Hui people

Hui people

Hui خُوِذُو
回族 (Huízú)
Hui People
Total population
Regions with significant populations


Elsewhere: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Myanmar
Mandarin Chinese (includ. Dungan) and
other Varieties of Chinese
Mainly Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Dungan, Panthay, Dongxiangs, Han Chinese,
other Sino-Tibetan peoples
Hui people
Chinese 回族

The Hui people (Chinese: 回族; pinyin: Huízú, Xiao'erjing: خُوِذُو/حواري, Dungan: Хуэйзў/Huejzw) are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in China. Hui people are found throughout the country, though they are concentrated mainly in the Northwestern provinces and the Central Plain. According to a 2011 census, China is home to approximately 10.5 million Hui people, the majority of whom are Chinese-speaking practitioners of Islam, though some practice other religions. Hui people are ethnically and linguistically similar to Han Chinese[2] with the exception that they practice Islam,[3] engendering distinctive cultural characteristics. For example, as Muslims, they follow Islamic dietary laws and reject the consumption of pork, the most common meat consumed in China,[4] and have given rise to their variation of Chinese cuisine; Chinese Islamic cuisine, as well as Muslim Chinese martial arts. Their mode of dress differs primarily in that old men wear white caps and old women wear headscarves, as is the case in many Islamic cultures, however most of the young people of Hui ancestry are practically indistinguishable from mainstream Han Chinese.

The Hui people are one of 56 ethnic groups recognized by China. The government defines the Hui people to include all historically Muslim communities not included in China's other ethnic groups.[5] The Hui predominantly speak Chinese.[3] In fact, the Hui ethnic group is unique among Chinese ethnic minorities in that it associates with no non-Sinitic language.[6]

The Hui people are more concentrated in Northwestern China (Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang), but communities exist across the country, e.g. Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Hainan and Yunnan.


  • Definition 1
    • Ancestry 1.1
    • "Huihui", "Hui zi" and "Hui" 1.2
    • Related terms 1.3
      • "Zhongyuan ren" 1.3.1
      • "Pusuman" 1.3.2
      • "Mohammedan" 1.3.3
      • "Muslim Chinese" 1.3.4
    • In other countries 1.4
      • "Dungan" 1.4.1
      • Panthay 1.4.2
    • Official 1.5
    • Non-Muslims 1.6
  • History 2
    • Origins 2.1
      • Converted Han 2.1.1
    • Tang dynasty 2.2
    • Song dynasty 2.3
    • Yuan Dynasty 2.4
    • Ming Dynasty 2.5
    • Qing Dynasty 2.6
      • Muslim revolts 2.6.1
      • Religious allowances 2.6.2
    • Republic of China 2.7
    • Current situation 2.8
      • Tibetan-Muslim sectarian violence 2.8.1
  • Demographics 3
  • Relations with other religions 4
  • Culture 5
    • Foot binding 5.1
    • Cultural practices 5.2
    • Names 5.3
      • Surnames 5.3.1
    • Literature 5.4
    • Language 5.5
    • Marriage 5.6
      • Outside marriage 5.6.1
    • Education 5.7
    • Military service 5.8
    • Politics 5.9
  • Outside China 6
  • Ethnic tensions 7
  • Notable Hui people 8
  • Related group names 9
  • See also 10
  • Further reading 11
  • Footnotes 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14



After the establishment of the People's Republic, the term "Hui" applied to one of China's ten historically Islamic minorities.[7]

Earlier the term referred to Chinese-speaking groups with (foreign) Muslim ancestry. Practising Islam was not a criterion. Use of the Hui category to describe foreign Muslims moving into China dates back to the Song dynasty (960–1279).

Pan-Turkic Uyghur activist, Masud Sabri, viewed the Hui people as Muslim Han Chinese and separate from his own people, noting that with the exception of religion, their customs and language were identical to the Han.[8]

Hui people are of varied ancestry, many directly descending from Silk Road travelers. Their ancestors include Central Asians, Arabs and Persians who married Hans. West Eurasian DNA is prevalent—6.7% of Hui people's maternal genetics have a West Eurasian origin.[9] Several medieval dynasties, particularly the Tang, Song and Mongol Yuan Dynasties encouraged immigration from predominantly Muslim Persia and Central Asia, with both dynasties welcoming traders from these regions and appointing Central Asian officials. In subsequent centuries, they gradually mixed with Mongols and Hans, eventually forming the Hui.

Nonetheless, included among Huis in Chinese census statistics (and not officially recognized as separate ethnic groups) are members of a few small non-Chinese speaking communities. Among them are several thousand Utsuls in southern Hainan province, who speak an Austronesian language (Tsat) related to that of the Vietnamese Cham Muslim minority, who are said to be descended from Chams who migrated to Hainan.[10] A small Muslim minority among Yunnan's Bai people are classified as Hui as well (even if they are Bai speakers),[11] as are some groups of Tibetan Muslims.[10]

"Huihui", "Hui zi" and "Hui"

Huihui (回回) was the usual generic term for China's Muslims during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Is thought to have its origin in the earlier Huihe (回纥) or Huihu (回鶻), which was the name for the Uyghur State of the 8th and 9th centuries.[12] Although the ancient Uyghurs were neither Muslims nor directly related to today's Uyghur people,[12] the name Huihui came to refer to foreigners, regardless of language or origin, by the time of the Yuan (1271–1368).[13] and Ming Dynasties (1368–1644).[12] During the Yuan Dynasty, large numbers of Muslims came from the west, and since the Uyghur land was in the west, this led the Chinese to call foreigners of all religions, including Muslims, Nestorian Christians and Jews, as "HuiHui".

Genghis Khan called both foreign Jews and Muslims in China "Hui Hui" when he forced them to stop halal and kosher methods of preparing food:[14]

Among all the [subject] alien peoples only the Hui-hui say “we do not eat Mongol food”. [Cinggis Qa’an replied:] “By the aid of heaven we have pacified you; you are our slaves. Yet you do not eat our food or drink. How can this be right?” He thereupon made them eat. “If you slaughter sheep, you will be considered guilty of a crime.” He issued a regulation to that effect ... [In 1279/1280 under Qubilai] all the Muslims say: “if someone else slaughters [the animal] we do not eat”. Because the poor people are upset by this, from now on, Musuluman [Muslim] Huihui and Zhuhu [Jewish] Huihui, no matter who kills [the animal] will eat [it] and must cease slaughtering sheep themselves, and cease the rite of circumcision.

The Chinese called Muslims, Jews and Christians in ancient times by the same name, "Hui Hui". Christians were called "Hui who abstain from animals without the cloven foot", Muslims were called "Hui who abstain from pork", Jews were called "Hui who extract the sinews". Hui zi or Hui Hui is presently used almost exclusively for Muslims, but Jews were still called Lan mao Hui zi which means "Blue cap Hui zi".

Jews and Muslims in China shared the same name for synagogue and mosque, which were both called Qingzhen si "Temple of Purity and Truth" from the thirteenth century. Synagogues and mosques were also known as Libai Si (temple of worship). The Kaifeng Jews were nicknamed "Teaou kin jiao" (挑筋教, extract sinew religion). A tablet indicated that Judaism was once known as "Yih-tsze-lo-nee-keaou" (一赐乐业教, Israelitish religion) and synagogues known as Yih-tsze lo née leen (Israelitish Temple), but this fell from use.[15]

The widespread and rather generic application of the name "Huihui" in Ming China was attested by foreign visitors as well. Matteo Ricci, the first Jesuit to reach Beijing (1598), noted that "Saracens are everywhere in evidence . . . their thousands of families are scattered about in nearly every province"[16] Ricci noted that the term Huihui or Hui was applied by Chinese not only to "Saracens" (Muslims) but also to Chinese Jews and supposedly even to Christians.[17] In fact, when the reclusive Wanli Emperor first saw a picture of Ricci and Diego de Pantoja, he supposedly exclaimed, "Hoei, hoei. It is quite evident that they are Saracens", and had to be told by a eunuch that they actually weren't, "because they ate pork".[18] The 1916 Encyclopædia of religion and ethics, Volume 8 said that Chinese Muslims always called themselves Huihui or Huizi, and that neither themselves nor other people called themselves Han, and they disliked people calling them Dungan.[19] A French army Commandant Viscount D'Ollone wrote a report on what he saw among Hui in 1910. He reported that due to religion, Hui were classed as a different nationality from Han as if they were one of the other minority groups.[20]

Huizu is now the standard term for the "Hui nationality" (ethnic group), and Huimin, for "Hui people" or "a Hui person". The traditional expression Huihui, its use now largely restricted to rural areas, would sound quaint, if not outright demeaning, to modern urban Chinese Muslims.[21]

Halal (清真) restaurants offering Northwestern beef lamian can be found throughout the country

Related terms

Islam was originally called Dashi Jiao during the Tang Dynasty, when Muslims first appeared in China. "Dashi Fa" literally means "Arab law", in old Chinese (modern calls Alabo).[22] Since almost all Muslims in China were exclusively foreign Arabs or Persians at the time, it was barely mentioned by the Chinese, unlike other religions like Zoroastrism, Mazdaism, and Nestorian Christianity which gained followings in China.[23] As an influx of foreigners, such as Arabs, Persians, Jews and Christians, most but not all of them were Muslims who came from western regions, they were labelled as Semu people, but were also mistaken by Chinese as Uyghur, due to them coming from the west (uyghur lands).[24] so the name "Hui Hui" was applied to them, and eventually became the name applied to Muslims.

