Salar students studying the Qur’an in Xunhua

Reimagining the Silk Road

Salar students studying the Qur’an in Xunhua

Qinghai, 2010

One hundred kilometers west of Linxia, in Qinghai Province, Xunhua is the base of the Salars, a Turkic Muslim minority. The Salars are extremely insular, as they are small in number, only 130,607 according to the last national census in 2010. The Salars have a well-defined origin myth that identifies two brothers who traveled to China from Samarkand in the eighth century c.e. to find the holy land. Where their camel drank from a spring and turned to stone—present-day Xunhua—they established their community. These young manla are studying at the largest mosque in Xunhua, adjacent to the holy spring.