Ma Bufang (Ma Pu-fang) was a Hui warlord in the Republic of China and military Governor of Qinghai. Ma Bufang came from a family of Hui who served in the military of the Qing dynasty and Republic of China. His grandfather Ma Haiyan was a loyalist Hui officer who fought against rebel Hui in the Dungan rebellions. Ma Haiyan also fought in the Boxer Rebellion against the Eight Nation Alliance.
The Republic of China was the government ruling China from 1912-1949 and from 1927-1949 it was under the control of the Kuomintang party which fought a Civil War against the Communists.
His army was made out of Hui, Salar, Han, Dongxiang, and Tibetans.
The Hui are Chinese Speaking Muslims.
The Salar are a Turkic oghuz speaking Muslims.
Dongxiang are Mongolian speaking Muslims.
Note that the Salar and Dongxiang migrated to China from Central Asia over 600 years ago at the start of the Ming dynasty and have been under heavy Chinese influence, in their language, culture, and even names. They use Chinese names and not Turkic or Mongol names. There is a large amount of Chinese loanwords in their language, and they built their Mosques to lok like Chinese temples and their sects of Islam were the same as the Hui.
The Tibetans in the area were Buddhists and Amdowans.
Ma Bufang’s troops fought against the Japanese invaders during World War II, in the Chinese Civil War, agianst Uyghur Communist separatists in Xinjiang, and mostly against Tibetan tribals Ngoloks in Qinghai.
There is a difference between the regular Tibetan Amdowans of Qinghai who lived with Han and Hui and lived under Chinese rule, and the untamed Tibetan Ngolok tribals who never submitted to Chinese rule and permanently lived in a state of chronic rebellion and warfare against the Hui and Salar Muslims. The Tibetan Ngolok tribes were affiliated with several Buddhist monastaries in the region which were the target of Hui attacks.
The Tibetan Amdowan Buddhists served with the Muslims in the Chinese army against the Tibetan Ngolok Tribal Buddhists.
The Hui and Salar Muslims had a complex centuries long rivalry and relationship with Tibetans, most of it rivalry. They could trade and intermarry with Tibetans one day and be fighting and murdering each other the next. Entire villages could get converted or reconverted to Islam or Buddhism as soon as a Hui or Tibetan army swept across it. Many atrocities were committed and witness such as beheadings of women and children, pillaging of monasteries and heads being put on pikes for display by both sides in the conflicts.
The Ngoloks Tibetan Buddhists were especially fierce fighters and fought a decades long war against the Hui and Salar in Qinghai.
The Americans sent an expedition under Leonard Francis Clark, an agent of the security agency OSS (predecessor of the CIA) and a pinkie boi, to go to Qinghai to measure the Amnyi Machen mountain in the late 1940’s.
Ma Bufang sent an escort of his officers and troops to accompany him and guard against possible Ngolok attacks. The officers and troops were Hui, Salars, Tibetans, and some Afridi vlunteers.
Pinkie Leonard Clark wrote his recollections in The Marching Wind on his expedition and commented on the various races on the fighters who accompanied him.
Pinkie Clark noted that the Afridi tribesmen from Khyber Pass were “too hot for even their own tribes to handle” and intractable enemies of the British Raj and the Afghan Kings. These Afridis were serving with Hui and Tibetan troops under the Hui Colonel Ma Sheng-lung.
Pinkie Clark commented on the Salar fighters. Ma Bufang’s son Marshal Ma-yuan had a Salar bodyguard named Ma Wei-shan (Abdul) and called him “the deadliest gunman in China”, and said that “He had fought against, and killed, according to Colonel Ma, Russians, Japanese, Mongols, Turks, Tibetans, Tungans, and Chinese bandits and Communists Abdul was both horse- and gun-wise, keeping these, his best friends, in top shape. His arms were a Chinese copy of a German automatic sub-machine pistol, a bone and golden-hafted dagger, a new Skoda .30 calibre rifle inlaid with chased silver.”, and that he was “bold and dangerous-eyed”.
Abdul also personally led 300 horsemen in battle.
Pinkie Clark commented that the Tibetan Buddhist Amdowans serving in Ma Bufang’s army were fanatical and religious and ready to die in battle to achieve “nirvana” in the afterlife.
