HUI LIFE AND CULTURE

HUI LANGUAGE AND LIFE


In the past some Hui spoke Arabic and Persian along with Chinese but now they generally speak the same Chinese dialects as the peoples they live among. They have no specific language of their own and Chinese writing but they have retained some words of Arabic and Persian origin,. [Source: C. Le Blanc, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life,” Cengage Learning, 2009]

Because they live in so many different places and occupy so many social and economic niches, the living conditions of the Hui varies quite a bit. Some are farmers while others are engage in variety a trades and professions. Their living standards are generally on par with those of the majority Han Chinese. Although the Hui have an architecture tradition their housing varies in accordance to where they reside.

Many Hui observe Muslim rules about cleanliness. They wash much of their body or at least wash their face, mouth, nose, hands, and feet before each time they go to a mosque. In regard to health, they have their own traditions and use traditional Chinese medicine. Some hospitals in Hui areas take into consideration their religious life and customs by offering things like prayer areas.

Daniel Strouthes wrote in the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: ““The words qing zhen (pure and true) are often associated with Hui life, in reference to all Islamic ideals. These words are often placed on the signs of Hui establishments and on products in which Islamic ideals of purity are supposedly maintained: restaurants, food stores, bakeries, ice cream stores, candy wrappers, mosques, incense packages, and Islamic literature. In the case of food, qing zhen means that the food is free of contamination by pork and other unclean foods and is ritually purified. [Source: Daniel Strouthes, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia-Eurasia/China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994]

Hui Customs, Taboos and Hospitality

Hui people are Muslims and Chinese. The majority of their customs are defined by being members of these two groups. In general it said the Hui are warm-hearted and hospitable, and attach a lot of importance to courtesies. When they see relatives and friends, they express "seliangmu" (words of wishes and greetings). When strangers meet on the road, they always are very modest and courteous, give precedence to others, and ask the elder people and generation to walk first. Visiting guests are welcomed with Muslim hospitality. They receive infused tea and are served fruits or home-made cakes. All family members come to greet their guests, and, if the guest has come from afar, he will be escorted out of the Hui’s village when he leaves. When a Hui family entertains guests for dinner, the host will continue urging guests to eat more rice and will continue filling their bowls, even after they insist they are full. Guests should receive a dish or bowl with both hands.

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Some Hui are strict Muslims. They do not like to joke nor do they describe things with food. Smoking, drinking and gambling are frowned upon and young people are not permitted to sit with elder members of the group. Use of a fortune teller to predict the future is prohibited. They also obey many rituals. For example, before meals, they must wash their hands with water. Also, they avoid sitting or stepping on any threshold, for it is said Mohammed used the threshold as his pillow. Three to seven days, or a month, after a child is born, its parents should invite the ahung to give it a scripture name. When a boy reaches the age of 12, circumcision is carried out. |~|

According to Chinatravel.com: People can not smoke or drink in other people’s homes. No jokes about food are acceptable, and any food that is unacceptable by the Hui people can not be used to make metaphors; for example, one should not say that the color of chili is as red as blood. One should not bare his or her bosom and arms in front of others. All livestock should be kept away from drinking water from the wells or springs which are used as a water source. Also people should not wash their hands, faces, or clothes near the wells or springs. Before getting the water, one should wash his or her hands. Any remaining water after use in a container should not be poured back in the source. The Hui people always pay close attention to hygiene in their daily life. If it is possible, people should wash their hands both before and after meals using flowing water. Most of the Hui people do not smoke or drink. While dining together, the seniors should be invited to sit at the honorable seats, and juniors should not sit together with the seniors on the beds or Kang — hot rock bed, instead they should sit at the edge or just on benches on the floor. In addition, when taking water or meals, one should not do it in an outward way; if their bowl is far away from their food they will be considered throwing out their dishes. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

Hui Family

C. Le Blanc wrote in the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life:”“The Hui family is patrilineal and monogamous. The position of women in the family is usually lower than that of men. In families where both spouses work, the position of the man and the woman is the same. The aged are esteemed. There are many large families in which the parents live with their sons and daughters-in-law. [Source: C. Le Blanc, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life,” Cengage Learning, 2009 ++]