Another, probably unrelated, early use of the word Huihui comes from the History of Liao Dynasty, which mentions Yelü Dashi, the 12th-century founder of the Kara-Khitan Khanate, defeating the Huihui Dashibu (回回大食部) people near Samarkand – apparently, referring to his defeat of the Khwarazm ruler Ahmed Sanjar in 1141.[25] Khwarazm is referred to as Huihuiguo in the Secret History of the Mongols as well.[26]

While Huihui or Hui remained a generic name for all Muslims in Imperial China, specific terms were sometimes used to refer to particular groups, e.g. Chantou Hui ("turbaned Hui") for Uyghurs, Dongxiang Hui and Sala Hui for Dongxiang and Salar people, and sometimes even Han Hui (漢回) ("Chinese Hui") for the (presumably Chinese-speaking) Muslims more assimilated into the Chinese mainstream society.[27][28]

Some scholars also say that some Hui used to call themselves 回漢子 (Hui Hanzi) "Muslim Han" but the Communist regime separated them from other Chinese and placed them into a separate minzu, "Huizu".[29]

A halal (清真) shower house in Linxia City

In the 1930s the Communist Party defined the term Hui to indicate only Sinophone Muslims. In 1941, this was clarified by a Party committee comprising ethnic policy researchers in a treatise entitled "On the question of Huihui Ethnicity" (Huihui minzu wenti). This treatise defined the characteristics of the Hui nationality as an ethnic group associated with, but not defined by, Islam and descended primarily from Muslims who migrated to China during the Mongol-founded Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), as distinct from the Uyghur and other Turkic-speaking ethnic groups in Xinjiang. The Nationalist government by contrast recognised all Muslims as one of "the five peoples"—alongside the Manchus, Mongols, Tibetans and Han Chinese—that constituted the Republic of China.[30]

A traditional Chinese term for Islam is 回教 (pinyin: Huíjiào, literally "the religion of the Hui"). However, since the early days of the PRC, thanks to the arguments of such Marxist Hui scholars as Bai Shouyi, the standard term for "Islam" within the PRC has become the transliteration 伊斯蘭教 (pinyin: Yīsīlán jiào, literally "Islam religion").[31][32] The more traditional term Huijiao remains in use in Singapore, Taiwan and other overseas Chinese communities.[33]

Qīngzhēn (清真, literally "pure and true") has also been a popular term for Muslim culture since the Yuan or Ming Dynasty. Gladney suggested that a good translation for it would be Arabic tahára. i.e. "ritual or moral purity"[34] The usual term for a mosque is qīngzhēn sì (清真寺), i.e. "true and pure temple", and qīngzhēn is commonly used to refer to halal eating establishments and bathhouses.

In contrast, the Uyghurs were called "Chan Tou Hui" ("Turban Headed Muslim"), and the Turkic Salars called "Sala Hui" (Salar Muslim), while Turkic speakers often referred to Hui as "Dungan".[28][35]

"Zhongyuan ren"

During the Qing Dynasty, the term Zhongyuan ren (中原人, people from the Central Plain) was the term for all Chinese, encompassing Han Chinese and Hui in Xinjiang or Central Asia. While Hui are not Han, they consider themselves to be Chinese and include themselves in the larger group of Zhongyuan ren.[36] The Dungan people, descendants of Hui who fled to Central Asia, called themselves Zhongyuan ren in addition to the standard labels lao huihui and huizi.[37]

For some Uyghurs, there is barely any difference between Hui and Han. A Uyghur social scientist, Dilshat, regarded Hui as the same people as Han, deliberately calling Hui people Han and dismissing the Hui as having only a few hundred years of history.[38]

Some prominent Hui, such as Imam Ma Chao-yen, refer to themselves and other Hui people as simply Chinese in English, and practice Confucian culture.[39]


Pusuman was a name used by Chinese during the Yuan Dynasty. It could have been a corruption of Musalman (the Persian word for Muslim), or another name for Persians. It either means Muslim or Persian.[40][41] Pusuman Kuo (Pusuman Guo) referred to the country where they came from.[42][43] The name "Pusuman zi" (pusuman script), was used to refer to the script that the HuiHui (Muslims) were using.[44]


In English, the term "Mohammedan" was originally used to refer to all Muslims during the 19th century.[45] During the first half of the 20th century, writers such as Edgar Snow and Lattimore who visited the Hui homeland also used the term "Mohammedans" in their accounts. The term gradually fell into disuse, and today the term "Hui" is used in English.

"Muslim Chinese"

A fence in Niujie depicting the ethnicities in China, including the Hui (回族)

The term Chinese Muslim is sometimes used to refer to Hui people, given that they speak Chinese, in contrast to, e.g., Turkic speaking Salars. During the Qing Dynasty, Chinese Muslim (Han Hui) was sometimes used to refer to Hui people, which differentiated them from non-Chinese speaking Muslims. However, not all Hui are Muslims, nor are all Chinese Muslims Hui. For example, Li Yong is a famous Han Chinese who practices Islam and Hui Liangyu is a notable atheist Hui. In addition, most Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kirghiz and Dongxiang in China are Muslims, but are not Hui.

John Stuart Thomson, who traveled in China called them "Mohammedan Chinese".[46] They have also been called "Chinese Mussulmans", when Europeans wanted to distinguish them from Han Chinese.[47]

In other countries


Dungan (simplified Chinese: 东干族; traditional Chinese: 東干族; pinyin: Dōnggānzú; Russian: Дунгане) is a term used in Central Asia and in Xinjiang to refer to Chinese-speaking Muslim people. In the censuses of Russia and Central Asian nations, the Hui are distinguished from Chinese, termed Dungans. However, in both China and Central Asia members of this ethnic group call themselves Lao Huihui or Zhongyuanren, rather than Dungan. Zhongyuan 中原, literally means "The Central Plain," and is the historical name of Shaanxi and Henan provinces. Most Dungans living in Central Asia are descendants of Hui people from Gansu and Shaanxi.

Hui people are referred to by Central Asian Turkic speakers and Tajiks by the ethnonym Dungan. Joseph Fletcher cited Turkic and Persian manuscripts related to the preaching of the 17th century Kashgarian Sufi master Muhammad Yūsuf (or, possibly, his son Afaq Khoja) inside the Ming Empire (in today's Gansu and/or Qinghai), where the preacher allegedly converted ulamā-yi Tunganiyyāh (i.e., "Dungan ulema") into Sufism.[48]

In English and German was noted as early as the 1830s, Dungan, in various spellings, as referring to the Hui people of Xinjiang. For example, Prinsep in 1835 mentioned Muslim "Túngánis" in "Chinese Tartary".[49] The word (mostly in the form "Dungani" or "Tungani", sometimes "Dungens" or "Dungans") acquired currency in English and other western languages when books in the 1860-70s discussed the Dungan Revolt.

