This introduction presents essential issues related to the social history of the Chinese Muslims since the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). It examines the development of Sufi orders in northern China and discusses distinct social and religious features of Muslim Chinese communities. These include the significance of genealogies in the formation of Hui lineages, whether family genealogies compiled in local literati style, linking the communities to historical Muslim figures, or those charting the line of succession of Islamic education masters or Sufi shaykhs. Islamic education has played a core role in constructing Muslim Chinese common identity. This chapter highlights the distinct form of religious education based on mosques, known as “scripture-hall education” (Ch. jingtang jiaoyu) that has developed among many communities throughout China during the Ming and Qing. It examines these distinct cultural features and their interactions with state institutions in the Ming and the Qing dynasties, especially the lijia household registration system and the tusi hereditary chieftains in the northwest frontier. The remainder of the introduction overviews the themes of the succeeding chapters. It concludes that the diversity and unity of the genealogies of Chinese Hui should be understood as a historical dynamic between local communities, religious leaders and state institutions.