The Tuva in China are a diaspora group who migrated to their present location in the early 1800s. Although the Tuva were "discovered" as a distinct people by the Chinese authorities in 1986, they are still officially classified as part of the Mongolian nationality.
The Tuva in China separated from the main Tuva population in the early 1800s, when a group migrated to the Altai region of Xinjiang. Today their language is different from Tuva in Russia and Mongolia, and they have become their own distinct people group. In the late 1800s the Tuva in China started to call themselves Mongolians "to avoid oppression by the then ruling Qing Dynasty, and to enjoy the favored status of the Mongolians, who were allies of the Manchurian court." Tuva was declared an independent state by the Tzarist government in Russia in 1912; at the same time Mongolia gained independence from China. Freedom was short-lived however. Tuva became a Russian protectorate in 1914.
The Tuva do not live in yurts as do the Mongolians, "but in square houses built of logs with a roof plastered with thick mud." Chinese scholars note that the Tuva "speak Mongolian with outsiders and have adopted many of the manners and customs of the surrounding Mongolian tribes, but they speak their own Turkic language among themselves."
The Tuva in all three of the countries they inhabit adhere to Tibetan Buddhism. They were converted by Tibetan missionaries in the 1700s, although shamans and mediums are still active among the Tuva communities in China. Most Tuva youth in China now consider themselves atheists.
Very few Tuva in China have ever heard the name of Christ. The situation among the Tuva in Russia is better, with a reported " registered evangelical churches." One Tuva believer in Russia was recently martyred. His death was reported on television, causing a growth of interest in the gospel among many people. One Christian handed a Mongolian New Testament to a Tuva girl in China. "She started reading and wouldn't let up, walking away towards the hills with her treasure."