Later authors continued to use variants of the term for Xinjiang Hui people. For example, Owen Lattimore, writing ca. 1940, maintained the terminological distinction between these two related groups: the "Tungkan" (the older Wade-Giles spelling for "Dungan"), described by him as the descendants of the Gansu Hui people resettled in Xinjiang in 17-18th centuries, vs. e.g. the "Gansu Moslems" or generic "Chinese Moslems".[50]

The name "Dungan" sometimes referred to all Muslims coming from China proper, such as Dongxiang and Salar in addition to Hui. Reportedly, the Hui disliked the term Dungan, calling themselves either HuiHui or Huizi.[19]

In the Soviet Union and its successor countries, the term "Dungans" (дунгане) became the standard name for the descendants of Chinese-speaking Muslims who emigrated to the Russian Empire (mostly to today's Kyrgyzstan and south-eastern Kazakhstan) in the 1870s and 1880s.[51]


Panthays are a group of Chinese Muslims in Burma. In Thailand, Chinese Muslims are referred to as Chin Ho and in Burma and Yunnan Province, as Panthay. Zhongyuan ren was used by Turkic Muslims to refer to ethnic Chinese. When Central Asian invaders from Kokand invaded Kashgar, in a letter the Kokandi commander criticised the Kashgari Turkic Muslim Ishaq for allegedly not behaving like a Muslim and wanting to be a Zhongyuan ren (Chinese).[52][53]


A halal meat store sign in Hankou, ca. 1934–1935.

The official definition by the Chinese government is as a nationality without regard to religion.[54] It identifies Hui by their ancestry only, and includes those who do not practice Islam.[55] In 1913, a westerner noted that many people in Fujian province had Arab ancestry, but were no longer Muslim.[56]


Throughout history the identity of Hui people has been fluid, changing as was convenient.[57] Some identified as Hui out of interest in their ancestry or because of government benefits. These Hui are concentrated on the southeast coast of China, especially Fujian province.[58]

Some Hui clans around Quanzhou in Fujian, such as the Ding and Guo families, identify themselves by nationality but do not practice Islam. In recent years more of these clans identifyied as Hui, increasing the official population.[59][60][61] They provided evidence of their ancestry and were recognized as Hui.[61] Many clans across Fujian had genealogies that demonstrated Muslim ancestry.[62] These clans inhabited Fujian, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.[63]

On Taiwan, some Hui who came with Koxinga no longer observe Islam. The Taiwan branch of the Guo (Kuo in Taiwan) family does not practice Islam, yet does not offer pork at ancestral shrines. The Chinese Muslim Association counts these people as Muslims.[64] Also on Taiwan, one branch of this Ding (Ting) family descended from Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar and resides in Taisi Township in Yunlin County. They trace their descent through him via the Quanzhou Ding family of Fujian. While pretending to be Han Chinese in Fujian, they initially practiced Islam when they came to Taiwan 200 years ago, but became Buddhist or Daoist.[65]

An attempt was made by the Chinese Islamic Society to convert the Fujian Hui of Fujian back to Islam in 1983, sending 4 Ningxia Imams to Fujian.[66] This futile endeavour ended in 1986, when the final Ningxia Imam left. A similar endeavour in Taiwan also failed.[67]

Before 1982, it was possible for a Han to "become" Hui by converting. Thereafter converted Han counted instead as "Muslim Han".

Hui people consider other Hui who do not observe Islamic practices to still be Hui. They consider it impossible to lose their Hui nationality.[68]



Hui people praying in Dongguan Mosque, Xining

Hui have diverse origins; many are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers. In the southeast coast (e.g., Guangdong, Fujian) and in major trade centers elsewhere in China some are of mixed local and foreign descent. The foreign element, although greatly diluted, came from Arab (Dashi) and Persian (Bosi) traders, who brought Islam to China. These foreigners settled and gradually intermarried, converting them to Islam, while assimilating Chinese culture.[69]

Early European explorers speculated that T'ung-kan (Hui, called "Chinese Mohammedan") in Xinjiang, originated from Khorezmians who were transported to China by the Mongols, and that they descended from a mixture of Chinese, Iranian and Turkic peoples. They also reported that the T'ung-kan were Shafi'ites, as were the Khorezmians.[70]

Another description applies to the Hui people of Yunnan and Northwestern China, whose origin might result from the convergence of Mongol, Turkic, Iranian or other Central Asian settlers who were recruited by the Yuan Dynasty either as officials (the semu, who formed the second-highest stratum in the Yuan ethnic hierarchy (after the Mongols but above Chinese) or artisans.[71][72] A proportion of the ancestral nomad or military ethnic groups were originally Nestorian Christians, many of whom later converted to Islam under the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

An elderly Hui man.

Southeastern Muslims have a much longer tradition of synthesizing Confucian teachings with Qur'anic teachings and were reported to have contributed to Confucianism from the Tang period. Among the Northern Hui Central Asian Sufi schools such as Kubrawiyya, Qadiriyya, Naqshbandiyya (Khufiyya and Jahriyya) were strong influences, mostly of the Hanafi Madhhab (whereas among the Southeastern communities the Shafi'i Madhhab is more common). Before the "Yihewani" movement, a Chinese Muslim sect inspired by the Middle Eastern reform movement, Northern Hui Sufis blended Taoist teachings and martial arts practices with Sufi philosophy.

Faced with the devastating An Lushan Rebellion, Tang Emperor Suzong wrote to Al-Mansur requesting armed assistance. Al-Mansur sent 7,000 cavalry. Those Muslim warriors were the originators of the Hui people.[73]

Converted Han

According to legend, a Muhuyindeni person converted an entire village of Han with the surname Zhang to Islam.[74] Another source for the Hui comes from Hui adopting Han children and raising them as Hui.[75]

Hui in Gansu with the surname Tang (唐) and Wang (汪) descended from Han Chinese who converted to Islam and married Muslim Hui or Dongxiang people, switching their ethnicity and joining the Hui and Dongxiang ethnic groups, both of which were Muslim.

Tangwangchuan and Hanjiaji were notable as towns with a multi-ethnic community, with both non-Muslims and Muslims.[76]

Kuomintang official Ma Hetian visited Tangwangchuan and met an "elderly local literatus from the Tang clan" while he was on his inspection tour of Gansu and Qinghai.[77]

In Gansu province in the 1800s, a Muslim Hui woman married into the Han Chinese Kong lineage of Dachuan, which was descended from Confucius. The Han Chinese groom and his family converted to Islam after the marriage by their Muslim relatives.[78] In 1715 in Yunnan province, a few Han Chinese descendants of Confucius surnamed Kong married Hui women and converted to Islam.[79]

Tang dynasty

Islam came to China during the Tang dynasty via Arab traders, who were primarily concerned with trading and commerce, and less concerned with spreading Islam. This low profile is indicatd by the 845 anti Buddhist edict during the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution that said nothing about Islam.[80] It seems that trade rather than evangelism occupied the attention of the early Muslim settlers; that while they practised their faith in China, they did not campaign against Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, or the State creed, and that they constituted a floating rather than a fixed element of the population, coming and going between China and the West.[81][82]

Song dynasty

During the Song Dynasty, Muslims played a major role in foreign trade.[83][84] The office of the Director General of Shipping was consistently held by a Muslim.[85] The Song Dynasty hired Muslim mercenaries from Bukhara to fight against Khitan nomads. 5,300 Muslims from Bukhara were invited to move to China in 1070 by Song emperor Shenzong to help battle the Liao empire in the northeast and repopulate ravaged areas. These men settled between the Sung capital of Kaifeng and Yenching (modern day Beijing). The provinces of the north and north-east were settled in 1080 when 10,000 more Muslims were invited into China.[86] They were led by the Amir of Bukhara, Sayyid "So-fei-er" in Chinese. He is called the "Father" of Chinese Islam. Islam was named by the Tang and Song Chinese as Dashi fa ("law of the Arabs").[87] He gave Islam the new name of Huihui Jiao ("the Religion of the Huihui").[88]

Yuan Dynasty

The Yuan Dynasty, which was ruled by Mongols, deported thousands of Central Asian Muslims, Jews and Christians into China where they formed the Semu class. Semu people like Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar, who served the Yuan dynasty in administrative positions became progenitors of many Hui. Despite the high position given to Muslims, some Yuan policies discriminated against them, forbidding halal slaughter, circumcision and kosher practives, forcing them to eat the Mongol way.[89] Later, corruption and persecution became so severe that Muslim Generals rebelled with Han against the Mongols. Ming founder Zhu Yuanzhang enlisted Muslim Generals such as Lan Yu who defeated the Mongols in combat. Some Muslim communities had the name in Chinese which meant "baracks" or "thanks". Many Hui that their role in overthrowing the Mongols was valued by the Han and gave them their name.[90] Semu Muslims revolted against the Yuan dynasty in the Ispah Rebellion, but the rebellion was crushed and the Muslims were massacred by Yuan loyalist commander Chen Youding.

