From 651 to the end of the southern Song Dynasty, more than 600 years, was the early spread period of Islam in mainland China. This time was the thriving period of the Tang Dynasty
and the Arab Empire. The east-west overland "Silk Road
" and the marine "Spice Road" made the two countries maintain a frequently friendly exchanges.
According to "Book of Tang" , since the year from 651 to 798, the amount of Arab envoy who traveled to Tang reached 39 times. The Arab and Persian Muslim businessmen who traveled to China is in an endless stream. Most of them were concentrated in the southeast coast of China Guangzhou
, Quanzhou, Yangzhou
and deep mainland Chang'an (today's Xi'an
and so on. They engaged in selling spices, ivory, jewelry, medicines, rhinoceros horn, etc...and taking back China's silk, tea, porcelain and other commodities.
The Muslim businessmen from the Arab Empire lived or settled in China, introducing Islam into China. Chinese authorities appointed a hoariness Muslim as a manager to take charge of the religious activities like religious service, process Muslim civil litigation, and attract foreign trade in China. They also established the mosque and Muslim public cemetery; hence, the influence of Islam expanded. Today's Guangzhou Huaisheng Mosque, Yangzhou Xianhe Mosque, Hangzhou Zhenjiao Mosque were ancient Islam mosques built in this period. At this time, the Islam in China still confined to embraced by the Arab and Persian merchants; the member of China's ethnic-Han majority were quite strange to this.
The Muslim who came to China in the Tang and Song dynasties kept their religious belief and way of life. They married with the local people, live and work in peace and contentment and reproduce children and grandchildren. They became local foreigner merchants and China's Muslim ancestors. Foreign Muslim engaged in proper business activities, not to teach a stranger missionary, to avoid the conflict with Chinese traditional thought. The Song Dynasty followed this policy; hence, Islam was deeply rooted in Chinese land.
The number of Muslim in China was not too much during the Tang and Song dynasties, but most of businessmen were engaged in the trade activities between the coastal trading ports and Changan, Kaifeng, Beijing and some other big cities. They and their descendants lived on friendly terms with the Chinese people and learnt Chinese traditional culture. They are friendly messenger of the exchange between the Arab Islamic culture and Chinese culture.