The Dongxiang people are one of 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. Most of the Dongxiang live in the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture and surrounding areas of Gansu Province in northwestern China, while others groupings can also be found in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province, and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. According to the 2000 census, their population numbers 513,805. The Dongxiang are closely related to the Mongolians. Scholars speculate that their identity as an independent ethnic group arose through contact with Central Asians, due to whom the Dongxiang converted to Sunni Islam in the 13th century. One possible origin is that they are descendants of Mongolian troops posted in the Hezhou area by Genghis Khan (1162-1227 AD) during his journey westward, while another possibility is that they could be a mixture of many peoples including Mongolian, Han, and Tibetan groups.
Contributions by Labnoor, Vmenkov, and Abstrakt.