Ming Dynasty

The Ming were tolerant of Islam, while their racial policy towards ethnic minorities was of integration through forced marriage. Muslims were allowed to practice Islam, but if they were not Han, were required by law to intermarry. Hui often married Han, with the Han often converting to Islam.[91][92][93]

The Ming Dynasty employed many Muslims. Some Hui people claimed that the first Ming Emperor Ming Taizu might have been a Muslim, but this is rejected by most scholars.[94] The Ming used Hui troops to crush the Miao and other aboriginal rebels during the Miao Rebellions, and settled in Changde, where their descendants remain.[95] Muslims were citizens and lived freely in Beijing, with no restrictions placed on their religious practices or freedom of worship. By contrast Tibetan Buddhists and Catholics suffered restrictions and censure in Beijing.[96]

Marriage between upper class Han Chinese and Hui Muslims was uncommon, since upper class Han men both refused to marry Muslims and forbade their daughters from marrying Muslims, since they did not want to convert and lose their upper class status. Only low status Han would convert to marry a Hui woman. Ming law allowed Han men and women to marry each other.[91][92][93]

The Hongwu Emperor decreed the building of mosques throughout Chin. A Nanjing mosque was built by the Xuande Emperor.[97]

When the Qing dynasty invaded the Ming dynasty in 1644, Muslim Ming loyalists in Gansu led by Muslim leaders Milayin[98] and Ding Guodong led a revolt in 1646 against the Qing during the Milayin rebellion in order to drive the Qing out and restore the Ming Prince of Yanchang Zhu Shichuan to the throne as the emperor.[99] The Muslim Ming loyalists were supported by Hami's Sultan Sa'id Baba and his son Prince Turumtay.[100][101][102] The Muslim Ming loyalists were joined by Tibetans and Han Chinese in the revolt.[103] After fierce fighting, and negotiations, a peace agreement was agreed on in 1649, and Milayan and Ding nominally pledged alleigance to the Qing and were given ranks as members of the Qing military.[104] When other Ming loyalists in southern China made a resurgence and the Qing were forced to withdraw their forces from Gansu to fight them, Milayan and Ding once again took up arms and rebelled against the Qing.[105] The Muslim Ming loyalists were then crushed by the Qing with 100,000 of them, including Milayin, Ding Guodong, and Turumtay killed in battle.

The Confucian Hui Muslim scholar Ma Zhu (1640-1710) served with the southern Ming loyalists against the Qing.[106] Zhu Yu'ai, the Ming Prince Gui was accompanied by Hui refugees when he fled from Huguang to the Burmese border in Yunnan and as a mark of their defiance against the Qing and loyalty to the Ming, they changed their surname to Ming.[107]

In Guangzhou, the national monuments known as "The Muslim's Loyal Trio" are the tombs of Ming loyalist Muslims who were martyred while fighting in battle against the Qing in the Manchu conquest of China in Guangzhou.[108] The Ming Muslim loyalists were called "jiaomen sanzhong "Three defenders of the faith".[107]

Qing Dynasty

The Qing Dynasty grouped minorities by language and forced Hui to wear the queue, while most Turkic-speaking Chinese did not, except for their leaders.[109]

The Qing authorities considered both Han and Hui to be Chinese, and in Xinjiang both Hui and Han were classified as merchants, regardless of profession.[110] Laws were passed segregating the different races, in theory keeping Turkic Muslims apart from Hui and Han, however, the law was not followed.[110] Hui and Han households were built closer together in the same area while Turkic Muslims would live farther away from town.[111]

Muslim revolts

During the Afaqi Khoja revolts Turkic Muslim raiders from Kokand abducted Hui Muslims and sold them as slaves in Central Asia.

During the mid-nineteenth century, civil wars erupted throughout China, led by various groups against the Qing dynasty. These include the Taiping Rebellion in Southern China (whose leaders were Evangelical Christians of ethnic Han Chinese Hakka and Zhuang background), the Muslim Rebellion in Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia in Northwestern China and Yunnan, and the Miao people Revolt in Hunan and Guizhou. These revolts were eventually put down by the Manchu government. The Dungan people were descendants of the Muslim rebels and fled to the Russian Empire after the rebellion was suppressed by the joint forces of Hunan Army led by Zuo Zongtang (左宗棠) with support from local Hui elites.

The "Encyclopædia of religion and ethics, Volume 8" stated that the Dungan and Panthay revolts by the Muslims was set off by racial antagonism and class warfare, rather than religion.[112] The Russian government spent thousands of rubles on an unsuccessful expedition trying to determine the cause of the revolt.[113]

The Panthay Rebellion started when a Muslim from a Han family that had converted to Islam, Du Wenxiu, led some Hui to attempt to drive the Manchu out of China and establish a unified Han and Hui state. Du established himself as a Sultan in Yunnan during this revolt. A British military observer testified that the Muslims did not rebel for religious reasons and that the Chinese were tolerant of different religions and were unlikely to have caused the revolt by interfering with Islam.[114] Loyalist Muslim forces helped Qing crush the rebel Muslims.[115] During the Panthay Rebellion, the Qing dynasty did not massacre Muslims who surrendered. Muslim General Ma Rulong, who surrendered and join the Qing campaign to crush the rebel Muslims, was promoted and became the most powerful military official in the province.[28][116]

The Dungan Revolt (1862–77) erupted over a pricing dispute over bamboo poles that a Han merchant was selling to a Hui. After the revolt broke out, Turkic Andijanis from the Kokand Khanate under Yaqub Beg invaded Xinjiang and fought both Hui rebels and Qing forces. Beg's Turkic Kokandi Andijani Uzbek forces declared jihad against Dungans under T'o Ming (Tuo Ming a.k.a. Daud Khalifa) during the revolt. Beg enlisted non-Muslim Han Chinese militia under Hsu Hsuehkung in the Battle of Ürümqi (1870). T'o Ming's forces were defeated by Yaqub, who planned to conquer Dzungharia. Yaqub intended to seize all Dungan territory.[117][118][119] Poems were written about Beg's victories.[120] Hui rebels battled Turkic Muslims in addition to fighting the Qing. Beg seized Aksu from Hui forces and forced them north of the Tien Shan mountains, massacring the Dungans (Hui). Reportedly in 1862 the number of Hui in China proper numbered 30,000,000.[121] During the revolt, loyalist Hui helped the Qing crush the rebels and reconquer Xinjiang from Beg. Despite a substantial population loss, the military power of Hui increased, because some Hui who had defected to the Qing side were granted high positions in the Imperial Army. One of them, Ma Anliang, became a military warlord in northwest China, and other Generals associated with him grew into the Ma Clique of the Republican era.[122]

Beijing's Hui population was unaffected by the Dungan revolt.[123] Samuel Wells Williams wrote that "they must obey the laws of the land and honor the Emperor as good subjects. They have done so, and, generally speaking, have never been molested on account of their beliefs. Their chief strength lies in the northern part. The recent struggle in the north-western provinces, which cost so many lives, began almost wholly at the instigation of Turk or Tartar sectaries, and was a simple trial of strength as to who should rule. While cities and towns in Kansuh occupied by them were destroyed (in 1860–73), the two hundred thousand Moslems in Peking remained perfectly quiet and were unmolested by the authorities. Some hold office, and pass through the examinations to obtain it, most of them being military men. In their mosques they exhibit a tablet with the customary ascription of reverence to the Emperor, but place the Prophet's name behind."[124]

Allès wrote that the relationship between Hui and Han peoples continued normally in the Henan area, with no ramifications from the rebellions. Allès wrote, "The major Muslim revolts in the middle of the nineteenth century which involved the Hui in Shaanxi, Gansu and Yunnan, as well as the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, do not seem to have had any direct effect on this region of the central plain."[125]

Another revolt erupted in 1895 and was suppressed by loyalist Muslim troops.

