The Journal of Asian Studies

Research Article

A Muslim Vision for the Chinese Nation: Chinese Pilgrimage Missions to Mecca during World War II

Yufeng Mao


In the late 1930s, three groups of Sino-Muslims went on hajj trips to Mecca. Two of them represented the Republic of China, while one represented the puppet government in Japanese-occupied North China. Reflecting the political importance of the Muslim population in the Sino-Japanese struggle, each group engaged in propaganda efforts for its government. However the Sino-Muslims who participated in these missions were not merely the passive pawns of Chinese authorities. Rather, archival material and published sources in Chinese and Arabic show that Sino-Muslims actively used these missions to advance a vision of the Chinese nation in which Muslims would play an important role in domestic and foreign affairs. This vision was based on a particular understanding of global politics which allowed Sino-Muslim elites to reconcile the transnational characteristic of Islam with loyalty to the territorially bound “Chinese nation.”

(Online publication June 24 2011)

Yufeng Mao ( is Visiting Assistant Professor at Fordham University.

1 The term Sino-Muslims here refers to Chinese-speaking Muslims living in China proper who after the 1950s came to be known as the Huizu, or Hui nationality, in mainland China. During the Republican period (1911–1949), the term hui was not used exclusively to describe an ethnic identity. All Muslims in China and in the world were referred to as hui, huihui, huimin, huijiao ren, or huizu. To avoid confusion, in this article I follow Jonathan Lipman, author of Familiar Strangers: A History of Muslims in Northwest China Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press 1997, in using Sino-Muslims and not Hui to refer to Chinese-speaking Muslims.