Menhuan (simplified Chinese: 门宦; traditional Chinese: 門宦; pinyin: Ménhuàn) is a term used by Chinese-speaking Muslims for a Chinese-style Sufi order. The leaders of a menhuan over the ages form a chain of spiritual succession, known in Arabic as silsilah, which goes back to the order's founder in China (e.g., Ma Laichi or Ma Mingxin), and beyond, toward his teachers in Arabia.[1]

Origin of the termEdit

The term menhuan itself is of comparatively recent origin: according to Ma Tong (1983), it was first attested in an essay by the Hezhou Prefecture Magistrate Yang Zengxin dated 1897.[1] It has been suggested by Chinese researchers that it has developed from menfa (门阀), meaning "powerful and influential family", or menhu (门户), which has been used in the Northwestern China to mean "gateway" or "faction".[1]


In most menhuan orders, only a descendent of the founder is allowed to succeed as leader. Menhuan leaders typically had authority and control over property and appointments to positions within the order.[2]

Among those that are part of a menhuan, specific rules and rituals play a large role in their religious devotion. As is found in other Muslim communities, menhuan followers have a high regard for the Quran and Hadiths along with commonly practicing the Five Pillars of Islam. However, other duties expected from menhuan followers include reverence for the founder of the order, faithfully obeying their menhuan leader and believing that past and present masters will help guide them to heaven.[2]

Constructing Gongbeis where the performances of homage to their order and leader can take place are important in Menhuan groups. Quran recitations, dhikr chants and meditations are commonplace among Chinese Sufis[2]


  1. ^ a b c Michael Dillon (1999). China's Muslim Hui community: migration, settlement and sects. Routledge. pp. 113–114. ISBN 0-7007-1026-4. One of Dillon's main sources is: 馬通 ( Ma Tong) (1983). 中国伊斯兰教派与门宦制度史略 (Zhongguo Yisilan jiaopai yu menhuan zhidu shilue) (A sketch of the history of Chinese Islamic sects and the menhuan system). Yinchuan: 宁夏人民出版社 (Ningxia Renmin Chubanshe).
  2. ^ a b c Jingjun, Shui (2005). "Islamic Menhuan". Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture. Routledge. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-415-77716-2.