Bonan : A Mongolian Language

If you want a well made knife, consider buying one from the Bonan people of China. The Bonan are renown for their sturdy and beautiful knives, with ox-horn handles. The profits from the sale of these knives in addition to the profits obtained from farming activities are the main sources of income for the Bonans. The Bonan speak a Mongol language that is different from their original Mongol tongue. This is as a result of 700 years of isolation and intermarriages with other tribes such as the Tu, Hai and Hun. Based on the legends, features and customs of the Bonans, the Bonan tribe came about during the Yuang and Ming period (1271-1644).

Bonan is one of the minority ethnic groups of China and is spoken by 11,700 people. It belongs to the Mongolian branch of the Altaic language family. The Bonan language is spoken by the Chinese people who live in Gansu, Quinghai and Ningxia Hui. There are several dialects of the language, all of which have been influenced by Chinese and Tibetan to various degrees. The Tongren dialect has been more widely studied than any other Bonan dialect. The Bonan language has contributed a lot of words to the Wutun language (a mixture of Tibetan, Chinese and Bonan), which is spoken in some villages in Quinghai and Tibetan. On the other hand, a study that was conducted in the 1960s showed that half of the words spoken in Bonan are loan words from other languages, with Hun being the language that it has borrowed most from. Han is the widely accepted way of writing Bonan.

The Bonan are mainly Sunni Muslims, divided into two sects; the old and the new. They no longer consider the Tibetan Buddhist Bonan their brothers. Linguistically, the Bonans are related to the Dongxiang Muslims. They do not live very far off from the Salar people of Xunhua, who are also Muslims. Most Bonans are concentrated in the Dahejia region in Linxia county in China. The area is thickly wooded with lush green grass and a moderate temperature, which makes it an ideal location for farming and keeping livestock.

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