“Women who work as professionals in urban areas have full freedom to choose their mate. Arranged marriage, however, is still prevalent in rural areas. Chinese law stipulates that to be legal, a marriage must be registered with the proper state authorities; however, according to Islamic customary law, a man can take a wife only if the ceremony is witnessed by the Ahung. The Hui must therefore perform a double (civil and religious) marriage ceremony. ++

“At birth, the infant receives from the Ahung an Arabic name usually corresponding to the name of a sage or saint of the Koran. This name is called the “scripture name." To conform to the brevity of Chinese names (one or two syllables), the polysyllabic Arabic name is usually simplified, adding the Chinese suffix zi to the name. This custom is most prevalent in northwest China. Again following the Chinese naming system, the given Arabic name is preceded by the Chinese surname. When the child has gone through the name-giving ritual, he becomes a Muslim. The Ahung also presides at the wedding ceremony and at the funeral rites of the Hui. ++

Hui Marriage

Hui are discouraged from marrying non-Hui, particularly non-Muslims. In the event a Hui wants to marry a Han or a member of another ethnic minority, the non-Hui is expected to respect the Hui culture and convert to Islam, or the marriage is denied. These days a growing number of young people are turning their backs to religious traditions and customs are adopting the way of life close to that of the Han Chinese majority. Dating and intermarriage between Hui and Han is increasing.



According to Hui Muslim beliefs "the choice of marriage is not based on the economic conditions, they must choose the kind-hearted". Hui are expected not to attach importance to family status, riches and honor, but to the moral characters, talents and appearance of their partners. When holding wedding ceremonies, they must invite an ahung to recite "nikaha" (Arabic for “union”) and validate the "yizhabu" (the document of witnessing the wedding). For the marriage feast, there are usually 8 to 12 dishes. The even number of dishes is important as it symbolizes that the new couple will be a pair permanently. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, , travelchinaguide.com |~|]

According to Chinatravel.com: Before the marriage of the Hui people, the man’s family should give betrothal gifts to the girl’s family; they will then contract the marriage and fix the date of their wedding ceremony. When they become engaged, relatives and friends should be invited to drink tea and eat some snacks. When holding the wedding ceremony, they should invite an imam to extol God Allah as well as serve as the chief witness of the marriage. The imam praises God Allah for his contributions to the perfect marriage between the two young people. Then he teaches the bride and groom the relevant Islamic knowledge, tells both sides to abide by the virtues of trust and honesty and recite the words of Mohammed, and asks them what their religious names are, if they do not have one, he will give them their religious names. The imam will also ask the groom whether he has already sent a gift to the bride as gift symbolizes the true love between husband and wife. At last, the imam reads the marriage testimony, which can not be omitted from the ceremony, which means that this marriage is officially admitted by the Islamic religion. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

After that, the activity of Handing Out Longevity Nuts will be held. The imam first puts some snacks with lucky meanings, including: longevity nuts which symbolize long life, dates which symbolize giving birth to a baby as soon as possible, metal coins which symbolize affluence and honor, peanuts, fruits, popcorns, walnuts, and so forth, on the table. Then he gets three handfuls of them and puts them into the handkerchief the groom has already prepared before giving them to the bride; in some places the nuts are put into the undergarments of the groom. When all the guests leave, the husband and the wife enjoy those gifts together to symbolizes true love, sticking together through thick and thin and living together happily all through their lives. The nuts also symbolize the best wishes to this couple from the imam. \=/

Hui Food

The Hui eat three meals a day. Foods made with rice and wheat flour are the Hui staple foods. Corn, millet, and yams are also widely eaten depending on wear Hui live. Popular foods and snack items include steamed buns, pancakes, steamed stuffed buns, dumplings and noodles in soup. On New Year's Day or other festivals, they like to eat salted cakes, deep-fried dough twists and other fried foods. Fermented flour dough is prepared all through the year and can be used at any time when needed. Among the common ingredients are long-thread moss, Chinese wolfberry, oxen and sheep hamstrings, chicken, duck, and seafood. Among the Hui people who live in the northwestern part of China, there is the popular habit of eating pickled vegetables. For snacks Hui eat pistachios, dates and melon seeds. [Source: travelchinaguide.com, Chinatravel.com +/]


