Who are the Hui People?

Hui houses in China. Editorial credit: Reimar / Shutterstock.com.
Hui houses in China. Editorial credit: Reimar / Shutterstock.com.

The Hui people are an ethnoreligious group mainly found in East Asia. The group is composed of ethnically Sinitic adherents to Islam and are mainly found throughout China, specifically in the Zhongyuan Region and Northwestern provinces. In China alone, there are approximately 11 million Huis, with the majority being Chinese-speakers who practice Islam. However, some of the Hui people in the country also practice other religions. A considerable number of Hui people are also found in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan where they are called Dungan people. In China, the group is of the officially recognized ethnic groups. The Huis have a distinct culture which developed from practices of Islam. For instance, whereas pork is the common meat in China, this group rejects its consumption.

Ancestry of the Hui People

When the People’s Republic of China was founded, the word “Hui” was used by the government to refer to one of the country’s 10 historical Islamic minorities. However, the term was used in the Song Dynasty to refer to foreign Muslims who moved into China. Later, Chinese-speakers with foreign Muslims ancestry were referred to as “Hui.” The Huis are of different ancestry. The majority are direct descendants of Silk Road travelers and expatriates whose ancestors include the Arabs, the local Han Chinese, and the Central Asians. Past Chinese dynasties such as Song and Tan Dynasties supported immigration, especially Muslims from Central Asia who over time mixed with the Chinese to form the Hui people.


The culture of the Hui people is not only evident in their practices but also in the construction of mosques. The traditional Huis constructed mosques that resembled Chinese temples while the modern mosques resemble Middle Eastern Arab style mosques. One of the stringently observed practice was the ban on the consumption of pork. During worship, the Huis barn incense. Hui marriage ceremony resembles the Chinese ceremony, except for the use of traditional Chinese ritual. They mainly marry among themselves and rarely from other Muslim sects. Intermarriages are also allowed with the condition that one converts to Islam before marrying a Hui. While circumcision is mandatory among Muslims, the rate is much lower among the Hui, owing to their interactions with the non-Muslim Chinese.


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