Contribution to Chinese Civilization

The Huis are an industrious people. Their development and progress have been facilitated, however, by adopting the Han language and living with the Hans. Since the Yuan and Ming dynasties, large numbers of Hui peasants joined the Hans and people of other nationalities in reclaiming wasteland, farming and grazing in the hinterland and along border regions. Hui artisans were famous for their craftsmanship in making incense, medicine, leather and cannons, as well as in mining and smelting of ore. Hui merchants played a positive role in the economic exchanges between the hinterland and border regions and in trade contacts between China and other Asian countries. Hui scholars and scientists made outstanding contributions to China in introducing and spreading the achievements of Western Asia in astronomy, calendars, medicine and a number of other academic and cultural developments. These helped to promote the wellbeing and productive activities of the people of China as a whole. Chinese history has seen not a few outstanding Huis representing their people in the fields of politics, economy and culture.

During the Yuan Dynasty, the astronomist Jamaluddin compiled a perpetual calendar and produced seven kinds of astroscopes including the armillary sphere, the celestial globe, the terrestrial globe and the planetarium; Alaowadin and Yisimayin led the development of a mechanized way of shooting stone balls from cannons, which exercised an important bearing on military affairs in general; the architect Yehdardin learned from Han architecture and designed and led the construction of the capital of the Yuan Dynasty, which laid the foundation for the development of the city of Beijing.

During the Ming Dynasty, the Hui navigator Zheng He led massive fleets in making as many as seven visits to more than 30 Asian and African countries in 29 years. This unparalleled feat served to promote the friendship as well as economic and cultural exchanges between China and these countries. Zheng He was accompanied by Ma Huan and Ha San, also of Hui origin, who acted as his interpreters. Ma Huan gave a true account of Zheng He's visits in his book Magnificent Tours of Lands Beyond the Ocean, which is of major significance in the study of the history of communication between China and the West. Hui scholar Li Zhi (1527-1602) of Quanzhou in Fujian Province was a well-known progressive thinker in Chinese ideology history.

A number of outstanding politicians emerged among the Huis. Sayyid Ajall Sham Suddin (1211-1279) of early Yuan Dynasty was one of them. During his late years when he was serving as governor of Yunnan Province, he laid stress on agriculture, setting up special areas for peasants to reclaim wasteland and grow food grain. He advocated the harnessing of six rivers in Kunming, capital of the province; established communication posts extensively for couriers to change horses and rest; initiated teaching in Confucianism and made strong efforts in harmonizing relations among various nationalities. All these benefitted political, economic and cultural developments in Yunnan, helping to bring closer relations between the province and the central government.

Hai Rui (1514-1587), a politician of the Ming Dynasty, was upright throughout his life. He had the courage to remonstrate with Emperor Jiajing about his fatuousness and arbitrariness that brought the nation and the people to calamity. Hai also lashed out at what he considered to be the evils of the court and inept ministers. Later during his term of office as roving inspector directly responsible to the emperor and as chief procurator of Nanjing, Hai enforced discipline, redressed mishandled cases and checked local despots in a successful attempt to boost public morale.

Since the Yuan and Ming dynasties, a great number of established Hui poets, scholars, painters and dramatists emerged. These included Sadul, Gao Kegong, Ding Henian, Ma Jin, Ding Peng and Gai Qi.