Niangpi

The Hui use various cooking techniques, including pan-frying, sautéing, braising, frying, quick-frying and roasting. In regards to meat, Hui mainly eat beef and mutton but sometimes also eat camel, chicken, ducks, geese, rabbits, deer, river deer, sparrows, shrimp and various kinds of fish that have scales such as black carps and silver carps. Pigeons are considered a 'divine bird' that may be eaten only under certain circumstances. For example, a pigeon are fed to the sick as a tonic, but only after it is approved by the Imam. +/

There are many foods taboos. The food the Hui eat is in accordance with the Muslim standard of "birds that eat grains and beasts that eat grass" and fulfill Halal requirements. Hui are generally forbidden from eating the meat of pigs, dogs, horses, donkeys, mules as well as the blood of animals. Moreover, if people of other nationalities use a pot or dish to hold pork, then they will not use or touch the dish. They are also forbidden from eat ing wolf, worms, tiger, leopard, bear, donkey, horse, mule, pig, dog, fox, cat, mouse, python and snake, hawk, sparrow hawk, birds of prey, sharks, whales, and the blood of animals and the animals that die by themselves. Pork is particularly frowned upon. Generally they do not drink alcohol either. Many Hui refrain from eating at ordinary restaurants. Many schools, factories, and organizations in Hui areas have established canteens for the Hui that meet their standards. At Muslim restaurants, the cooks, waitresses, and ordinary workers are expected to be Muslims. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities; C. Le Blanc, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life,” Cengage Learning, 2009]

Hui Dishes

Typical Hui dishes include Niangpi (a kind of steamed noodles mixed with different seasonings), hand-pulled noodles, Dalumian (boiled noodles mixed with fungus, sliced meat, and eggs), fried noodles with meat, uncongealed bean curd, cattle head soup, noodles mixed with sliced meat and vegetables, Wanshengma cakes, sheep tendons, Golden Phoenix braised chicken, Wengzi soup balls, green bean skins. Five Dishes and Four Oceans, Nine Greatness and Thirteen Flowers, Round Moon on the Fifteenth Day of a Month are some of the famous Muslim meals prepared during feasts. Five Dishes means five kinds of sautéed dishes served together at the same time, and Four Oceans refer to four soup dishes served all at once. Nine Greatness, Thirteen Flowers, Round Moon on the Fifteenth Day of a Month are the names of nine bowls of food, thirteen bowls of food and fifteen bowls of food respectively. [Source: Chinatravel.com +/]

The Hui like salted beef which is made by adding salt and spices to fresh beef, massage it thoroughly, putting it in a large earthen container, and covering and sealing it. Two weeks later, they take it out and let it sit in the open air. The meat may then be fried, stewed, or cooked with rice. This is considered a high-quality dish worthy of giving guests. Hui are also fond a gruel made of sweetened, fried flour. To make this wheat flour, buckwheat, and rice are mixed together and fries. After butter is added it is fried again, and then put in a pot to cool it down. Boiling water and sugar are added and it is served in a glass. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities; C. Le Blanc, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life,” Cengage Learning, 2009]


beef noodle soup

Hui cuisine is diverse and varies from region to region. If you visit them, you will be served a wide variety of distinctive food. Hui people living in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region prefer food made with wheat flour such as noodles and dough sheets. They also like Tiaohefan, a porridge with mutton pieces, spices, and diced vegetables. In Gansu and Qinghai, they favor wheat, corn, barley, and potatoes. In Xining City of Qinghai Province wanshengma cakes are very popular. The Golden Phoenix braised chicken is centimeters with the city of Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province; Ma Family Pot-stewed Chicken and the Baiyunzhang Dumplings are associated with Baoding, Hebei Province; the Ma Family Steamed Dumplings with Shenyang City; Muslim Baked Cake with Yi County, Liaoning Province; shredded bread in mutton and beef soup with Shaanxi Province. Wengzi soup balls , green bean skins and rice noodles in beef soup are all linked with Changde, Hunan Province. +/