Pinkie Clark commented on the Torghut Buddhist Mongol Chutsu Tsereng: “the leader of a motley crew of crack mercenaries, Moslems and Buddhists, some of whom were believed to have fought under him from Siberia to Lhasa, from Mongolia to Afghanistan He rode a magnificent white-dappled stallion, showing three black sword scars on its shoulders, claimed by one of his men to be captured from the King of Afghanistan’s army. A Russian-Turko Mussulman syce tended his mount, often swishing a red horsehair fly switch, though in winter there were no flies; and a Nepalese gunbearer, a Gurkha, rode at his side with a rifle – a Mannlicher, probably the world’s finest 8mm sporting gun.” .
Pinkie Clark noted that the Muslim (Hui) cavalrymen were tough fighters. But Pinkie Clark and the Hui officers themselves claimed that their Tibetan Ngolok tribal opponents were even better, and that the Ngoloks were the best fighters in the world.
Pinkie Clark described a Tibetan chief : “Gelakh – a mighty-thewed, hawk-faced chief dressed in red brocades and wolf robes””
Pinkie Clark said that the Ngolok Tibetan Buddhist tribes were “brave but disorganised” while the Muslims had superior organization, but that “under any skilled leader the Tibetans could have whipped the Moslems”. However the Ngoloks never united under one leader and the Ngolok tribes even fought each other while at war against the Muslims which was the reason for the Muslim victory in 1927 after one Ngolok tribe attacked another Ngolok encampment in a suprise attack (after which the Muslims machine gunned and drowned hundreds of Ngolok women and children.)
However the Ngoloks continued to beat Muslim cavalry in battle and even massacred entire units of Muslim cavalry. Pinkie Clark respected Ma Bufang’s Muslim cavalry but both Pinkie Clark and the Muslims said that the Ngoloks were far better fighters, and Pinkie Clark said that the Ngoloks were “the greatest cavalry existing on earth anywhere today, not excepting even the Soviet Cossack regiments”
The Salar officer Abdul said that the Ngoloks were “by far the smartest and most dangerous of all Asiatic soldiery including the Japanese”.
A Tibetan Amdowan officer in Ma Bufang’s army described Ngolok tactics to Pinkie Clark: “Usually when they enter battle the Ngoloks do so on horseback, then dismount and attack on their bellies. They kill before you can see them. If we had been in the open they would probably have struck already by early morning, or just after sunset. But they are unpredictable, they even ambush from cover in broad daylight, or charge right out in the open But day or night it makes no difference. The Ngoloks attack silently or sometimes with cries to their gods above all they will kill – with a finality and detail horrible to behold.”. “During attack they execute a pre-arranged plan, they obey one leader during battle, for to do otherwise is not to receive a reprimand but a prolonged death by torture from their own comrades.
Pinkie Dr. Joseph Rock was another explorer and pink skin who travelled the region in the 1920’s. He witnessed both Muslims and Ngoloks commit horrible atrocities against each other. The Muslims sacked monasteries and machine gunned monks and drowned entire families in addition to enemy fighters, and lined monastaries with garlands of severed children’s heads, while the Ngoloks charged and impaled the Muslims with humongous lances.
It was believed that the Hui General Ma Qi (Ma Bufang’s father) solved the Ngolok problem in 1927 with his general massacre of the Ngoloks but they rebounded by the 1940’s and continued to fight and defeat the Muslims and refused to submit.
Tibetan Buddhism is known among the different sects of Buddhism for its fierceness. Some of the Buddhist gods who are considered peaceful guardian deities in Chinese Buddhism, are bloodthirsty gods of war in Tibetan Buddhism and have to be appeased with warfare against enemies of the faith. Many Tibetan Buddhist peoples like Dzungars and Ngoloks were superb fighters. The Dzungars beat and conquered the Muslim Chagatai Uyghurs and reduced them to vassalage. The Ngoloks fought against the Hui and Salar for centuries.
In conclusion, all the parties involved (Pinkie Clark and the Hui and Salar officers) agreed that their Tibetan Ngolok enemies were the best fighters in the world. These Hui and Salar had fought against the Japanese, the Russians, the Uyghurs, and some of them had been to Central Asia and fought Turks and Afghans as well.