So today I came across an interesting bit of information I didn’t know.
It seems that in the Yuan Dynasty the Mongolian rulers didn’t trust the Han Chinese to administer themselves, so instead they imported (sometimes by force!) large numbers of Muslim Arabs and Persians to serve as their mid-level administrator class and serve as their tax collectors. These people were called the Hui people, and became the ethnic group known as the HuiHui’s.
Some interesting tidbits about the Hui:
- 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.
- Islamism also had great impact on the political and economic systems of Hui society. “Jiaofang” or “religious community,” as once practiced among the Huis, was a religious system as well as an economic system. According to the system, a mosque was to be built at each location inhabited by Huis, ranging from a dozen to several hundred households. An imam was to be invited to preside over the religious affairs of the community as well as to take responsibility over all aspects of the livelihood of its members and to collect religious levies and other taxes from them. A mosque functioned not only as a place for religious activities but also as a rendezvous where the public met to discuss matters of common interest. Religious communities, operating quite independently from each other, had thus become the basic social units for the widely dispersed Hui people. Following the development of the Hui’s agricultural economy and the increase of religious taxes levied on them, some chief imams began to build up their personal wealth. They used this to invest in land properties and engage in exploitation through land rents. The imams gradually changed themselves into landlords. Working in collaboration with secular landlords, they enjoyed comprehensive power in the religious communities, which they held tightly under their control. They left routine religious affairs of the mosques to low-rank ahungs.
- 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.
More information on the HuiHui people here .
I also found this page about Foreigners and how they’ve historically become part of Chinese culture:
Interesting reading! It even includes a few tibits on intermarriage and assimilation! I didn’t know Kaifeng had a large population of Chinese jews! (Heck, I didn’t know there WERE Chinese Jews!)