Ligaya Mishan wrote in the New York Times: “In Xian, Hui and Han alike eat roujiamo, the Chinese hamburger: meat tucked into flatbread that’s been crisped on the grill until it shows tiger skin on one side — shades of orange and black — and a chrysanthemum whorl on the other. The Han make it with long-braised pork, doused with a spoonful of its own broth, and the Hui with beef or lamb, stewed, then salted and dried. [Source: Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, May 11, 2020] [Source: Ligaya Mishan, New York Times, May 11, 2020]

Hui Tea and Drinking Customs

The Hui people are relatively particular about beverages and the water they drink. 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 the sources of drinking water. The Hui people also like to drink tea and use it to treat their guests. The Hui people living in urban areas like to drink milk tea at breakfast. Gaiwan Tea contains not only with tea, but also many other ingredients such as longan, jujube, sesame, sugar candy, and medlar. Tureen Tea, which is popular among the Hui people in northwest China, is very well-known. The Hui people living in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region also drink the Eight Treasures Tea made of tea leaves, white sugar, Chinese wolfberry, Chinese date, walnut, longan pulp, sesame, raisin, apple slices and more; Pot Tea is a kind of tea that is heated on stove in a pot containing only a little water before drinking it. [Source: Chinatravel.com \=/]

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after prayers
According to Chinatravel.com: “Wherever you are in China, a hospitable Muslim host will always first come up and serve a cup of hot strong tea. The Hui people are very particular about tea services. In many of the Hui families there are various sets of tea services. In the past, the pots used to make and heat tea were usually made of silver or copper, and designed in various styles with very unique and distinguished characteristics. There were copper teapots with long spouts, silver duck teapots, copper fire teapots, and more. Nowadays when making tea, the Hui people usually use porcelain pots, tureens, or porcelain cups with covers; when boiling the tea, they mainly use tin-iron pots, and in the summer purple-sand pottery pots. \=/

“Tureen tea, which is drank in a very unique way by the Hui people living in the northwestern part of China, is believed to date from the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD). It has been handed down from generation to generation and is widely enjoyed by the Hui people. It is made up of the tray, the tureen, and the cover, which are nicknamed Three Cannon Batteries. During the heat of the summer, tureen tea becomes drink of choice among the Hui people While in the cold winter, during the slack farming season, the Hui people usually sit around the morning stove, bake some slices of bread or eat some flour pastries, and enjoy a cup of Tureen Tea. \=/

“The Hui people also take Tureen Tea as the best and perfect beverage to treat guests. It is always served along with flour pastries or dried nuts to guests during all festive activities such as Eid Al-Adha Day, Hari Raya Puasa, and wedding ceremonies. There are various customs for serving tea to a guest. The host will first open the cover of the tureen, put the tea leaves into the tureen, pour the water inside, and last put the cover back on the tureen before offering it to the guest with both hands. If there are several guests coming, the host has to serve the tea to them in a correct order according to the ages, hierarchies and status. The guest with the greatest honor should be the first one to enjoy the tea. \=/

“When drinking Tureen Tea, one can not put away the cover or puff the tea leaves on the surface of the water using his mouth; instead, he should put the tureen and the tray in his left hand, and use the right hand to remove the cover to across the surface of the water. This is done in order to sweep the tea to the edge of the tureen wall to accelerate the pace the sugar crystals will melt. They are also very particular about the ways of skimming the tea with the cover. It is said that after the first time, the tea becomes very sweet and after the second time it becomes much more fragrant. Each time the teat is skimmed, the guest should suck in the tea using his mouth while tilting the cover. He can neither pick up the tureen and swallow the tea in succession, nor gasp while drinking the tea. Instead he should drink slowly and enjoy every mouthful of the tea. In order to be polite and respectful when served a cup a tea, a guest must not stand on ceremony or put aside his cup without a taste.” \=/

