Tunganistan (also called Dunganistan) was an independent administered region in the Southern part of the Chinese Province Xinjiang from 1934 to 1937. The Name Tunganistan was coined by the Austrian Mongolia-expert Walther Heissig. The territory included the oases of the southern Tarim Basin, the centre of the region was Khotan.

In 1934, the First East Turkestan Republic ended. Afterwards the Muslim Tungan warlord Ma Zhongying vanished into Soviet territory. His successor was Ma Hushan, who fled from Kashgar to Khotan.[1] Ma Hushan regularly received telegrams, ostensibly from his brother-in-law in the USSR, promising the leader of Tunganistan that Ma Zhongying would soon return.[2]

Ma Hushan governed the region from 1934 until 1937, he was called "King" by his subjects. During his rule the Hui Muslims of Inner China governed the territory like a colony with Turkic Muslim subjects.[3] In Tunganistan, taxation was heavy in order to support the needs of the 36th Division of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army. Farmers and merchants were exploited for the benefit of the military garrisons. Forced conscription was common.[4]

In 1935, the troops of Tunganistan crushed the Charkhlik Revolt in the region of present-day Ruoqiang County.

Additionally by 1935, inflation was out of control, homesick Tungan troops were deserting, and Uyghurs frequently fought with Tungan soldiers in the streets of Khotan.[5]

The British writer and adventurer Peter Fleming travelled through Tunganistan and described in his writings (especially in his book News from Tartary) the region.[6]

In 1937, Soviet troops attacked Tunganistan and incorporated it into the realm of the Soviet puppet regime under Sheng Shicai. Ma Hushan, who was in mail contact with Chiang Kai-shek, expected some kind of help from the Nationalist government in Nanjing, but he did not receive any help of any kind.[7]


  1. Andrew D. W. Forbes: The Role of the Hui Muslims (Tungans) in Republican Sinkiang, in: Shirin Akiner (ed.): Cultural Change and Continuity in Central Asia, London/New York 2009, pp. 361–372 (here: p. 367).
  2. Mark Dickens: The Soviets in Xinjiang 1911–1949, oxuscom.com 1990.
  3. Andrew D. W. Forbes: Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949, Cambridge (England) 1986, p. 128.
  4. Joanne Smith: Four Generations of Uyghurs: The Shift towards Ethno-political Ideologies among Xinjiang's Youth, Inner Asia, Vol. 2 (2000), No. 2, pp. 195–224 (here: p. 204).
  5. Joanne Smith: Four Generations of Uyghurs: The Shift towards Ethno-political Ideologies among Xinjiang's Youth, Inner Asia, Vol. 2 (2000), No. 2, pp. 195–224 (here: pp. 204/205).
  6. Anke Kausch: Seidenstraße: Von China durch die Wüsten Gobi und Taklamakan über den Karakorum Highway nach Pakistan, Cologne 2001, p. 271.
  7. Martin Avery: Bethune's Time: White Men Seeking Grace, (online publication) 2014, p. 88.

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