During the first two hundred years of the Ming Dynasty (around the late 14th century to the early 16th century), the coverage of Islam further expanded in China. New compact communities with mosques as center emerged one after another. The Muslims in the inland moved to medium and small cities, towns and countryside in various ways, and led to the birth of comparatively stable compact communities of Muslims in places, even in some remote areas, where there were no such communities before, such as Jining, Linqing, Dezhou, Botou and Cangzhou which are located on the northern bank of the Canal from Beijing to Hangzhou, Changping, Tianjin, Qian'an. Yixian, and Baoding around Beijing, and Lingzhou, Tongxin and Guyuan in Ningxia. Also in this case were Guizhou Province and Tibet. And Weishan, Baoshan, Tengchong, Songming, Zhanyi, Qujing, Yuxi, Mengzi and Sniping in Yunnan Province were also places where Muslims moved in only since the early Ming Dynasty.
In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), the Muslim population grew fastest in Nanjing, capital of the Ming Dynasty.Nanjing was called JiarAang Lu in the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368
A.D.), having jurisdiction over Lushi Si (now southern part of Nanjing) and five counties Jiangning, Shangyuan, Jurong, Lishui and Liyang. By the 27th year of the Yuan Dynasty (1290 A.D.).there were 163 households of Se Mu (one of the four classes into which China's population was divided in the Yuan Dynasty) in Lushi Si, Jiangning and Shangyuan. The Hui Huis were only a part of Se Mu people at that time, whose population did not even reach one thousand atlthough it accounted for one third of the Se Mu population.
In the early Ming period however, the population of the Hui Huis increased greatly. By the 2nd year ofWanIi (1592 A.D.), the total number of households in Jiangning, a county of Nanjing, was 3239, among which 9230 persons were Hui Huis. By the period ofHongwu, the Hui Hui population in Jiangning grew to 100,000, ten times as many as that in the period ofWanli. If other counties of Nanjing were taken into account, the total population of the Hui Huis in Nanjing was quite large. The main reason why the Hui Hui population increased at such a sharp speed in Nanjing was that a large number of the Hui Huis moved in from other places in various ways.
Firstly, many Hui Hui generals and soldiers who had joined the Ming army and those of the Yuan army who surrendered to the Ming moved to Nanjing. In the last years of the Yuan Dynasty, many Hui Huis participated in the wars to overthrow the Yuan Dynasty, and some of them were promoted to very high positions for their merit. When the Ming Dynasty was founded, many Hui Huis such as Chang Yuchun, Mu Ying, Lan Yu, Feng Sheng. Hu Dahai, Tang He, Deng Yu, were ranked among princes and marquises. The surrendered Muslim generals of the Yuan army also settled down in Nanjing, about which we can find evidence in the stele inscription titled "Building the Jing Jue Mosque and the Li Bai Mosque by Imperial Order in the South ofYing Tian (Nanjing was called Ying Tian in the Ming Dynasty)" written by Wang Ao in the 5th year of Hong Zhi, which says that Zhu Yuanzhang (Ming's first emperor) had the Jing Jue Mosque built in the 21st year of Hong Wu (reign title of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang) to arrange the surrendered Muslim generals and facilitate their religious life. However, they were permitted to practise Islam and perform prayers only, not to participate in politics.
The Jing Jue Mosque is the only ancient mosque still in existence in Nanjing today. As it was located in the San Shan Jie Street, it was called the San Shan Jie Mosque at first. In accordance with historic documents the Jing Jue Mosque was built in the Ming Dynasty, and covered an area of 67 hectares with its southern edge at Lin Guan Jie, western edge at Ma Xiang, eastern edge at San Shan Jie and northern edge at Sha Zhu Xians. In later years, it was repeatedly damaged and reduced in area after renovations. According to legend the name of the Jing Jue Mosque is connected to Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of the Ming Dynasty (on the throne 1368-1398 A.D.). Legend has it that among the Hui Huis in Nanjing: Chang Yuchun, Hu Dahai and other Muslims generals often went to the San Shan Jie Mosque for prayer. One day, Zhu Yuanzhang went to the Mosque to look for them for an important matter. Seeing them performing prayer in the hall, he stepped in without thinking. According to Islamic Law, no one could enter prayer hall with shoes, so the mosque server standing aside asked him to take off his shoes, and Zhu Yuanzhang took his foot back. After that, the Mosque was renamed Jing Jue when he ordered to rebuilt it. ('Jing Jue' literally means clean and conscious, its pronunciation is similar to 'Jin Jiao' (pronounced as Jin Jue in the Nanjing dialect) which means to step foot inside)
Secondly, Hui Hui craftsmen, traders, warriors and various professionals moved to Nanjing.During the early period of the Ming Dynasty, Nanjing was the political, economic, commercial and cultural center of the country. A large number of Hui Hui craftsmen and traders moved here. It is written in the preface of the family tree of Mr. Liang, a bone doctor living in Nanjing now, that his earliest ancestor, an expert at resetting broken bones, moved from Hulongdi in the Western Region to Biandu in the period of Xi Ning (1068-1077 A.D.) of the Song Dynasty, and the emperor of Song bestowed upon him the family name of 'Liang'. In the period of Hong Wu (1368-1398 A.D.) of the Ming Dynasty, his descendents moved to Nanjing from Biandu. There were a tremendous number of professionals among the Hui Huis in the Yuan Dynasty, and the Liangs were just one of them. Besides craftsmen, many of those coming to Nanjing were traders, especially jewelers. As the capital city where the nobility lived and the site of the country's biggest jewelry market, Nanjing attracted a lot of Hui Hui jewelers. Even in modem times Nanjing's jewelry market was still monopolized by the Hui Huis. According to the records of the family trees of the Zhengs, Wus and Mas in Nanjing, their ancestors Zheng He, Wu Ru and Ma Shayihei all moved to Nanjing from other places in the early period of the Ming Dynasty. Of course, among the Hui Huis who moved to Nanjing in this period only few could leave their names in historic records, while many more lack records today.