Hui Clothing and Headgear

leftHui mostly wear the same clothes as those of the Chinese in their locality. Often the only indication they are Hui is the headwear. Most Hui men wear a white or black hat or turban during prayer sessions. Some, especially those in Gansu and Qinghai provinces, wear such headware every day. Hui women wear a special gaitou (head cover) of partly-sewn a folded cloth that covers their hair, neck, and back, leaving only the face uncovered. These kerchiefs are mainly black. Girls prefer them in green and aged women, white. [Source: C. Le Blanc, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life,” Cengage Learning, 2009]

Hui men in traditional clothing generally wear a white Chinese-style short gown on the upper body, with a black Chinese-style sleeveless jacket. Blue waistcoats are a common fashion among both men and women. Men especially like to put on an extra waistcoat outside their shirts to create a distinct contrast. When winter comes, they often wear a cotton or leather waistcoat to add comfort and warmth. Hui living in cold areas like to wear fur garments and cloaks made from the skins of old sheep. [Source: Chinatravel.com]

Hui women are very particular about their dresses and ornamentation. They usually wear side opening clothes. Young girls and married women like to inlay threads, embedded colors and embroider flowers on their clothes. They also like gold or silver bracelets, earrings and rings. Some of them even like to paint a colored dot on their forehead and dye their fingernails.

Many Hui men wear crocheted skullcaps or turbans and have beards. Some old men like to wear abnormally large glasses.Many Hui men wear or little white or black skullcap called a "Huis hat", "Hao hat" and "worshiping hat". In old days, this hat was worn only when the Hui worshiped, but it is worn as a symbol of Hui identity and part of everyday wear. Hao hats are divided into two types: one is the universal white or black hat with a flat top; the other is the black hat with six corners worn by the followers of Zhehelinye group (in some regions and for some denominations this hat has five or eight corners). The white Hao hats are generally made of cotton cloth and worn in spring and summer; the black hats are mostly made of wool and worn in autumn and winter. When wearing the black hat, some people wear a small white hat as a liner to absorb sweat. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities]

Most Hui women wear the headscarves to cover the head and part of their face. The colors of headscarves are different according to the ages of their wearers: the old women wear white headscarves; the middle-aged and young women wear black ones; and girls wear green headscarves. Some put a white cloth or towel on their head or wear a white round-edged hat with a veil. Normally the young girls wear green veils with golden edges as well as simple and elegant embroidered patterns of flowers and grasses; the married women wear black veils which cover them from the heads until the shoulders; elderly women wear white ones which cover them from their heads to their backs. ~ \=/

Hui Culture: "Hua'r" Singing and Hui Martial Arts


The Hui are different from other Muslim groups in China in that they have few identifying characteristics other than their religion and dress. They speak the same language as the Han Chinese and don’t have any literature or music they can call their own. Hui singers sometimes perform at hua’er folk song competitions and performances. In some Muslim circles, singing and dancing is frowned upon. In others, the Hui sing while dancing. There used to be gatherings of thousands of Huar fans every year in the northwest region. In recent years, the number of such gatherings has increased, other nationalities joining in for large musical and singsong events.

Huis in northwestern China are particularly known for "Hua'r" folk songs. Some say they invented the art form. Also called "youth", "mountain songs" and "rustic songs", they are popular in Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang and other provinces among the Hui as well as other ethnic groups in the region. Huar songs express dreams about the future and romantic feelings. It is said that Huar evolved from Yuan (Mongol) songs. Their melodies have been described as “loud and smooth.” The words of songs are about mountains, grass, woods, history, folk custom, figures and daily life. They are often sung in an impromptu style. The best songs are widely spread and passed on, and became an art form with local characteristics. They are in three performance forms: solo, antiphonal singing (alternate singing by two choirs or singers) and united singing. Traditionally, they were mostly sung among the mountains and fields. Except during weddings, they are not supposed to be sung at home or in villages. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities]