Religious allowances

Chinese generals pay tribute to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum at the Temple of the Azure Clouds on July 6, 1928 in Beijing after the success of the Northern Expedition. From right to left, are Gen. Cheng Jin, Gen. Zhang Zuobao, Gen. Chen Diaoyuan, Gen. Chiang Kai-shek, Gen. Woo Tsin-hang, Gen. Wen Xishan, Muslim Gen. Ma Fuxiang, Gen. Ma Sida and Muslim Gen. Bai Chongxi.

During the Qing Dynasty, at the entrances of Hui Mosques, a tablet was placed upon which "Huángdì wànsuì, wànsuì, wànwànsuì" (皇帝萬歲,萬歲,萬萬歲) was enscribed, which means, "The Emperor, may he live forever". Wansui means Ten thousand years, which means forever in Chinese.[126] Westerners traveling in China noted the presence of these tablets at mosques in Yunnan and Ningbo.[127][128]

The Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics: Life and death stated that "The religious attitude of the Chinese Muslims is—outwardly, at least— characterized by moderation. They make concessions to the ruling power, hoping thus to gain security for person and property, and the most capable and resolute of those who enter the government service take part in the ceremonial of the national cult. The hatred of foreigners sometimes shown by Muslim officers of high rank, like that displayed by the Chinese themselves, is to be referred, not to religious motives, but to the exasperation provoked by the highhanded way in which foreigners interfere with the internal affairs of the country."[129]

Republic of China

Before the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, when the revolutionaries faced the ideological dilemma on how to unify the country while at the same time acknowledging ethnic minorities, Hui people were noted as Chinese Muslims, separate from Uyghurs.[130] Jahriyya Sufi leader Ma Yuanzhang said in response to accusations that Muslims were disloyal to China: "Our lives, livelihoods, and graves are in China. . . . We have been good citizens among the Five Nationalities!".[131] Ma Fuxiang encouraged Confucian-style assimilation for Muslims into Chinese culture and set up an assimilationist group for this purpose.[132] Imams such as Hu Songshan encouraged Chinese nationalism in their mosques and the Yihewani was led by many nationalist Imams.[133][134]

The Kuomintang party and Chiang Kai-shek considered all Chinese minority peoples, including the Hui, as descendants of Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor and mythical founder of the Chinese nation, and belonging to the Chinese Nation Zhonghua Minzu. He introduced this into Kuomintang ideology, which was propagated by the educational system of the Republic of China.[135][136][137]

During the Second Sino-Japanese war the Japanese destroyed many mosques. According to Wan Lei, "Statistics showed that the Japanese destroyed 220 mosques and killed countless Hui people by April 1941." After the Rape of Nanking, Nanjing mosques were filled with corpses.The Japanese devastation left many Hui jobless and homeless. Another policy was one of deliberate humiliation. Soldiers smeared mosques with pork fat, forced Hui to butcher pigs to feed soldiers and forced young women to serve as sex slaves under the pretense of training them as geishas and singers. Hui cemeteries were destroyed.[138] Many Hui fought against Japan.

On 10 February 1938, Legation Secretary of the German Embassy, Rosen, wrote to his Foreign Ministry about a film made in December by Reverend John Magee about the Nanking Massacre to recommend its purchase. Here is an excerpt from his letter and a description of some of its shots, kept in the Political Archives of the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. One of the victims killed by the Japanese was a Muslim (Mohammedan) whose name was Ha.

During the Japanese reign of terror in Nanking – which, by the way, continues to this day to a considerable degree – the Reverend John Magee, a member of the American Episcopal Church Mission who has been here for almost a quarter of a century, took motion pictures that eloquently bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Japanese ... One will have to wait and see whether the highest officers in the Japanese army succeed, as they have indicated, in stopping the activities of their troops, which continue even today.[139]
On December 13, about 30 soldiers came to a Chinese house at #5 Hsing Lu Koo in the southeastern part of Nanking, and demanded entrance. The door was open by the landlord, a Mohammedan named Ha. They killed him immediately with a revolver and also Mrs. Ha, who knelt before them after Ha's death, begging them not to kill anyone else. Mrs. Ha asked them why they killed her husband and they shot her. Mrs. Hsia was dragged out from under a table in the guest hall where she had tried to hide with her 1 year old baby. After being stripped and raped by one or more men, she was bayoneted in the chest, and then had a bottle thrust into her vagina. The baby was killed with a bayonet. Some soldiers then went to the next room, where Mrs. Hsia's parents, aged 76 and 74, and her two daughters aged 16 and 14. They were about to rape the girls when the grandmother tried to protect them. The soldiers killed her with a revolver. The grandfather grasped the body of his wife and was killed. The two girls were then stripped, the elder being raped by 2–3 men, and the younger by 3. The older girl was stabbed afterwards and a cane was rammed in her vagina. The younger girl was bayoneted also but was spared the horrible treatment that had been meted out to her sister and mother. The soldiers then bayoneted another sister of between 7–8, who was also in the room. The last murders in the house were of Ha's two children, aged 4 and 2 respectively. The older was bayoneted and the younger split down through the head with a sword.[140]

In 1937, the Muslim warlord Ma Bufang notified the Chinese government that he was prepared to lead his army into battle against the Japanese during the Battle of Beiping–Tianjin.[141] Immediately after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Ma Bufang arranged for a cavalry division under the Muslim General Ma Biao to be sent east to battle the Japanese.[142] Ethnic Turkic Salar Muslims made up the majority of the first cavalry division which was sent by Ma Bufang.[143]

Ma Bufang's army battled extensively in bloody battles against the Japanese in Henan province. The Qinghai Chinese, Salar, Chinese Muslim, Dongxiang, and Tibetan troops were under the commander of Ma Biao, being sent to fight to the death against the Imperial Japanese Army. When they defeated the Japanese, the Muslim troops slaughtered all of them except for a few prisoners to send back to Qinghai prove that they were victorious. In September 1940, when the Japanese made an offensive against the Muslim Qinghai troops, the Muslims ambushed them and killed so many of them they were forced to retreat.[144][145]

Current situation

Hui people during Eid al-Adha at Jiangwan Mosque, Shanghai.

China banned a book titled "Xing Fengsu" ("Sexual Customs") which insulted Islam and placed its authors under arrest in 1989 after protests in Lanzhou and Beijing by Chinese Hui Muslims, during which the Chinese police provided protection to the Hui Muslim protestors, and the Chinese government organized public burnings of the book.[146][147][148][149][150][151][152][153][154][155] The Chinese government assisted them and gave into their demands because Hui do not have a separatist movement, unlike the Uyghurs,[156] Hui Muslim protestors who violently rioted by vandalizing property during the protests against the book were let off by the Chinese government and went unpunished while Uyghur protestors were imprisoned.[157]

In 2007, anticipating the coming "Year of the Pig" in the Chinese calendar, depictions of pigs were banned from CCTV "to avoid conflicts with ethnic minorities".[158] This is believed to refer to China's population of 20 million Muslims (to whom pigs are considered "unclean").

In response to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting Chinese state-run media attacked Charlie Hebdo for publishing the cartoons insulting Muhammad, with the state-run Xinhua advocated limiting freedom of speech, while another state-run newspaper Global Times said the attack was "payback" for what it characterised as Western colonialism and accusing Charlie Hebdo of trying to incite a clash of civilizations.[159][160]

Different Muslim ethnic groups in different regions are treated differently by the Chinese government in regards to religious freedom. Religious freedom is present for Hui Muslims, who can practice their religion, build Mosques, and have their children attend Mosques, while more controls are placed specifically on Uyghurs in Xinjiang.[161] Since the 1980s Islamic private schools have been supported and permitted by the Chinese government among Muslim areas, only specifically excluding Xinjiang from allowing these schools because of separatist sentiment there.[162]

Although religious education for children is officially forbidden by law in China, the Communist party allows Hui Muslims to violate this law and have their children educated in religion and attend Mosques while the law is enforced on Uyghurs. After secondary education is completed, China then allows Hui students who are willing to embark on religious studies under an Imam.[163] China does not enforce the law against children attending Mosques on non-Uyghurs in areas outside of Xinjiang.[164][165]

Hui Muslims who are employed by the state are allowed to fast during Ramadan unlike Uyghurs in the same positions, the amount of Hui going on Hajj is expanding, and Hui women are allowed to wear veils, while Uyghur women are discouraged from wearing them and Uyghurs find it difficult to get passports to go on Hajj.[166] There is a major halal industry and Islamic clothing industry to manufacture Muslim attire such as skull caps, veils, and headscarves in the Hui region of Ningxia.[167] Many Hui women wear veils and headscarves.[168]

