Islam was founded by the Mekka Mohammed in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century. It was introduced into China in Tang Dynasty (618-907) also in the 7th century just after its founding. In China, Islam also called Hui Religion because a large number of Hui people observe it. Among the 55 Chinese minorities in China, there are 10 observe Islam, namely, Hui Minority, Uyghur, Kazak, Khalkhas, Uzbek, etc, Ozbek, Tajik, Tatar, Dongxiang, Sala and Baoan, mainly inhabiting in the northwest provinces of Xijiang, Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai and the southwest province of Yunnan, and individual Muslims live almost in every city in the country.
There are 20 millions Muslims with a total number of mosques over 30 000 in China. Most of the Chinese Muslims are Sunnites.
History of Islam in China
Islam is the newest religion compared to other main religions in China with a history about 1400 years. According to the history records, Islam was first introduced into China in the middle of the 7th century in Tang Dynasty by the Arab ambassador Sa’ad ibn abi Waqqas. It was the time that both Tang Dynasty and Arab Empire in their heyday that the trade and diplomatic exchanged frequently across the maritime and inland silk routes. Islam expanded gradually from the 7th to the 10th centuries; Muslim traders from Arab and Persia were active in the southeast coastal areas of Guangzhou, Quanzhou, Yangzhou, Hangzhou, Mingzhou (present-day Ningbo) and the inland cities of Chang’an (present-day Xi’an) and Kaifeng; they specialized in the trades of perfume, ivory, jewelry, medicinal material and rhinoceros horn in China, and took back the Chinese silk, tea, china and other commodities. Muslims in this period were made great contributions to the exchange and communication in cultures between the two nations.
Under the encouragement policy of the commercial trade of the government, numerous Muslims came to China for trading and many of them even settled in China. In particularly in Song Dynasty (960-1297), the government special defined some areas in the city for Muslims and allowed the intermarriage, and some Muslims even served as officials in the government. They increased gradually in numbers and were the forefathers of the Chinese Muslims.
Islam developed greatly in Yuan and early Ming Dynasties (1279-1644). A high number of Han people, Mongols, Uyhurs and people of other ethnic group started to observe the Islam. In the early of the 13th century, the Mongols established the Mongol khanate and conquered the Muslim nations of middle and west Asia. More Muslims were brought to inner China by Mongols and enjoyed status second to the Mongols in Yuan Dynasty, of which there was a famous Muslim navigator named Zhenghe who had made seven ocean voyages and made great contributions to the international exchanges. Traders, missionaries, travelers and scholars from the middle and west Asia were in an endless stream across the country which was also recorded in Marco Polo’s travel notes. The Arabic science and cultures were greatly influenced the Chinese ways to some certain in astronomy, calendar, medicine, architecture, war industry, art and literature. Tens of thousands of mosques were widely built and the intermarriages were more common. Muslim customs and habits were widely spread; Islam was called as Huihui Religion and was becoming an important religion in China equaled with the Buddhism and Taoism.
In the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, the scriptures learning was popular in mosques taught by imams and preach also appeared in the southeast coastal areas and other important Muslim areas. Though some people researched the Islam and translated the Koran in Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), the Islam developed slowly because of the suppress policy of the government. Today, Islam is experiencing a modest revival and many Islamic associations are organized to coordinate interethnic activities, exchanges and communications are frequently among Muslims in the world.
Beliefs and Features of Muslims
The founder of Islam Mohammed is believed to be a great prophet and the scripture is the Koran. Allah is the god of Islam. Imam is the worship leader of the mosque as well as a Muslim community who in charge of the religious works and leads Islamic worship services; Iman plays an important role that gives names to newborn babies, conducts marriages and funerals and so on.
Muslims prefer wheaten food and eat beef and mutton; while pork and meat of non-ruminants, animal blood and dead animals are forbidden in their diet. Almost in every city in China, a Muslim restaurant can be found with kinds of Halal (the legal food of Muslims), and the Lanzhou Lamian (noodles) restaurants run by Muslims are common almost in every street in cities.
The costume of Muslims is the style of the central Asia people. The distinctive feature is their headwear. Males prefer white or black caps with exquisite embroidery, while females wear hijabs, and different colors are chosen for different ages.