Chinese Ethnic Groups：回族（Huí zú ）The Hui ethnic minority
Major areas of distribution: Ningxia, Gansu, Henan, Hebei, Qinghai, Shandong, Yunnan, Xinjiang, Anhui, Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Shanxi, Beijing, Tianjin
Language: Han (standard Chinese)
With a sizable population of 8.61 million, the Hui ethnic group is one of China's largest ethnic minorities. People of Hui origin can be found in most of the counties and cities throughout the country, especially in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Gansu, Qinghai, Henan, Hebei, Shandong and Yunnan provinces and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The name Hui is an abbreviation for "Huihui," which first appeared in the literature of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). It referred to the Huihe people (the Ouigurs) who lived in Anxi in the present-day Xinjiang and its vicinity since the Tang Dynasty (618-907). They were actually forerunners of the present-day Uygurs, who are totally different from today's Huis or Huihuis.
During the early years of the 13th century when Mongolian troops were making their western expeditions, group after group of Islamic-oriented people from Middle Asia, as well as Persians and Arabs, either were forced to move or voluntarily migrated into China. As artisans, tradesmen, scholars, officials and religious leaders, they spread to many parts of the country and settled down mainly to livestock breeding. These people, who were also called Huis or Huihuis because their religious beliefs were identical with people in Anxi, were part of the ancestors to today's Huis.
Earlier, about the middle of the 7th century, Islamic Arabs and Persians came to China to trade and later some became permanent residents of such cities as Guangzhou, Quanzhou, Hangzhou, Yangzhou and Chang'an (today's Xi'an). These people, referred to as "fanke" (guests from outlying regions), built mosques and public cemeteries for themselves. Some married and had children who came to be known as "tusheng fanke," meaning "native-born guests from outlying regions." During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), these people became part of the Huihuis, who were coming in great numbers to China from Middle Asia.
The Huihuis of today are therefore an ethnic group that finds its origins mainly with the above-mentioned two categories, which in the course of development took in people from a number of other ethnic groups including the Hans, Mongolians and Uygurs.
It is generally acknowledged that Huihui culture began mainly during the Yuan Dynasty.
Warfare and farming were the two dominant factors of this period. During their westward invasion, the Mongols turned people from Middle Asia into scouts and sent them eastward on military missions. These civilians-turned-military scouts were expected to settle down at various locations and to breed livestock while maintaining combat readiness. They founded settlements in areas in today's Gansu, Henan, Shandong, Hebei and Yunnan provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. They later were joined by more scouts sent from the west. As time went by they became ordinary farmers and herdsmen. Among the Islamic Middle Asians, there were a number of artisans and tradesmen. The majority of these people settled in cities and along vital communication lines, taking to handicrafts and commerce. Because of these activities a common economic life began to take shape among the Huihuis. Scattered as they were, they stuck together in relative concentration in settlements and around mosques which they built. This has been handed down as a specific feature of the distribution of Hui population in China.