Hui religious schools are allowed a massive autonomous network of mosques and schools run by a Hui Sufi leader was formed with the approval of the Chinese government even as he admitted to attending an event where Bin Laden spoke.[169][170]

Uyghur views vary by the oasis they live in. China has historically favored Turpan and Hami. Uyghurs in Turfan and Hami and their leaders like Emin Khoja allied with the Qing against Uyghurs in Altishahr. During the Qing dynasty, China enfeoffed the rulers of Turpan and Hami (Kumul) as autonomous princes, while the rest of the Uyghurs in Altishahr (the Tarim Basin) were ruled by Begs.[171] Uyghurs from Turpan and Hami were appointed by China as officials to rule over Uyghurs in the Tarim Basin. Turpan is more economically prosperous and views China more positively than the rebellious Kashgar, which is the most anti-China oasis. Uyghurs in Turpan are treated leniently and favourably by China with regards to religious policies, while Kashgar is subjected to controls by the government.[172][173] In Turpan and Hami, religion is viewed more positively by China than religion in Kashgar and Khotan in southern Xinjiang.[174] Both Uyghur and Han Communist officials in Turpan turn a blind eye to the law and allow religious Islamic education for Uyghur children.[175][176] Celebrating at religious functions and going on Hajj to Mecca is encouraged by the Chinese government, for Uyghur members of the Communist party. From 1979-1989, 350 mosques were built in Turpan.[177] Han, Hui, and the Chinese government are viewed much more positively by Uyghurs specifically in Turpan, with the government providing better economic, religious, and political treatment for them.[178]

Tensions between Hui Muslims and Uyghurs arise because Hui troops and officials often dominated the Uyghurs and crush Uyghur revolts.[179] Xinjiang's Hui population increased by over 520 percent between 1940 and 1982, an average annual growth of 4.4 percent, while the Uyghur population only grew at 1.7 percent. This dramatic increase in Hui population led inevitably to significant tensions between the Hui and Uyghur populations. Some Uyghurs in Kashgar remember that the Hui army at the Battle of Kashgar (1934) massacred 2,000 to 8,000 Uyghurs, which causes tension as more Hui moved into Kashgar from other parts of China.[180] Some Hui criticize Uyghur separatism and generally do not want to get involved in conflict in other countries.[181] Hui and Uyghur live separately, attending different mosques.[182]

The Uyghur terrorist organization [183][184]

Even among Hui Salafis and Uyghur Salafis, there is little coordination or cooperation and the two take totally different political agendas, with the Hui Salafists content to carry out their own teachings and remain politically neutral.[185]

Tibetan-Muslim sectarian violence

In Tibet, the majority of Muslims are Hui people. Hatred between Tibetans and Muslims stems from events during the Muslim warlord Ma Bufang's rule in Qinghai such as Ngolok rebellions (1917–49) and the Sino-Tibetan War, but in 1949 the Communists put an end to the violence between Tibetans and Muslims, however, new Tibetan-Muslim violence broke out after China engaged in liberalization. Riots broke out between Muslims and Tibetans over incidents such as bones in soups and prices of balloons, and Tibetans accused Muslims of being cannibals who cooked humans in their soup and of contaminating food with urine. Tibetans attacked Muslim restaurants. Fires set by Tibetans which burned the apartments and shops of Muslims resulted in Muslim families being killed and wounded in the 2008 mid-March riots. Due to Tibetan violence against Muslims, the traditional Islamic white caps have not been worn by many Muslims. Scarfs were removed and replaced with hairnets by Muslim women in order to hide. Muslims prayed in secret at home when in August 2008 the Tibetans burned the Mosque. Incidents such as these which make Tibetans look bad on the international stage are covered up by the Tibetan exile community. The repression of Tibetan separatism by the Chinese government is supported by Hui Muslims.[186] In addition, Chinese-speaking Hui have problems with Tibetan Hui (the Tibetan speaking Kache minority of Muslims).[187]

The main Mosque in Lhasa was burned down by Tibetans and Chinese Hui Muslims were violently assaulted by Tibetan rioters in the 2008 Tibetan unrest.[188] Tibetan exiles and foreign scholars like ignore and do not talk about sectarian violence between Tibetan Buddhists and Muslims.[189] The majority of Tibetans viewed the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 positively and it had the effect of galvanizing anti-Muslim attitudes among Tibetans and resulted in an anti-Muslim boycott against Muslim owned businesses.[190] Tibetan Buddhists propagate a false libel that Muslims cremate their Imams and use the ashes to convert Tibetans to Islam by making Tibetans inhale the ashes, even though the Tibetans seem to be aware that Muslims practice burial and not cremation since they frequently clash against proposed Muslim cemeteries in their area.[191]

Since the Chinese government supports and backs up the Hui Muslims, the Tibetans deliberately attack the Hui Muslims as a way to demonstrate anti-government sentiment and because they have a background of sectarian violence against each other since Ma Bufang's rule due to their separate religions and ethnicity and Tibetans resent Hui economic domination.[192]


The Sufi mausoleum (gongbei) of Ma Laichi in Linxia City, China.

Ma Tong recorded that the 6,781,500 Hui in China were 58.2% Gedimu, 21% Yihewani, 10.9% Jahriyya, 7.2% Khuffiya, 1.4% Qadariyya and 0.7% Kubrawiyya.[193]

Relations with other religions

Some Hui believed that Islam was the true religion through which Confucianism could be practiced, accusing Buddhists and Daoists of heresy, like most other Confucian scholars. They claimed Islam's superiority to "barbarian" religions.[194]

Muslim general Ma Bufang allowed polytheists to openly worship and Christian missionaries to station themselves in Qinghai. Ma and other high-ranking Muslim generals attended the Kokonuur Lake Ceremony where the God of the Lake was worshipped, and during the ritual, the Chinese National Anthem was sung, participants bowed to a Portrait of Kuomintang party founder Dr. Sun Zhongshan, and to the God of the Lake. Offerings were given to Dr. Sun by the participants, including Muslims.[195] Ma Bufang invited Kazakh Muslims to attend the Ceremony.[196] Ma Bufang received audiences of Christian missionaries, who sometimes preached the Gospel.[197][198] His son Ma Jiyuan received a silver cup from the missionaries.[199]

The Muslim Ma Zhu wrote "Chinese religions are different from Islam, but the ideas are the same."[200]

During the Panthay Rebellion, the Muslim leader Du Wenxiu said to a Catholic priest- "I have read your religious works and I have found nothing inappropriate. Muslims and Christians are brothers."[201]


Foot binding

Hui women once employed foot binding, at the time a common practice across China. It was particularly prevalent in Gansu,[112] The Dungan people, descendants of Hui from northwestern China who fled to Central Asia, also practised foot binding until 1948.[202] However, in southern China, in Canton, James Legge encountered a mosque that had a placard denouncing footbinding, saying Islam did not allow it since it violated God's creation.[203]

Cultural practices

An ethnic Hui family celebrating Eid ul-Fitr in Ningxia.

French army Commandant Viscount D'Ollone reported in 1910 that Sichuanese Hui did not strictly enforce the Islamic practices of teetotaling, ritual washing and Friday prayers. Chinese practices like incense burning at ancestral tablets and honoring Confucius were adopted. One practice that was stringently observed was the ban on pork consumption.[20]

The Sunni Gedimu and the Yihewani burned incense during worship. This was viewed as Daoist or Buddhist influence.[204] The Hui were also known as the "White capped". Hui used incense during worship, while the Salar, also known as "black capped" Hui considered this to be a heathen ritual and denounced it.[205]

In Yunnan province, during the Qing Dynasty, tablets that wished the Emperor a long life were placed at mosque entrances. No minarets were available and no chanting accompanied the call to prayer. The mosques were similar to Buddhist Temples, and incense was burned inside.[206]

Hui enlisted in the military and were praised for their martial skills.[121]

Circumcision in Islam is known as khitan. Islamic scholars disagree as to whether it is required, or recommended, with a plurality of experts taking the second view. Since circumcision in China does not have the weight of pre-existing traditions as it does elsewhere in the Muslim world, circumcision rates among Hui are much lower than among other Muslim communities (where the procedure is nearly universal).[207]


This long residence and mixing in China, led the Hui to adopt names typical of their Han neighbors; however, some common Hui names are actually Chinese renderings of common Muslim (i.e. Arabic), Persian, and Central Asian names. For instance, surname "Ma" for "Muhammad".

