In order to explain how China came into the twentieth century in nearly full possession of its imperial territories, this research will examine the collection of Muslim communities in western China, which align with the border of the Chinese cultural area and Turkestan, Tibet, Mongolia, and Southeast Asia. I propose a reading of history in which a Muslim frontier corridor, formed in western China during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), allowed the gradual unification of imperial territories during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911) through its three major constituents: Muslim middleman merchants, Muslim frontier soldiers, and itinerant Islamic scholars. My hypothesis looks at local actors rather than the central state to explain how such a consolidation was gradually facilitated. I have formed this hypothesis on the basis of two months of archival research in western China with the support of an SSRC Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (summer 2012), and I propose twelve months of dissertation archival research and fieldwork in western China over the 2013-2014 academic year. I have secured a yearlong affiliation with Ningxia University, China's premier institution for the study of Chinese Muslims (the Hui), which will allow me access to relevant archives both inside and outside of Ningxia, the Chinese Muslim Autonomous Region. Beyond addressing a critical question relevant to both China's past and present, my project looks and speaks to studies of Muslim minority peoples, circulation and internal migration, middleman minorities, geo-spatial analysis, and non-state actors as agents of historical change, with implications for both global history and contemporary Asia.