The Hui generally play the same sports as the Chinese. However, the “Wooden Ball" game is unique to the Hui of Ningxia. The ball is round or elliptic. The hockey-stick-like stick is 70 centimeters (2 feet) long. The court has two goals, is about 30 meters long and 20 meters wide. Each team has five players. The game lasts half an hour, divided into two periods. [Source: C. Le Blanc, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life,” Cengage Learning, 2009 ++]

Hui men practice their own form of exercising martial arts, that includes elements of Chinese boxing and knife, sword, stick, spear and hammer fighting. The main martial arts types are: Cha boxing, Eight-ji boxing, Eight-men boxing, Xinyiliuhe boxing, Majia boxing, Hand Protection boxing, Muslim Eight-feng Taiji, White Ape Tongbi Boxing, double sword, big sword, Ali sword, expansion and contraction sword, Koran sword, swallow tail sword, fish tail sword, Hezhou stick, Majia spear, Shajia spear, link hammer, and so on. Some of these martial arts originated from Central Asia and the Middle East; others came from China or have unique Hui distinguishing features. These martial arts serve both as exercise to improve one’s health and teach self-defense.

Huarer Singing Festival

The Huaer Festival lasts for five days and is celebrated between the 4th and 6th lunar months in May, June or July by the Han, Hui, Tu, Sal, Dongxiang and Baoan peoples in the northwest provinces of Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai. A huaer is a kind of folk song that is popular among these people. Most huaer songs are improvisations, sung by one or two people, with long and prolonged sonorous tones which have both a lyrical and a narrative content.

The festival is usually celebrated in a big square decorated with hanging red lanterns and colorful streamers. The festivities open with gongs, drums and fireworks. At night bonfires are built and sometimes the singing and dancing goes until dawn. In some places older singers put ropes around the festival site and people can't enter until after they have sung a song.

In the singing competitions, which are held on a stage, singers are given a subject and they quickly have to compose a song about it. There are individual, duet and team competitions and participants are judged on their singing, their improvisations and their words. Sometime the singing is gentle and soft. Other times it is more forceful.

Hua’er was inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. According to UNESCO: In Gansu and Qinghai Provinces and throughout north-central China, people of nine different ethnic groups share a music tradition known as Hua’er. The music is drawn from an extensive traditional repertoire named after ethnicities, towns or flowers (‘Tu People’s ''ling’,'' ‘White Peony ''ling’''), and lyrics are improvised in keeping with certain rules – for example, verses have three, four, five or six lines, each made up of seven syllables. [Source: UNESCO]

Hui Folklore


Tung Fu Tsiang

C. Le Blanc wrote in the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life:”“Most of the Hui myths are related to Allah. The story of “Human Ancestor Adang" described how Hanwu married Haowa, who had 72 successive childbirths. Each time she gave birth to a boy and a girl. At the seventy-third childbearing, however, only a boy was born. Since he had no woman, he went to heaven and asked for the decree of Allah. He was kept in heaven, while 144 brothers and sisters were carried by a strong wind to all parts of the world. Human beings thus multiplied. [Source: C. Le Blanc, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life,” Cengage Learning, 2009 ++]

“Another myth narrates how the goddess Duor Tea in remote antiquity was banished from Heaven by Allah because she did not fulfill her duty. She was ordered to do philanthropic works to atone for her crime. So she transformed herself into a tea tree, gave a gold axe to a poor man, and ordered him to cut the tea leaves with the axe and use them to treat various illnesses of the villagers. Finally, she returned to Heaven with her axe but not before the Hui had developed the good habit of drinking tea. ++

“The myth of “Adang and Haowa" relates a story similar to that of “Adam and Eve." There are many other myths dealing with the origin of social and religious customs (for instance, “Adang in search of kindling material," “The Dragon Plate," and “Mohammed," are all connected with Hui belief). ++