Hui people usually have a Chinese name and a Muslim name in Arabic, although the Chinese name is most-used. Some Hui do not remember their Muslim names.[208]

Hui people who adopt foreign names may not use their Muslim names.[209] An example of this is Pai Hsien-yung, a Hui author in America, who adopted the name Kenneth. His father was Muslim General Bai Chongxi, who had his children adopt western names.


Hui people commonly believe that their surnames originated as "Sinified" forms of their foreign Muslim ancestors some time during the Yuan or Ming eras.[210] Common Hui surnames:[211][212][213][214]

A legend in Ningxia states that four common Hui surnames—Na, Su, La, and Ding—originate with the descendants of Nasruddin, a son of Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar, who "divided" the ancestor's name (Nasulading, in Chinese) among themselves.[216]


The Han Kitab is a collection of Islamic and Confucian texts written by various Hui Authors in the 18th century, including Liu Zhi.

New works were written by Hui intellectuals following education reform by Ma Clique Warlords and Bai Chongxi. Some texts were translated from Arabic.[217]

A new edition of a book by Ma Te-hsin, called Ho-yin Ma Fu-ch'u hsien-sheng i-shu Ta hua tsung kuei Ssu tien yaohui, first printed in 1865, was reprinted in 1927 by Ma Fuxiang.[218]

General Ma Fuxiang invested in new editions of Confucian and Islamic texts.[219] He edited Shuofang Daozhi.[220][221] a gazette and books such as Meng Cang ZhuangKuang: Hui Bu Xinjiang fu.[222][223]


The Hui of Yunnan (Burmese called them Panthays) were reported to be fluent in Arabic.[114] During the Panthay Rebellion, Arabic replaced Chinese as the official language of the rebel kingdom.[224]

In 1844 "The Chinese repository, Volume 13" was published, including an account of an Englishman who stayed in the Chinese city of Ningbo, where he visited the local mosque. The Hui running the mosque was from Shandong and descended from residents of the Arabian city of Medina. He was able to read and speak Arabic with ease, but was illiterate in Chinese, although he was born in China and spoke Chinese.[225]


Hui marriages resemble typical Chinese marriages except that traditional Chinese rituals are not used.[226]

Endogamy is practiced by Hui, who mainly marry among themselves rather than with Muslims from other sects.[227]

However, the Hui Na family in Ningxia is known to practice both parallel and cross cousin marriage.[211] The Najiahu village in Ningxia is named after this family, descended from Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar.[216]

Outside marriage

Intermarriage generally involves a Han Chinese converting to Islam to marry a Hui. In extremely rare cases, marriage takes place without conversion. In northwest China, intermarriages mostly involve Han women.[211]

Zhao nuxu is a practice where the son-in-law moves in with the wife's family. Some marriages between Han and Hui are conducted this way. The husband does not need to convert, but the wife's family follows Islamic customs. No census data documents this type of marriage, reporting only cases in which the wife moves in with the groom's family.[228]

In Beijing Oxen street Gladney found 37 Han–Hui couples, two of which were had Hui wives and the other 35 had Hui husbands.[229] Data was collected in different Beijing districts. In Ma Dian 20% of intermarriages were Hui women marrying into Han families, in Tang Fang 11% of intermarriage were Hui women marrying into Han families. 67.3% of intermarriage in Tang Fang were Han women marrying into a Hui family and in Ma Dian 80% of intermarriage were Han women marrying into Hui families.[230]

Li Nu, the son of Li Lu, from a Han Chinese Li family in Quanzhou visited Hormuz in Persia in 1376. He married a Persian or an Arab girl, and brought her back to Quanzhou. He then converted to Islam. Li Nu was the ancestor of Ming Dynasty reformer Li Chih.[231][232][233]

In Hui discourse, marriage between a Hui woman and a Han man is not allowed unless the Han converts Islam, although it occurred repeatedly in Eastern China.[125] Generally Han of both sexes have to convert to Islam before marrying. This practice helped increase the population of Hui.[234] In 1982 a case occurred where a Han married a Hui woman and moved into her family.[228] A case of switching nationality occurred in 1972 when a Han man married a Hui and was considered a Hui after converting.[211]

In Henan province, a marriage was recorded between a Han boy and Hui girl without the Han converting, during the Ming Dynasty. They had two children who became Muslim. Steles in Han and Hui villages record this story and Hui and Han members of the Lineage celebrate at the ancestral temple together.[235]

In Gansu province in the 1800s, a Muslim Hui woman married into the Han Chinese Kong lineage of Dachuan, which was descended from Confucius. The Han Chinese groom and his family were only converted to Islam after the marriage by their Muslim relatives.[78] In 1715 in Yunnan province, few Han Chinese married Hui women and converted to Islam.[79]

Hui men marrying Han women and Han men who marry Hui women achieve above average education.[236]


Hui have supported modern education and reform. Hui such as Hu Songshan and the Ma Clique warlords promoted western, modern secular education.

Elite Hui received both Muslim and Confucian education. They studied the Koran and Confucian texts like the Spring and Autumn Annals.[237]

Hui people refused to follow the May Fourth Movement. Instead, they taught both western subjects such as science along with traditional Confucian literature and Classical Chinese, along with Islamic education and Arabic.[238]

Hui warlord Ma Bufang built a girl's school in Linxia that taught modern secular subjects.[239]

Hui have had female Imams, called Nu Ahong for centuries. They are the world's only female Imams. They guide females in prayer but are not allowed to lead prayers.[240]

Ma Bufang and Hui children in Egypt.
Ma Jiyuan, a Muslim General, at his wedding with Kuomintang flag.

Military service

Chiang Kaishek, head of the Kuomintang with Muslim General Ma Fushou.

Muslims "have often filled the more distinguished military positions" and many Muslims joined the Chinese army.[112] During the Tang dynasty, 3,000 Chinese soldiers and 3,000 Muslim soldiers were traded to each other in an agreement.[241]

Muslims served extensively in the Chinese military, as both officials and soldiers. It was said that the Muslim Dongxiang and Salar were given to "eating rations", a reference to military service.[242]

The Hui descend from foreign Muslim mercenaries serving the Tang dynasty.[241] In 756, over 4,000 Arab mercenaries joined the Chinese against An Lushan. They remained in China, and some of them were ancestors of the Hui people.[75][243][244][245][246]

Hui people have extensively served in the Chinese military. During the Ming dynasty, Hui Generals and troops loyal to Ming fought against Mongols and Hui loyal to the Yuan Dynasty in the Ming conquest of Yunnan.[247][248] Hui also fought for the emperor against aboriginal tribes in southern China during the Miao Rebellions. Many Hui soldiers of the Ming dynasty then settled in Yunnan and Hunan provinces.[95]

During the Qing Dynasty, Hui troops in the Imperial army helped crush Hui rebels during the Dungan revolt and Panthay Rebellion.

The Qing administration also preferred to use Hui in Xinjiang as police.[249] Yang Zengxin, the Han Chinese governor of Xinjiang, extensively relied on Hui Generals like Ma Shaowu and Ma Fuxing.

Qing Muslim General Zuo Baogui (左寶貴) (1837–1894), from Shandong province, was killed in Pingyang in Korea by Japanese cannon fire in 1894 while defending the city, where a memorial to him stands.[250]

Hui troops fought western armies for the first time in the Boxer Rebellion, winning battles including the Battle of Langfang and Battle of Beicang. These troops were the Kansu Braves led by General Dong Fuxiang.

Military service continued into the Republic of China. The Chinese government appointed Ma Fuxiang as military governor of Suiyuan. After the Kuomintang party took power, Hui participation in the military reached new levels. Qinghai and Ningxia were created out of Gansu province, and the Kuomintang appointed Hui Generals as military Governors of all three provinces. They became known as the Ma Clique.

Hui Generals and soldiers fought for the Republic against Tibet in the Sino-Tibetan War, against Uyghur rebels in the Kumul Rebellion, the Soviet Union in the Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang and against Japan in the Second Sino Japanese War.

