Department or Program

East Asian Studies

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

C. Pat Giersch

Additional Advisor(s)

Y. Tak Matsusaka


Today, China prides itself as a nation of fifty-six officially-recognized ethnic groups, including ten predominantly-Muslim ethnicities. Of the ten, the most populous are the Huizu or Sino-Muslims. Yet Huizu did not always exist as an ethnic category. As China transitioned from empire to modern nation-state in the twentieth century, new forms of identity emerged. Sino-Muslim intellectuals held different views about whether all Muslims in China comprised one nationality or were ethnically different while sharing one common religion. This internal debate provides the key to understanding how the terms “Hui” and “Huizu” underwent the curious transformation from a religious to an ethnic marker. Reevaluating Hui agency, my research examines the strategies used by Sino-Muslims to construct their collective identity and how these active efforts, in addition to state actions, contributed to the eventual recognition of an autonomous Hui nationality.