After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the term "Hui" was applied by the Chinese government to one of China's ten historically Islamic minorities.
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 (1886–1952), 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 those of the Han.
Hui people are of varied ancestry, many directly descending from Silk Road travelers and expatriates. Their ancestors include Central Asians, and Middle Eastern ethnic groups such as the Arabs and Persians who intermarried with the local Han Chinese. West Eurasian DNA is prevalent—6.7% of Hui people's maternal genetics have a Central Asian and Middle Eastern origin. Several medieval Chinese 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, the immigrants gradually mixed with the Han Chinese, 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. These include several thousand Utsuls in southern Hainan Province, who speak an Austronesian language (Tsat) related to that of the Vietnamese Cham Muslim minority, said to descend from Chams who migrated to Hainan. A small Muslim minority among Yunnan's Bai people are classified as Hui as well (even if they are Bai speakers), as are some groups of Tibetan Muslims.
The East Asian O3-M122 Y chromosome Haplogroup is found in large quantities in other Muslims close to the Hui like Dongxiang, Bo'an and Salar. The majority of Tibeto-Burmans, Han Chinese, and Ningxia and Liaoning Hui share paternal Y chromosomes of East Asian origin which are unrelated to Middle Easterners and Europeans. In contrast to distant Middle Easterners and Europeans with whom the Muslims of China are not significantly related, East Asians, Han Chinese, and most of the Hui and Dongxiang of Linxia share more genes with each other. This indicates that native East Asian populations converted to Islam and were culturally assimilated and that the Chinese Muslim populations are mostly not descendants of foreigners as claimed by some accounts while only a small minority of them are.
"Huihui", and "Hui"
Huihui (回回) was the usual generic term for China's Muslims during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It 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. Although the ancient Uyghurs were not Muslims the name Huihui came to refer to foreigners, regardless of language or origin, by the time of the Yuan (1271–1368). and Ming Dynasties (1368–1644). 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.
Kublai Khan called both foreign Jews and Muslims in China Huihui when he forced them to stop halal and kosher methods of preparing food:
"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, Huihui. 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". Huihui is presently used almost exclusively for Muslims, but Jews were still called Lan mao Huihui which means "Blue cap Huihui.
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.
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" 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. 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". 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. 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.
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.
Halal (清真) restaurants offering Northwestern
can be found throughout the country
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). 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. As an influx of foreigners, such as 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). 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. Khwarazm is referred to as Huihuiguo in the Secret History of the Mongols as well.
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.
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".
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.
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 "伊斯兰教" (pinyin: Yīsīlán jiào, literally "Islam religion"). The more traditional term Huijiao remains in use in Singapore, Taiwan and other overseas Chinese communities.
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" 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".
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. 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.
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.
Some prominent Hui, such as Imam Ma Chao-yenConfucian culture.
, refer to themselves and other Hui people as simply Chinese in English, and practice
Pusuman was a name used by Chinese during the Yuan Dynasty. It could have been a corruption of Musalman or another name for Persians. It either means Muslim or Persian. Pusuman Kuo (Pusuman Guo) referred to the country where they came from. The name "Pusuman zi" (pusuman script), was used to refer to the script that the HuiHui (Muslims) were using.
A fence in Niujie
with propaganda art depicting the minority 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". They have also been called "Chinese Mussulmans", when Europeans wanted to distinguish them from Han Chinese.
In other countries
The minaret of the Dungan Mosque in Karakol
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.
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". 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".
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.
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.
Muslim restaurant in Kunming
Panthays are a group of Chinese Muslims in Burma. In Thailand, Chinese Muslims are referred to as Chin Ho (จีนฮ่อ) 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).
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. It identifies Hui by their ancestry only, and includes those who do not practice Islam. In 1913, a westerner noted that many people in Fujian province had Arab ancestry, but were no longer Muslim.
Throughout history the identity of Hui people has been fluid, changing as was convenient. 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.
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 identified as Hui, increasing the official population. They provided evidence of their ancestry and were recognized as Hui. Many clans across Fujian had genealogies that demonstrated Muslim ancestry. These clans inhabited Fujian, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.
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. 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.
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. This futile endeavour ended in 1986, when the final Ningxia Imam left. A similar endeavour in Taiwan also failed.
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. For both these reasons, simply calling them "Chinese Muslims" is no longer strictly speaking accurate, just as with the Bosniaks in the former Yugoslavia.