The Hui of China
The Hui trace their ancestors back to Muslim traders, soldiers, and officials who came to China during the seventh through fourteenth centuries, settling and marrying local Han women. They differ from other Chinese Muslim groups in that they do not have their own language. Instead, they speak the Chinese dialect of their locality, mixed with a few Arabic and Persian words. The Hui have so well assimilated into the Chinese society that they are almost indistinguishable from the Han Chinese, except in dietary and religious practices.
What are their lives like?
The rural Hui of northern China grow wheat and dry rice, while those farther south raise wet rice. Some may also engage in small-scale industries, raise sheep and cattle, and grow some vegetables for profit.
Urban Hui are most often laborers or factory workers who are employed, housed, and educated by the state. Others are shopkeepers and butchers. The butchers still provide halal meat. This refers to meat slaughtered according to Islamic standards.
The Hui diet consists of rice, flour, beef, mutton, and chicken. There is a religious taboo on pork as well as on the meat of horses, donkeys, mules, and all wild animals.
Since the 1949 Socialist reforms, Hui traditions such as early marriages, arranged marriages, and polygamy (having more than one wife at a time) have been outlawed. Women now have the same divorce and inheritance rights as men. The government rewards "late" marriages (those in the late to middle twenties), and adherence to the family planning norm of only one child per couple. According to Muslim custom, Hui women are forbidden to marry non-Hui, but Hui men may marry Han or other non-Hui women who are willing to follow Islamic practices.
What are their beliefs?
Among the Hui, there are many different Islamic sects. The older factions arose out of the need to adapt Islam to Chinese culture. The newer sects developed out of the desire to 'purify' Chinese Islam. Ironically, however, there is a wide range of devotion to Islam among the Hui. In northwestern China they are quite conservative; while in northeastern China, they are more liberal. There, they smoke, drink, and eat pork when away from home. Overall, the Hui are said to be among the least radical Muslims in the world. Visiting Muslims are often disgusted with their lack of depth.
The Chinese government continues to allow the Hui to bury their dead in Muslim cemeteries while all Han must now be cremated. Presently, the Hui are exempted from some aspects of China's controlled birth program.
What are their needs?
Chinese Muslims are reluctant to become Christians since persecution often follows such a decision. Christian broadcasts and literature are available to the Hui, but there are presently no known Christians among them.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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