Immigration of Muslems to China
Islam as a religious order was founded in the early part of the 7th century A.D. and was introduced to China in the mid-600s. At that time, Arabian merchants and travelers came to the northwest of China by way of Persia and Afghanistan, to establish diplomatic, trade, and military contacts with China. At the same time, another route saw a group of sea voyagers find their way through Bangladesh Bay and the Malacca Strait to Guangzhou, Quanzhou, Hangzhou, Yangzhou and other Chinese cities, where many of them settled and married local women who gave birth to babies that became the first generation of Chinese Muslems.
However, massive immigration of Muslems to China did not take place until, as late as, the early period of the 13th century. As a result of his expedition against the west, Genghis Khan had conquered vast expanses of land stretching from Central Asia to Eastern Europe, including the north part of Iran. Many of the Moslems in these conquered areas were thus forced to enlist and were later settled in China.
Among the enlisted, many were soldiers; some were smiths and officials. They were called the Hui people in the history books of the Yuan Dynasty. The Hui people later followed Kublai Khan down to the south, helping him unify China and establishing the Yuan Dynasty. In the wake of this conquest, Islam spread all over China and mosques began to appear everywhere. In the Yuan Dynasty, many Moslems held positions both in the military and civilian organs of the country. A lot of Moslems took part in the Zhu Yuanzhang's uprising in the early 14th century and made great contributions to the founding of the Ming Dynasty. Therefore, all the emperors of this dynasty issued mandates to protect Islam, and to set up mosques in praise of the Moslems for their great contributions. In the early 16th century, Islam dominated Xinjiang and spread its influence to Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai. It controlled the minority nationalities, including the Huis, the Uygurs, the Kazaks, the Kirgizes, the Tajiks, the Tartars, the Ozbeks, the Dong Xiangs, the Salars and the Bonans. The Moslem in Xi'an are mainly the Huis, being a small portion out of the 17 million in China.