The Monguor-Tu language of China

Monguor-Tu is a language that is spoken in northwest China. Monguor-Tu is a Mongolic language spoken by approximately 49,000 people. It forms one of the 56 ethnic groups that is officially recognized in China. Monguor-Tu can be classified into 2 people groups. The Monguor and the Tu people. Most Monguor-Tu’s are not monolingual. Monguors speak Chinese and Tibetan, while most Tu’s speak Chinese. Currently, the tendency has been to shift towards Chinese. Most Monguor-Tu’s are literate in one of the languages that they speak. Monguor-Tu’s are also known as White Mongols or Chagan Mongols. Traditionally Tu’s are farmers, while a few keep livestock.

The culture and social organizations of the Monguor-Tu have been heavily influenced by Confucianism. The Monguor-Tu religion reflects bits of Buddhism, Shamanism, Taoism and Tibetan. These have also been mixed with local and traditional religions. Only a few Monguor-Tu are Christians. The Tu’s have been Lamaists since 650. This explains the presence of large monasteries in the region occupied by Monguor-Tu’s. Families which had more than one son were expected to send at least one son to become a monk. These monasteries became wealthy as they owned large tracts of land, collected taxes and lended people money. They also owned large grain mills, which they rented out. There were white shamans and black shamans. White shamans were known to be good and posses curative powers. Black shamans were usually employed to exact revenge on people. Shamans inherited their vocations from their fathers, who trained them. The Monguor-Tu’s cremate their dead. Before the 1950s, they would give children ‘sky burials’, which entailed placing the remains of dead children in a platform on top of a tree.

Traditionally, Monguor-Tu’s had arranged marriages. Brides were expected to go and live with the groom’s family. The other kind of marriage that took place were where the woman lived with her family and had many lovers. The children of such a woman were expected to take on her name and become part of her patrilineal lineage. Such a woman is considered to have been married to heaven. She is officially married off when she is 15 years of age. These form of marriages can be largely attributed to the flow of men into monkhood.

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