Photo by Chen Haiwen
With a sizable population of 9,816,802, the Hui ethnic group is one of China's largest ethnic minorities. People of Hui origin can be found in most of the counties and cities throughout the country, especially in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Gansu, Qinghai, Henan, Hebei, Shandong and Yunnan provinces and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
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.
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.
The Islamic religion had a deep influence on the life style of the Hui people. For instance, soon after birth, an infant was to be given a Huihui name by an ahung (imam); wedding ceremonies must be witnessed by ahungs; a deceased person must be cleaned with water, wrapped with white cloth and buried coffinless and promptly in the presence of an ahung who serves as the presider. Men were accustomed to wearing white or black brimless hats, specially during religious services, while women were seen with black, white or green scarves on their head -- a habit which also derived from religious practices. The Huis never eat pork nor the blood of any animal or creature that died of itself, and they refuse to take alcohol. These taboos originated in the Koran of the Moslems. The Huis are very particular about sanitation and hygiene. Likewise, before attending religious services, they have to observe either a "minor cleaning," such as wash their face, mouth, nose, hands and feet, or a "major cleaning," which requires a thorough bath of the whole body.
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