A Yugur family in Lanzhou, Gansu, 1944
Total population
18,000 (est.)
Regions with significant populations
Sunan Yugur Autonomous County, Gansu, China
Western Yugur, Eastern Yugur
Related ethnic groups

The Yugurs, Yughurs, Yugu (Chinese: 裕固族; pinyin: Yùgùzú; Western Yugur: Sarïg Yogïr; Eastern Yugur: Šera Yogor), traditionally known as Yellow Uyghurs,[1] are a Turkic-Mongolic ethnic group and one of China's 56 officially recognized ethnic groups, consisting of 16,719 persons, according to the 2000 census.[2] The Yugur live primarily in Sunan Yugur Autonomous County in Gansu. They are mostly Tibetan Buddhists.[3][4] The majority of Yugurs speak a Turkic language, while Mongolic and Chinese are also used in eastern provinces.


The Turkic-speaking Yugurs are considered to be the descendants of a group of Old Uyghurs who fled from Mongolia southwards to Gansu after the collapse of the Uyghur Khaganate in 840, where they established the prosperous Ganzhou Uyghur Kingdom (870-1036) with capital near present Zhangye at the base of the Qilian Mountains in the valley of the Ruo Shui.[5]

In 1037, the Yugur came under Tangut domination.[6] As a result of Khizr Khoja’s invasion of Qumul, many residents who rejected conversion escaped to nearby Dunhuang and Hunan in China proper. These became the ancestors of the modern Yellow Uyghurs, who have remained Buddhists to the present day.[7]

In 1893, Russian explorer Grigory Potanin, the first Western scientist to study the Yugur, published a small glossary of Yugur words, along with notes on their administration and geographical situation.[8]


About 4,600 Yugurs speak Western Yugur (a Turkic language) and about 2,800 Eastern Yugur (a Mongolic language). Western Yugur has preserved many archaisms of Old Uyghur.[9][10]

Both Yugur languages are now unwritten, although the Old Uyghur alphabet was in use in some Yugur communities until end of 19th century.[11]


  1. ^ Justin Jon Rudelson; Justin Ben-Adam Rudelson (1997). Oasis Identities: Uyghur Nationalism Along China's Silk Road. Columbia University Press. pp. 206–. ISBN 978-0-231-10786-0.
  2. ^ Justin Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie (2009). Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world. Elsevier. p. 1142. ISBN 978-0-08-087774-7. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  3. ^ Justin Ben-Adam Rudelson, Justin Jon Rudelson (1997). Oasis identities: Uyghur nationalism along China's Silk Road. Columbia University Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-231-10786-2. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  4. ^ Wong, Edward (28 September 2016). "Modern Life Presents Nomads of China's Steppe With a 'Tragic Choice'". New York Times.
  5. ^ Allworth, Edward A. (1994). Central Asia, 130 Years of Russian Dominance: A Historical Overview. Duke University Press. p. 89. ISBN 0-8223-1521-1.
  6. ^ Dillon, Michael (2004). Xinjiang: China's Muslim Far Northwest. Taylor & Francis. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-203-16664-2.
  7. ^ The Great Dispossession. p. 39.
  8. ^ Tamm, Eric Enno (10 April 2011). The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road and the Rise of Modern China. Catapult. p. 281. ISBN 978-1-58243-876-4.
  9. ^ Aslı Göksel, Celia Kerslake, ed. (2000). Studies on Turkish and Turkic Languages: Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Turkish Linguistics. Harrassowitz. pp. 430–431. ISBN 978-3447042932.
  10. ^ Lars Johanson, Éva Csató (1998). The Turkic languages. Taylor & Francis. p. 397. ISBN 0-415-08200-5. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  11. ^ Dru C. Gladney (2004). Dislocating China: reflections on Muslims, minorities and other subaltern subjects. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 212. ISBN 1-85065-324-0. Retrieved 31 October 2010.