia. Routledge. 2016. p. 20. ISBN 1351899899.
  4. ^ a b Pamela Nightingale; C.P. Skrine (5 November 2013). Macartney at Kashgar: New Light on British, Chinese and Russian Activities in Sinkiang, 1890-1918. Taylor & Francis. pp. 124–. ISBN 978-1-136-57616-4.
  5. ^ Sir Clarmont Percival Skrine; Pamela Nightingale (1973). Macartney at Kashgar: new light on British, Chinese and Russian activities in Sinkiang, 1890-1918. Methuen. p. 124.
  6. ^ Pamela Nightingale; C.P. Skrine (5 November 2013). Macartney at Kashgar: New Light on British, Chinese and Russian Activities in Sinkiang, 1890-1918. Routledge. pp. 125–. ISBN 978-1-136-57609-6.
  7. ^ Sir Clarmont Percival Skrine; Pamela Nightingale (1973). Macartney at Kashgar: new light on British, Chinese and Russian activities in Sinkiang, 1890-1918. Methuen. p. 125.
  8. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 6. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  9. ^ Eric Shipton, Jim Perrin (1997). Eric Shipton: The Six Mountain-Travel Books. The Mountaineers Books. p. 488. ISBN 0-89886-539-5. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  10. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 204. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  11. ^ A Journey of Geographical and Archarological Exploration in Chinese Turkestan A Stein – 1904 – [sn] ... 15,800 feet above the sea, into Chinese territory on the Taghdumbash Pamir, using the yaks of the Sarikoli herdsmen...
  12. ^ The Heart of a Continent – Younghusband – encampment belonging to a Sarikoli, who very kindly asked me to have some refreshment... (pg 242)
  13. ^ Through the Unknown Pamirs; the Second Danish Pamir Expedition 1898–99 By Ole Olufsen
  14. ^ Denis Crispin Twitchett, John King Fairbank (1977). The Cambridge history of China, Volume 10. Cambridge University Press. p. 71. ISBN 0-521-21447-5. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  15. ^ BARRY RUBIN (2000). Guide to Islamist Movements. M.E. Sharpe. p. 71. ISBN 0-7656-1747-1. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  16. ^ Arlund, Pamela S. (2006). An Acoustic, Historical, And Developmental Analysis Of Sarikol Tajik Diphthongs. Ph.D Dissertation. The University of Texas at Arlington. p. 191.
  17. ^ Felmy, Sabine (1996). The voice of the nightingale: a personal account of the Wakhi culture in Hunza. Karachi: Oxford University Press. p. 4. ISBN 0-19-577599-6.
  18. ^ James Stuart Olson (1998). An ethnohistorical dictionary of China. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 319. ISBN 0-313-28853-4. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  19. ^ UNHCR Refworld, CHINA: Xinjiang's Ismailis cut off from international Ismaili community [accessed 13 May 2009]
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ a b c d Daftary, Farhad (2011). A Modern History of the Ismailis: Continuity and Change in a Muslim Community. London: I.B. Tauris. pp. 87–90. ISBN 9781845117177.

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