This article compares a traditional and socio-ethnic understanding to the Chinese Muslim ethnicity, and also describes modern experiences that the Muslim ethnicities are experiencing as they expose to the modernization of China. Furthermore, this article reviews the missiological implication to Chinese Muslims that those changes bring. Surprisingly, China has a long history with Islam, not too different from the Middle East. China’s first encounter with Islam is considered to be in AD 616/17 when S‘ad ibn Abī Waqqās (594674), Ja’far ibn Abi Talib, and Jahsh entered through the Chinese southeast coast and spread Islam in the area. Over 1400 years, Muslims have migrated, been absorbed, or developed through various routes in China, through many dynasties such as the Tang, Ming, and Ching. In 2009, the population of Muslims in China is approximately 21.6 million, which accounts for 1.6% of the mainland China. Within China’s fifty-six official ethnicities, Chinese Muslims take part in ten. These people have preserved their identities by practicing traditional Islam and preserving unique identities. However, ever since after the Ching Dynasty, Mao’s communism, and Deng Xiao Ping’s open door policy, China and its people have been encountering dramatic changes; the ethnic Muslims are no exception. Such change in culture and self-identity prompt people to questioning who they truly are, and what are their identities. In order to understand this continually changing and unchanged identities that those Chinese Muslims are having, this paper begins with the following questions. What defines ethnicity? How do we clearly identify ethnicity when modern Chinese Muslims encounter such change? What influences do social networks and information channels have on Chinese Muslim identity shifts? What aspects must we observe to discover their current addresses? And finally, what kind of missiological implications that we can have that those newly understood ethnic identities brings to us. This article will mainly introduce one of China’s ten Muslim ethnicities, the Hui, whom I, the author, had personally worked and interrelated for sixteen years. In order to establish the concept of ethnicity and ethnic minority in China, this article will introduce how the concepts of ethnicity in China has been developed. Also, to introduce what is more effective way to understand ethnic minority for mission, this article will compare the ethnological concepts between ethnic group and ethnicity.
For such motives, this research will employ an urban anthropological approach. The main scholars that lay the foundation of approach are Edwin Eames and Judith Goode, Claude S. Fischer, John Gulick, Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan, and William Flanagan.