The Hui ethnic group is China's most widely distributed ethnic minority, with a sizeable population of 9.8 million. Most of them inhabit the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwestern China, and there are many concentrated Hui communities in Gansu, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Hebei, Henan, Yunnan, and Shandong Provinces. Take China Highlights' Silk Road Tours to explore the ancient culture and tradition of the Hui.
Chinese is the shared language of the Hui people. They also use some Arabic and Farsi words in daily interactions and religious activities. The Hui people living in bordering areas of China often use the language of local ethnic minorities.
The habitation of the Hui people is characterized by small-scale concentration and wide distribution. The Hui people observe the Islamic religion, which has a deep influence on their daily life. They usually build a mosque, which becomes the symbol of architecture in large Hui communities.
Hui is the abbreviation for the Huihui nationality. Its ancestors were Huihui people who migrated to east China after three expeditions by the Mongols in the 13th century, and Muslims immigrants residing in the costal areas of southeast China during the Tang (618–907 AD) and Song Dynasty (960–1276 AD). Through long-time communications (such as intermarriages) with many other nationalities in history, the Hui gradually acquired the customs and living habits of the Han, the Mongols, and the Uygur, and developed the Huihui nationality.
Eating Habits of the Hui Minority. Since the Hui are widely distributed throughout China, their diets have developed in different ways. However, we can generally conclude that their eating habits have the following three features.
First, the Hui people prefer wheaten-based food to rice-based food. Noodles are a staple food, and they make various dishes out of wheat flour. Second, sweets play an important role, probably related to Arabian Muslims' preference for a sweet taste. Third, under the Islamic influence, the consumption of beef and mutton in their diet is large, and the meat of pigs, dogs, horses, donkeys, mules, and beasts of prey is forbidden.
The Hui people are particular about beverages. They only drink water from a flowing or clean source. It is not acceptable for people to take a bath, wash clothes or pour dirty water around sources of drinking water. The Hui people also like to drink tea and use it as a treat for their guests. Continue to read about Halal food in China.
Hui costumes have a deep Islamic influence. Men usually wear Hui style hats, which are small, black or white, and without brims; most Hui men like to wear white ones. Some do not wear hats and instead wrap their heads with white towels or a cloth. Some others wear pentagonal, hexangular or octagonal hats, as a result of the different branches of Islam they believe in and the different places in which they live. They like to wear double-breasted white shirts, and some even like to wear white trousers and socks, making themselves look very tidy, bright, and solemn.
Women usually wear white, round-edged hats, and veils on their heads. Normally, young girls wear green veils with golden edges as well as simple and elegant embroidered patterns of flowers and grass; married women wear black veils that cover them from head to shoulder; elderly women wear white ones that cover them from their heads to their backs. Hui women usually wear side-opening clothes; young girls and married women like to inlay threads, embed colors, make rolloffs, and embroider flowers on their clothes.
The Hui people do not eat pork, dogs, horses, donkeys, or mules. If animals are killed by people of other nationalities or die naturally, the Hui people should not eat their meat. Only animals killed by the special cook or the imam from the mosque can be eaten. Jokes about food are unacceptable, and any food that is unacceptable by the Hui people cannot be used to make metaphors; for example, one should not say that the color of chili is as red as blood.
The Hui people always pay close attention to hygiene in their daily life. If possible, people should wash their hands both before and after meals using flowing water. Most of the Hui people do not smoke or drink, and people cannot smoke or drink in others’ homes. One should not bare his or her bosom and arms in front of others. While dining together, the seniors should be invited to sit in the honorable seats, and juniors should not sit with seniors on beds or the Kang, a hot rock bed; instead, they should sit at the edge or just on benches on the floor.
Hui Minority Festivals. The Hui people celebrate three main festivals: Hari Raya Puasa, Eid Al-Adha, and Mawlid an-Nabi. All of the festivals and memorial days follow the Islamic calendar.
Hari Raya Puasa (Fast Ending Festival) is widely celebrated among the Islamic communities in China. The feast month of the Hui nationality, also called Ramadan, comes in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The festival lasts for three days. On the first day, as soon as the foredawn arrives, people begin to prepare in a bustle. All families get up very early and begin to clean the courtyards and laneways to create an atmosphere of cleanliness, comfort, and pleasure for others. Everyone, including men and women, young and old, wear their favorite new clothes. Mosques are cleaned up during this festival, and large banners with slogans of Celebrating the Hari Raya Puasa Festival and colorful lanterns are hung there.
Eid al-Adhs, the pronunciation of the Arabic language, means sacrifice and self-devotion; as a result, it is also called Feast of Sacrifice or Festival of Fidelity and Filial Piety. It is usually celebrated seventy days after the Fast Ending Festival. People choose strong and bony livestock to kill. After the animals are killed, the meat has to be divided in three. The first part is for family members, the second part will be sent to relatives, friends, and neighbors, and the last part will be used as alms to help the poor. The elderly boil the meat and inform the children that, after eating the meat, they should bury the bones underground and cover them with yellow earth instead of giving them to dogs. Some families invite imams to come to chant the Koran and to eat.
Mawlid an-Nabi commemorates the birthday as well as the anniversary of the death of the Islamic prophet Mohammed. As both the birthday and the anniversary of the death of Mohammed are on the twelfth day of the third month of the Islamic calendar, the Hui people celebrate them together and call this festival Mawlid an-Nabi. On this day, Muslims first go to the mosque to chant the Koran, sending blessings to Mohammed and his family (Durood), and listen to lectures on the life stories of Mohammed given by imams. They then donate grains, edible oil, meat, and money to the mosque; at the same time, they invite several people who take charge of milling flours, purchasing the things they need, frying cakes, boiling meat, and making dishes, etc. All routine chores and errands are done by the Hui people, who come voluntarily. The Hui people consider voluntary labor on this day to be doing good deeds, and all volunteer for jobs.