The 1935 Ningbo County Census Report and the Gelolus

by Ted Marr, 25th Gen

In the 1970s, after I read the abridged Ma Family genealogy from grandfather Tian Pei, I discovered a huge set of Census Report of the Ningbo County at the University of Iowa Library. Flipping through the thousands of pages, I discovered the names of our progenitor and other ancestors. My excitement prompted me to make photocopies of many of those pages.

Ningbo County Census Report, 1935

Data in the Report goes back to the Tang Dynasty in the 6th Century.

Piecing the charts together on our family over various dynasties, I discovered that the public census document indicated that we might be from the Gelolu tribe of Uyghurs originally from the Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan region. 

Also, We had an ancestral temple in the Bright Creek village. It suffered extensive damage in a fire caused by the riots linked to the Boxer rebellion. During our Pegasus Tour, I recovered a brick of our Ancestral Temple Brick circa 1350.

The Ningbo Census Report of 1935 is part of a much larger project that Started in 1933 and was completed in 1951. It is known as “The Gate of All the Chronicles of the Republic of China.” It was an ambitious project. The entire project covers the whole of China. The section for Ningbo was compiled by Zhang Chuanbao, Zhao Jiaxiu, Chen Xunzheng, and Ma Xuan. There are 36 volumes, with 51 Sections, and are divided into six areas: public place, politics, religion, museum, literature, food, engineering. The total volume is about 5.5 million words and nearly ten thousand pages. The narrative’s scope covers the entire area of Ningbo County, including these areas: Ningbo Haishu, Jiangdong, Yinzhou, and Jiangbei urban districts, etc. Attachments include 26 maps.  The Census report has vast coverage, new information, and the latest geographic names. This is a link to the entire document.

When this was published, the same report was published for many other parts of China. Taiwan reprinted this series and distributed them to many top universities in the US (possibly other parts of the world). I discovered this set at the University of Iowa’s Asia Collections when I was doing my Ph.D. studies there. You can check out other Universities’ Asia Collections and see if you could locate this and other series. 

In this report, it has a section on the Ma Family in the Ningbo area. And, clearly, these records detailed information about our lineage as it attributed to Xiao Kuan as the progenitor. Because the information appears on several pages and the printing is from right to left, I had to piece them together to read in an English document. The following are the sections relevant to our family history. 

Origin of Ma Family According to the Official 1935 Ningbo County Census

Here is an English Translation of that chart. I have highlighted Xiao Kuan, our progenitor, and other relevant information in red.

Therefore, based on these references, it is clearly stated that we originally could be from the Gelolus and resided in Nanyang. Who are the Gelolus 葛逻禄? Wikipedia has two entries.

The Gelolus were also known as the Karluks 葛逻禄 and are closely related to the Uyghurs 回鶻.

Originally, at the time of the Gelolu’s submission to the Chinese in 650 CE, they resided in the Altai region. Historical evidence suggests that the Gelolu’s political structures were absorbed into the Tang Dynasty around 648 to 720. There was a Tang military outpost in their area. In 822, the Uyghurs sent four Karluks as a tribute to Tang dynasty China. The Karluks had adopted and developed the Turkic literary language of Khoresm, established in Bukhara and Samarkand, which is at today’s Suyab archeological site 50 km from today’s Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. It was set up by the Sogdian merchants along the Silk Road in the 5th or 6th centuries. Part of the Uyghurs actually migrated to Turkey, and they are still there as a distinct group.

According to Chinese historical records, the Chinese called Gelolu homeland Kang Ju 康居, which means Peaceful Home and is directly west of the Chinese Capital, Bianjing 汴京 (also known as Kaifeng). They became Muslims after the Mongol conquest and may have adopted the Chagatai language. According to Chinese historical records, they most likely were given their own area to stay in Xian (Originally named ChangAn, Capital of Tang Dynasty) in 649 CE. Even today, there is an extensive Muslim community in Xian. And most of their restaurant owners are MAs. In fact, there is a saying, in North-West China, “Out of 10 MAs, nine are Muslims”.

In a Chinese document I found on the Internet, a Japanese scholar, Uchicda Ginkaze wrote an extensive piece on the Gelolu. I have consulted that document and included its findings in this document. When I have time later, I will translate that piece into English. It is attached as an downloadable pdf.


This 1935 Ningbo Census report is a public record. A part of an extensive government project. The Report referenced names of the historical sources, the number of households, the population’s size, and the number of able body men as far back as Tang Dynasty in 713 CE. In fact, there are no less than 24 references stretch from 713 CE to 1933 CE. Chinese chronicles are quite complete and extensive. In fact, one could still read from these Tang Dynasty and other Dynasty chronicles today. Given enough time, we might be able to locate more about our ancestors in public historical chronicles. Because it is an official document, I believe the contents of such a report are weighty and need to be taken seriously.

It is interesting that the name “FuFeng MA” was never mentioned here in the Census Report. In my opinion, such an omission is a huge deal. Remember, the title of the 1275 Edition Preface of Ma Family Genealogy includes these words “ FuFeng MA….” So, clearly, that piece of information is available to the Census editors. But, why was FuFeng never mentioned in the Census report?

Although here it mentions both Bian (Kaifeng) and Nanyang as our originating point, it is possible that it is not a contradiction at all. Now, Nanyang could be considered a part of the greater Kaifeng area. It is like saying I am from San Francisco when you really mean San Jose because San Jose is a smaller and less known place. Or, to say I am from New York when more accurately you mean the Bronx.

All three branches of MA mentioned in the Census Report in the three districts around Ningbo are certainly related to and originated from Xiao Kuan. This is stated categorically. Therefore, any information regarding their ancestor is common to all of these branches could be applied to any branch.

The name “FuFeng MA family” is not mentioned once in all the official census recordings about the MAs. Why?

Whereas in the Ma Family Genealogy 1847 Edition Preface, the editors tried really hard and sometimes a bit awkward in their reasoning to insist that the Bright Creek MA family originated from FuFeng MAs, hence the pure line of Han people. Why bother to argue so vehemently if it is the truth. Maybe there is another theory out there.

Given these sets of information, I am persuaded to take the “Gelolu Root” concept seriously. I would say, no less serious than the “FuFeng MA” concept.

Your thoughts?