Muslim Hui People Of China, Xian 2014- Dali 2015
The Hui people composed of Chinese-speaking adherents of Islam
distributed throughout China, mainly in the northwestern provinces of
the country and the Zhongyuan region. According to the 2011 census,
China is home to approximately 10.5 million Hui people, the majority of
whom are Chinese-speaking practitioners of Islam.
Their culture has distinct differences that developed from the practice of Islam. For example, as Muslims, they follow Islamic dietary laws and reject the consumption of pork, the most common meat consumed in China, and have given rise to their own variation of Chinese cuisine. Traditional Hui clothing differs from that of the Han Chinese primarily in that some men wear white caps (taqiyah) and some women wear headscarves, as is the case in many Islamic cultures. However, since the industrialization and modernization of China, most young Hui people wear the same clothes as mainstream fashion trends.
The Hui people are one of 56 ethnic groups recognized by China. The Hui predominantly speak Chinese, while maintaining some Arabic and Persian phrases. In fact, the Hui ethnic group is unique among Chinese ethnic minorities in that it associates with no non-Sinitic language. (Sinitic is the name given to all of the languages spoken by the Han people living in China.) The Hui people are more concentrated in Northwestern China, but communities exist across the country, e.g. Manchuria, Beijing, Xi'an, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Hainan, and Yunnan. (Source:wikipedia.org)
During my 2 separate trips to China, I had contact with the Hui people in 2 different regions. The first is Xian, the capital of Shaanxi region, and the other is Dali city in Yunnan province. I also photographed Muslim villages during the Tea road trip from Dali to Donglian Hua village in the south.
Xian's Muslim population is numbered at about 150 000 and they pray in 17 mosques throughout the city. I visited two mosques, dated at around 1300 years old. They were built during the Tang dynasty. The emperor's edicts have been immortalized in stone at the mosque's courtyard. The 1272-year-old Grand Mosque is an example of traditional Chinese architecture. Surah from the Quran was burned into its wooden walls. Chinese translations of the same phrases were included using the same technique. The whole procedure apparently took 17 years to complete. Today the mosques are a part of the city's culture. In 2014 my Xian trip was during the holy month of Muslims, Ramadan This also gave me the opportunity to photograph a traditional event in Ulucami. I photographed an iftar meal prepared there and eaten with the congregation. I watched and photographed the lives of the people during my trips in the region at different times.
Dali City, formerly known as Tali, is the
county-level seat of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern
Yunnan, its former name Xiaguan. South of Dali, on the way to Dong Lian
Hua, the bus passes by a few Muslim villages. These villages were
founded by Muslim soldiers from Central Asia sent to Yunnan by the first
emperor of China's Mongol dynasty of the Yuan(1271-1368). During the
Ming and Qing dynasties, they became involved in the trade as caravan
leaders on the Tea and Horse Road. The courtyards and mansions of the
village of Donglianhua show how successful these Chinese Muslim traders
In 2015 before coming to Shangri La, I knew a little about the old tea road in the area. The tea road is an old trade route starting from Myanmar and Laos in the south and extending to Tibet in the north. It is located in the northern part of Shangri La Tea Road. This time I wanted to travel south. My aim was to go to the Muslim village of Dong Lian Hua, which is also south of Dali and has an important place in the tea trade. First I went to Dali by bus and traveled for a few days. Dali City, formerly known as Tali, is the county-level seat of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern Yunnan, its former name Xiaguan. I became friends with the imam during my Eid al-Adha photography works at the Xiaguan Mosque in Dali. When I told Imam about my travel idea, he said he wanted to take me with his car to Dong Lian Hua. We reached Dong Lian Hua by visiting Muslim villages together. These villages were founded by Muslim soldiers from Central Asia sent to Yunnan by the first emperor of China's Mongol dynasty of the Yuan(1271-1368). During the Ming and Qing dynasties, they became involved in the trade as caravan leaders on the Tea and Horse Road. The courtyards and mansions of the village of Donglianhua show how successful these Chinese Muslim traders were. There was a museum established in the village in memory of the tea road