Zheng He (1371-1435 A.D.), whose original name was Ma Sanbao, was a famous Muslim sailor and diplomat in the Ming Dynasty. He was born to an eminent aristocratic family that had been Muslims for generations. His grandfather Char Midina was made Marquis of Dianyang in the Yuan Dynasty, and his father Milijin succeeded him as Marquis of Dianyang later. As his father and grandfather had performed Hajj to Mecca, they were respectfully called Hajji Ma. In the 14th year of Hong Wu, when Ming troops commanded by Lan Yu and Mu Ying attacked Yunnan, then under the rule of Yuan aristocrats, Zheng He was captured and sent to Nanjing. Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang gave him to Zhu Di, prince ofYan, as a eunuch. In the Battle ofJingnan, a battle between Zhu Di and Zhu Yun for the throne, Zheng He rendered extraordinary service with his wisdom and tactics. Zhu Di appreciated tills very much and decreed an important position upon him. In the 2nd year ofYong Le (1404 A.D.), Zhu Di, who had taken over the throne, bestowed him Zheng as his family name and called him Zheng He. Later, he was promoted to be the garrison command of Nanjing.
To show the power and influence of the Ming Dynasty and attract foreign tributes, emperor Zhu Di (1402-1424 A.D. on the throne) decided to dispatch a large fleet on a diplomatic mission to the countries in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In the 3rd year ofYong Le (1405 A.D., Yong Le is the reign title of Emperor Zhu Di), the first sailing was launched with Zheng He as ambassador and Wang Jinghong as vice ambassador. By the 8th year ofXuan De (1433 A.D.), within a period of 28 years, Zheng He had made seven sailings to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, leading then the largest fleet in the world, with 27,000 people aboard, including soldiers, sailors, workmen, translators and doctors. According to "History ofMing", the largest ship of his fleet was 44.4 zhangs (about 148 meters) long, 18 zhangs (about 60 meters) wide, with 9 masts and 12 sails. The ships were fully loaded with precious goods and famous products from China such as gold, silver, silk, porcelain, iron wares, cloth, tea, jade carvings and bronze coins of the Ming. They traded with local people wherever they went. Covering a total distance of over 70,000 kilometers, Zheng He visited more than 30 countries in Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, Red Sea and the east coast of Africa. Among the countries and places he visited, Islamic countries included: Java, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, India, Iran, Yemen, Oman, Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Egypt. Translators aboard such as Ma Huan, Guo Chongli, Fei Xin, Ha San and Sha Ban were Muslim. In the 8th year of Xuan De (1433 A.D.), when Zheng He made his seventh sailing as far as Jeddah on the east shore of the Red Sea, he sent 7 people including the translators who believed in Islam, to Mecca for pilgrimage, and had them draw a picture of Ka'bah and took it to Nanjing. Zheng He also drew up navigation maps of his voyages, marking in detail the courses they sailed through, the geographical situations of the coasts and the ports of the countries they sailed by, and the submerged reefs, shallows, islands, mountains and coastal terrains. It is the first world map of marine geography in China. Ma Huan, Fei Xin and Gong Zhen who sailed with Zheng He detailed what they had seen and heard during their voyages in the books "Ying Ya Sheng Lan" (beautiful scenery in the far oceans), "Xing Cha Sheng Lan" (beautiful scenery seen in sailing) and "Xi Yang Fan Guo Zhi" (countries in the Pacific and Indian Occeans) respectively. They recorded the mountains, rivers, climates, products, social structures,politics, religions and traditions of various countries and places in Asia and Africa they had been to. These books are of very important documentary value to us today.
Zheng He's seven sailings opened a sea-route to east Africa across the Indian Ocean, promoted economic and cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries, and enhanced the friendly contacts between the people of China and Asian and African countries. After Zheng He's diplomatic sailings, more than 30 Asian and African countries dispatched envoys
China, among whom there were 10 kings. For example, in 1417 A.D. King of Sulu (now Philippines), who was a Muslim, came to visit China and died in China afterwards and was buried in Dezhou, Shandong Province. In Southeast Asia there still exist some relics left by Zheng He. The tomb containing his personal effects is located at the south foot ofNiushou Mount in Jiangning district, Nanjing. People call it Ma Hui Hui Mu (tomb of Hui Hui Ma) because Zheng He's original family name was Ma, and his father whose name was Ma Hama was called Hajj Ma. The mount where his tomb is located is called Hui Hui Mount.
To sum it up, the Hui Huis experienced a process of large- scale gathering to Nanjing in the early Ming Dynasty, but it was very short and followed by a big dispersion soon after. Some of the Hui Huis went along with the conquering army to the west, some moved to Beijing along with Emperor Yong Le, and others still moved as the capital city was moved from Nanjing to Beijing. Some of the Hui Huis living in Gansu, Qinghai, Guangxi, Yunnan and Hunan now say that their ancestors originally lived in Nanjing, and moved to these places for the above reasons during the Ming Dynasty.
The big gathering to Nanjing and big dispersion that the Hui Huis experienced in the early Ming Dynasty is of great importance for the wide spread of Islam, especially to places where Islam had never touched during the Yuan Dynasty. The Muslims population in Nanjing increased as a result, and became the city where Muslims lived most intensively on the southeast coast of China.