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The Customs of the Hui Minority
article selected from
Travel China
weekly

The Hui are one of the largest among China's ethnic minorities, mainly living in Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang. In addition, the Hui Moslems can be found in most of China's counties and cities.

According to historical records, during the 7th century Persian and Arabian merchants came to China. They settled, intermarried with the local people, built mosques and formed a new ethnic--the Hui.

The Hui are pious Muslims. Their doctrine and prayers are the same as Muslims in Arabic countries, and they observe the same holidays, such as Corban and the Lesser Bairam.

The clothes of the Hui are also influenced by their religion: Men wear white caps and women veils.

Women's veils differ from place to place. Besides covering the hair, some veils cover the mouth and nose, only exposing a pair of eyes; some expose the eyes and noses; but most only cover the hair and neck. The color of the veil reflects the owners' status: unmarried young women wear pink or other veils; middle-aged women wear black ones, and those over 60 wear white veils.

Men, except for clerks and elders who wear yellow or white silk caps, mostly wear white brimless cloth caps.

The Hui eat mutton and beef. A whole roast sheep and hotpot are their favorite dishes. Most Hui restaurants are painted blue, to stress their Muslim characters.

In the areas where the Hui live a typical site is the mosque. Every mosque has a minaret. After Islam was introduced into China, mosques absorbed traditional Chinese architectural style, forming a three-in-one palace consisting of lobby, prayer hall and bathhouse. Some have retained Arabic domes, with a crescent moon on the top of the roof.

The Hui pay great attention to personal sanitation. They pray five times a day and each time they wash themselves before praying. Ablution can be "major" or "minor." The former means washing the whole body, and the latter means washing the face, feet and hands, to get rid of sins and repent before Allah. They use a specially made aluminum kettle for washing. When you see such a kettle in a Hui residential area, in front of a hotel, in the courtyard of residents, or in bathhouse, you will know what it is used for.

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