Hui Houses and Mosques

Some Hui mosques have rounded domes like Middle Eastern mosques. Others look more like pagodas.Ali Osman Ozkan wrote in Fountain magazine, “The close interactions between the Hui people with Chinese culture were reflected in the mosques built in the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and early Qing dynasties because they have a similar architectural style with the Buddhist and Daoist pagodas constructed in the same period. However, the recently built mosques have been following the models of "Afghanistan, Iran, the republics of the former Soviet Central Asia, or the Arab world" architectural styles (Dillon, 1996, p.38). [Source: Ali Osman Ozkan, Fountain magazine, April 2014]

Hui houses are generally built according to the environment of the places where they live. In rural areas in northwestern China, most of them live in one-story houses, cave dwellings and tile-roofed brick houses. Many are built in the "tiger hugging head" style— facing south, having both light and shade. In the southern mountain areas of Ningxia, they like to add a room on the top of one-story houses, called the "higher house", which is used as a worshipping area and a place to escape disturbances of children and other people. Most of the lintels over the gates are pasted with "Du'ayi"—Arabic calligraphy of Koran scriptures. Mountain-and-water paintings and calligraphy and Arabic wall scrolls are often hung in the principal rooms. Because Islam objects to worshiping any idols, the Huis tend to avoid photography and images of people and animals. As they tend to be particular about cleanliness and sanitary conditions, in accordance with the needs of their religious life, each family prepares "jugs", "cages" and other washing and showering items. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities]

Hui Architecture


Linxia Huasi Gongbei

Sun Yuanqing wrote in the China Daily: “Hui-style structures, one of the major schools of Chinese architecture, originated from a historic region in southern Anhui province. The clusters of gray-tiled and white-walled houses have been constantly captured in traditional Chinese ink painting for its simple but elegant style. Hui-style architecture attaches great importance to feng shui or geomancy to reach a balance between house and natural surrounding, so that the residence will have good ventilation and light. "Every village I visited, it was like a dream, a paradise where no two houses were identical," Zhang Jianping, a photographer who has taken more than 400,000 pictures of Hui-style architecture, told the China Daily."It’s also a paradise that turned out to be very vulnerable." "These old houses were built with their natural surrounding and neighborhood in mind. The modern buildings, on the other hand, are rampant in their competition to be taller and bigger on the expenses of public spaces. It also shows the difference between two eras.” [Source: Sun Yuanqing, China Daily, August 2, 2013 |+|]

According to the China Daily: “At the foot of picturesque Huangshan Mountain sprawl clusters of grey-tiled and white-walled houses, forming the most typical scene captured in traditional Chinese landscape paintings. It is Hui-style architecture, one of the major Chinese architectural styles of ancient times, with the exquisite homes, ancestral halls and memorial archways as its most impressive embodiments. Hui architecture developed into a significant school in the Song Dynasty. During the middle period of the Ming Dynasty, gardens and houses constructed with Hui styles developed very quickly along with the prosperity of Hui commerce and the development of its social economy. Hui style soon stepped out from Huizhou and was introduced to big towns along the Yangtze River. [Source: Chinaculture.org, February 11, 2011]

“The technical features and style of Hui architecture are mostly put to use in the construction of houses, ancestral temples, joss houses, archways, and gardens. Hui style houses are typically ones with skylights. With a quadrate skylight surrounded by houses from four sides or from left, right and backside, these Hui style houses can reduce the beat of sunshine and enjoy ventilation. All the houses drain off water to the skylight which means fortune will not run off outside, which is called "four sides water returning to the main hall of the houses" by local natives. Hui style houses mainly reflect the mountainous features, geomantic omen, and the beautiful terrain there. The whole show of Hui style houses, built with black tiles and white walls, surrounded by high walls shaped like horse heads (for fireproofing), and harmonized with refined and elegant colors, brings us a strong sense of beauty. These houses are on decorated with artworks made of brick, wood, and stone. As a traditional architecture school, Hui style embodies elegance, conciseness, and magnificence, and still keeps its special artistic favor to this day.

