History (2)

The Huihui scouts and a good number of Huihui aristocrats, officials, scholars and merchants sent eastward by the Mongols were quite active in China. They exercised influence on the establishment of the Yuan Dynasty and its military, political and economic affairs. The involvement of Huihui upper-class elements in the politics of Yuan Dynasty in turn helped to promote the development of Huihuis in many fields.

Generally speaking, the social position of Huihuis during the Yuan Dynasty was higher than that of the Hans. Nevertheless, they were still subjected to the oppression of Yuan rulers. After going through the hardships of their eastward exodus, they continued to be in the hands of various Mongolian officials, functioning either as herdsmen or as government and army artisans. A fraction of them even were allocated to Mongolian aristocrats to serve as house slaves.

Being people who came to China from places where social systems, customs and habits differed from those in the east, the Huihuis began to cultivate their own national consciousness. This was caused also by their relative concentration with mosques as the center of their social activities, by their increasing economic contacts with each other, by their common political fate and their common belief in the Islamic religion.

It was during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that the Huihuis began to emerge as an ethnic group.

Along with the nationwide restoration and development of the social economy in the early Ming Dynasty years, the distribution and economic status of the Huihui population underwent a drastic change. The number of Huihuis in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces increased as more and more Huihuis from other parts of the country submitted themselves to the Ming court and joined their people in farming.

Other factors contributed to their dispersion: industrial and commercial exchanges, assignment of Huihui garrison troops to various areas to open up wasteland and grow food grain, nationwide tours by Huihui officials and scholars, and especially the migration of Huihuis during peasant uprisings. They still managed, however, to maintain their tradition of concentration by setting up their own villages in the countryside or sticking together in suburban areas or along particular streets and lanes in cities. The dislocation of military scouts dating from the Yuan Dynasty had enabled the Huihuis to extricate themselves gradually from military involvement and to settle down to farming, breeding livestock, handicrafts and small-scale trading. Thus they established a new common economic life among themselves, characterized by an agricultural economy.

During the initial stage of their eastward exodus, the Huihuis used the Arab, Persian and Han languages. However, in the course of their long years living with the Hans, and especially due to the increasing number of Hans joining their ranks, they gradually spoke the Han language only, while maintaining certain Arab and Persian phrases. Huihui culture originally had been characterized by influences from the traditional culture of Western Asia and assimilation from the Han culture. However, due to the introduction of the Han language as a common language, the tendency to assimilate the Han culture became more obvious. The Huihuis began to wear clothing like the Hans. Huihui names were still used, but Han names and surnames became accepted and gradually became dominant.