Hui forces fought for the Kuomintang against the Communists in the Chinese Civil War, and against rebels during the Ili Rebellion.

Bai Chongxi, a Hui General, was appointed to the post of Minister of National Defence, the highest Military position in the Republic of China. After the Communist victory, and evacuation of the Kuomintang to Taiwan, Hui people continued to serve in the military.

Ma Bufang became the ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to Saudi Arabia. His brother, Ma Buqing remained a military General on Taiwan.

Bai Chongxi and Ma Ching-chiang were other Hui who served in Taiwan as military Generals.

Ma Zhanshan was a Hui guerilla fighter against the Japanese.

Ma Fuxiang commented on the willingness for Hui people to become martyrs in Battle (see Martyrdom in Islam), saying:

"They have not enjoyed the educational and political privileges of the Han Chinese, and they are in many respects primitive. But they know the meaning of fidelity, and if I say 'do this, although it means death,' they cheerfully obey".[251]

The Chinese Islamic Association issued "A message to all Muslims in China from the Chinese Islamic Association for National Salvation" in Ramadan of 1940 during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

"We have to implement the teaching "the love of the fatherland is an article of faith" by the Prophet Muhammad and to inherit the Hui's glorious history in China. In addition, let us reinforce our unity and participate in the twice more difficult task of supporting a defensive war and promoting religion.... We hope that ahongs and the elite will initiate a movement of prayer during Ramadan and implement group prayer to support our intimate feeling toward Islam. A sincere unity of Muslims should be developed to contribute power towards the expulsion of Japan."

Ahong is the Mandarin Chinese word for Imam. During the war against Japan, the Imams supported Muslim reisistance, calling for Muslims to participate in the fight against Japan, claiming that casualties would become a shaheed (martyr).[252]

The Japanese planned to invade Ningxia from Suiyuan in 1939 and create a Hui puppet state. The next year in 1940, the Japanese were defeated militarily by Kuomintang Muslim General Ma Hongbin. Ma Hongbin's Hui Muslim troops launched further attacks against Japan in the Battle of West Suiyuan.[253]

The PLA used Hui soldiers, who formally had served under Ma Bufang to crush the Tibetan revolt in Amdo during the 1959 Tibetan uprising.[254]


Ma Fuxiang
Chinese Generals pay tribute to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Beijing in 1928 after the success of the Northern Expedition. From right to left, are Generals Cheng Jin, Zhang Zuobao, Chen Diaoyuan, Chiang Kai-shek, Woo Tsin-hang, Wen Xishan, Ma Fuxiang, Ma Sida and Muslim General Bai Chongxi.

The Majority of the Hui Muslim Ma Clique Generals were Kuomintang party members and encouraged Chinese nationalism in their provinces. Kuomintang members Ma Qi, Ma Lin (warlord), and Ma Bufang served as Military Governors of Qinghai, Ma Hongbin served as military Governor of Gansu, and Ma Hongkui served as military governor of Ningxia. General Ma Fuxiang was promoted to Governor of Anhui and became chairman of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. Ma Bufang, Ma Fuxiang, and Bai Chongxi were all members of the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang, which ruled China in a Single-party state. Member Bai Chongxi helped build the Taipei Grand Mosque on Taiwan. Many members of the Hui Ma Clique were Kuomintang.

Hui put Kuomintang Blue Sky with a White Sun party symbols on their Halal restaurants and shops. A Christian missionary in 1935 took a picture of a Muslim meat restaurant in Hankow that had Arabic and Chinese lettering indicating that it was Halal (fit for Muslim consumption). It had two Kuomintang party symbols on it.[255][256]

Outside China

A community of Hui migrated to Taiwan after the Communist takeover of China.

In Southeast Asia, Hui traders date back 700 years to the time of Zheng He. They are credited with spreading Islam across the region. As the wave of Chinese migrants peaked between 1875 and 1912, Hui inhabited Penang, Sabah, Singapore and Pangkor prior to World War II. Most were Hokkien-speaking coolies and merchants originating from Fujian. The colonial British welfare system was commissioned according to language groups, so the Hui were classed as Hokkien. This lack of differentiation in addition to their small numbers compelled many Malaysian Hui to assimilate into mainstream Chinese society. In 1975, five Hui leaders started a campaign to get every clansman to put up a notice listing their ancestral for 40 generations, as a way of reminding them of their origins. The exact Hui population is unclear today as many families left Islam before independence. In 2000 official census figures gave the number of Muslim Chinese in Malaysia as 57,000 but most were Han converts. According to the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association the surnames Koay, Ma, Ha, Ta, Sha, Woon, and An (or Ang) may indicate Hui ancestry.[257]

Ethnic tensions

Both Muslim and other Chinese resented the arrogant way foreigners handled Chinese affairs, rather than religion. In the military, imbalances in promotion and wealth were other motives for holding foreigners in poor regard.[112]

The Dungan and Panthay revolts were set off by racial antagonism and class warfare, rather than religion.[112] During the Dungan revolt (1862–77) fighting broke out between Uyghur and Hui groups.[258]

In 1936, after Sheng Shicai expelled 20,000 Kazakhs from Xinjiang to Qinghai, the Hui led by Ma Bufang massacred their fellow Muslims, the Kazakhs, until only 135 remained.[259]

The Hui people have had a long presence in Qinghai and Gansu, or what Tibetans call Amdo, although Tibetans have historically dominated local politics. The situation was reversed in 1931 when the Hui general Ma Bufang inherited the governorship of Qinghai, stacking his government with Hui and Salar and excluding Tibetans. In his power base in Qinghai's northeastern Haidong Prefecture, Ma compelled many Tibetans to convert to Islam and acculturate. When Hui started migrating into Lhasa in the 1990s, racist rumors circulated among Tibetans in Lhasa about the Hui, such as that they were cannibals or ate children.[260] On February 2003, Tibetans rioted against Hui, destroying Hui-owned shops and restaurants.[261] Local Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders led a regional boycott movement that encouraged Tibetans to boycott Hui-owned shops, spreading the myth that Hui put the ashes of cremated imams in the cooking water they used to serve Tibetans food, in order to convert Tibetans to Islam.[260]

Occasionally tensions produced scuffles between Hui and Tibetan groups and some Muslims stopped wearing the traditional white identifying caps and many women now wear a hairnet instead of a scarf in order to better assimilate. The Hui community usually support the Chinese government over Tibet.[186] In addition, Chinese-speaking Hui have problems with Tibetan Hui (the Tibetan speaking Kache minority of Muslims).[262]

Tensions with Uyghurs arose because Qing and Republican Chinese authorities used Hui troops and officials to dominate the Uyghurs and crush Uyghur revolts.[179] Xinjiang's Hui population increased by over 520 percent between 1940 and 1982, an average annual growth of 4.4 percent, while the Uyghur population only grew at 1.7 percent. This dramatic increase in Hui population led inevitably to significant tensions between the Hui and Uyghur populations. Some Uyghurs in Kashgar remember that the Hui army at the 1934 Battle of Kashgar massacred 2,000 to 8,000 Uyghurs, which causes tension as more Hui moved into Kashgar from other parts of China.[180] Some Hui criticize Uyghur separatism and generally do not want to get involved in conflict in other countries.[181] Hui and Uyghur live separately, attending different mosques.[182]

Notable Hui people

Related group names

See also

Further reading

  • Chuah, Osman (April 2004). "Muslims in China: the social and economic situation of the Hui Chinese".  
  • Forbes, Andrew; Henley, David (2011). China's Ancient Tea Horse Road. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books.  
  • Forbes, Andrew; Henley, David (2011). Traders of the Golden Triangle. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books.  
  • Hillman, Ben (2004). "The Rise of the Community in Rural China: Village Politics, Cultural Identity and Religious Revival in a Hui Hamlet". The China Journal 51 (51): 53–73.  


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  6. ^ Of course, many members of some other Chinese ethnic minorities don't speak their ethnic group's traditional language anymore, and practically no Manchu people speak the Manchu language natively anymore; but even the Manchu language is well attested historically. Meanwhile, the ancestors of today's Hui people are thought to have been predominantly native Chinese speakers of Islamic religion since no later than the mid- or early Ming Dynasty (Lipman (1997), p. 50.
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External links

  • Britannica Hui People
  • Map share of ethnic by county of China