The Bonan ethnic group is one of China's smallest ethnic groups. With a population of about 16,000, they mainly cluster in the area around Mt. Jishishan and Linxia County, southwest of Gansu Province. They may have originated from the amalgamated Mongolians, believing in Islam, Han, Tu, Hui and Tibetan before settling in the Bonan area.
Bonan people live on wheat, corn, Murphy, highland barley and peas as well as beef and mutton. Various animal meats such as pork, beef, mutton, horse, donkey and dog as well as other ferocious birds that naturally die are forbidden in their diets. Their staple food is mainly made of wheat, such as steamed bread, stuffed buns and noodles. Guests are firstly serived with tea before a meal.
The Bonan's language belongs to the Mongolian branch of the Altaic language family. But due to the frequent daily communication with the neighboring Han people, they've evolved to using Chinese as their main communion tool. They do not have their own script.
The raiment of Bonan ethnic group adopted the virtues of Mongolian, Tibetan and Hui dressing. The men usually wear the round-top cap made of black or white fabric, a white jacket with a black waistcoat on it. The women wear clothes in bright colors, with sleeves and sides of trousers bound in different colors. They prefer wearing a cap or a veil in green, black or white. For girls, they wear green, for the married, they wear black when visiting friends and for the aged, they wear white. The married women mostly wear veils.
The Bonan's religious beliefs are Islamic. In daily life and social customs, they share the same living styles as the Hui and Dongxiang nationalities in the local area. Weddings are usually held on Fridays, and the new couples will stay with the groom's parent. During the first three days after the wedding, the bride can only eat the food cooked by her parent, showing the gratitude to her parents for raising her up.
The Bonans mainly engage in agriculture, stock raising and handicraft as supplement. The forged broadswords they make, called 'Bonan knives', and are delicate and durable. They began to produce this kind of knife about 100 years ago. The sword is not only a useful tool but also a delicate handicraft, which enjoys great reputation near and far.
The main festivals of the Bonan ethnic group include the Corban Festival, the Almsgiving Festival and the Kaizhai Festival, which are mostly related to their religions. They also celebrate the traditional Chinese festivals, such as Spring Festival.