The Tsat People
The tourism information on the Internet and in the one English booklet we have discovered refers to the Li, Miao and Hui populations of the Sanya area, yet this underplays the uniqueness of Sanya's local Muslim population. In China, Asiatic Muslim peoples (as opposed to Turkic) are always referenced as Hui, yet this is an insignificant ethnographic description 0f the local Muslim population.
In the Sanya area is a unique population of just 4,500 (officially, probably ten times that number unofficially) of Tsat or Cham people, migrants from Cambodia.
It is very difficult to get information on these people, and attempts to discuss their lifestyles with the Tsat is very difficult. It seems - and I say "seems" guardedly - that the Tsat are conomically marginalised in the Sanya area. Many of the hawkers and beach peddlars selling coral and shells are Tsat women, and they are reluctant to talk, affecting (or genuinely) lacking an understanding of Putonghua (and heavily accented Beijinghua at that). Our favoured taxi-driver was also extremely reluctant to discuss the Tsat. I don't know why. I have my ideas.
The Tsat people, who speak a language called Usat, are centred on the township of Yanglan which is north of Sanya airport, and specifically in two villages called Huihui and Xinhui.
I would love to know more about these people, but information seems to be hard to find, especially as they are somewhat clumsily categorised simply as Hui so receive no special mention in any Chinese ethnographic books.
What is particularly interesting is that these people are traditionally fishing people, yet the only lingusitic map I possess shows that they live inland behind a coastal 'wedge' of Han, with the Li/Hlai to the east and west.
The local people enjoy chewing areca instead of chewing gum. I never try it , for it would dye your tongue like bloody. When I saw a man chewing a areca in his mouth , a strange idea is always in my mind. ---- Is he eating a living creature ?
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