“Generally speaking, the exterior appearance of Hui-style buildings differs little while their interior can vary a lot based on the wishes of the owners. Home decor is characterized by three types of Hui carving: stone carving, wood carving and brick carving. The average homeowner would expend less effort on decorating the interior rooms than their facades. The windows and gates facing outward would normally require delicate workmanship, and the gatehouse in particular served as an important banner of wealth and social status, so worthy of the most ornate designs.

“To take a look at the Hui architecture, Xidi Village in Yixian County is the best place to go. It is a site of typical Hui residences, and one of the “Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui” that have been collectively listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. With a history of over 950 years, the village came into being in the Huangyou Period (1049-1054) of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and had its salad days in the early part of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Historical records suggest that in its heyday it supported a population exceeding 10,000 people and saw the construction of over 40 public buildings, mostly schools and temples, and more than 1,000 dwellings. Today over 240 well preserved residences from the Ming and Qing dynasties still house some 300 households of more than 1,100 residents. The tourist attractions in the village include Lingyun Pavilion, Cishi Archway (or known as the Memorial Archway of the Governor), Taoli Garden, East Garden and the Hall of Respect. These centuries-old structures have made the village a microcosm of traditional Chinese culture and an open-air museum of Ming- and Qing-style residences.”

Preserving Hui Architecture

Sun Yuanqing wrote in the China Daily: ““The situation of Hui-style architecture roused widespread attention in April, 2013 when kung fu star Jacky Chan told the public about his decision to donate his collection of 10 historic Hui-style houses to a Singaporean university. Zhang says these architectures, after being uprooted from their original location, will lose a great deal of its significance. "Each house has its own life. There is a dialogue between the architecture and its natural surrounding. Without that dialogue, the house is not exactly what it is," he says. [Source: Sun Yuanqing, China Daily, August 2, 2013 |+|]


Great Mosque of Xian pavilion ceiling


“Rapid reconstruction and modernization in rural China in the last few decades had posed a major threat to the preservation of Hui-style architecture. While some houses were torn down and replaced by new concrete buildings, some were dismantled into stone and wooden sculptures and ornaments that were traded by antique dealers at prices as high as hundreds of thousands of yuan."When it comes to ancient architecture, I believe in the Taoist rule of ‘non-action’, and to let the old be the old," Zhang says. |+|

““Zhang has been campaigning for Jinzi shrine, a 517-year-old Hui-style ancestral temple that is going under a restoration, which Zhang believes to be destructive rather than helpful. As with many other previous cases, the casual replacement of old material with new is causing even more damage to the cultural heritage, Zhang says. "The carved bricks were thrown away and tiles were replaced with new ones. This is the worst nightmare in the 517 years of its history," Zhang says. |+|

China Hui Culture Park

China Hui Culture Park (Yongning County, 10 kilometers south of Yinchuan) is a sort of theme park revolving around the Hui ethnic minority. It is described as being the only place in China that displays ethnic Hui culture, religion, and traditions. The display includes Hui folk culture, religion, dances, songs and movies, food, commerce and agriculture.

The Hui culture is an integration of Islamic culture and traditional Chinese culture and originated in the Tang Dynasty (618-906). The construction of the park began in 2001 and opened to the public in 2005. The entire park covers an area of 1000 mu (66.7 hectares). The 300 mu (20 hectares) culture park includes an ethnic Hui museum, a ritual palace, a Hui ethnic customs village, a Hui catering and performance center, a Muslim restaurant, and an arts and craft shopping street that showcases the culture, history, songs and dances as well as traditions and customs of the Hui. The main attraction of the park is a white Islamic style building, which is surrounded by a long and round corridor. The Hui Museum in China has a total area of 7,000 square meters and looks like the Chinese character “Hui". It comprises five halls and has 1,000 relics and books on the Hui people and Islam.

Image Sources: Wiki Commons, Nolls, Mongabey

Text Sources: 1) "Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China", edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K.Hall & Company, 1994); 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~; 3) Ethnic China *\; 4) Chinatravel.com \=/; 5) China.org, the Chinese government news site china.org | New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wikipedia, BBC and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated October 2022


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