Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab.

book about chinese muslims.png


Author of the book: Kristian Petersen, PhD | Religious Studies | University of Nebraska

Publisher of the book: Oxford University Press

Interpreting Islam in China explores the contours of the Sino-Islamic intellectual tradition through the works of some of its brightest luminaries in order to identify and explicate pivotal transitions in their engagement with the Islamic tradition. Three prominent Sino-Muslim authors are representative of major junctures within the history of Sino-Islamic thought and are used to illustrate discursive transformations within this tradition, Wang Daiyu 王岱輿 (1590-1658), the earliest important author; Liu Zhi 劉智 (1670-1724), the most prolific scholar; and Ma Dexin 馬德新 (1794-1874), the last major intellectual in pre-modern China. Through an analysis of the subjects of pilgrimage, scripture, and language this project fosters an exploration of broader issues of vernacularization, dialogics, translation, centers and peripheries, and tradition in their writings.

The Han Kitab (simplified Chinese: 汉克塔布; traditional Chinese: 漢克塔布; pinyin: Hàn kètǎbù; Arabic: هان کتاب‎‎) was a collection of Chinese Islamic texts, written by Chinese Muslims, which synthesized Islam and Confucianism. It was written in the early 18th century during the Qing dynasty. Its name is similarly synthesised: ‘Han’ is the Chinese word for Chinese, and ‘kitab’ means book in Arabic.[1] Liu Zhi wrote his Han Kitab in Nanjing in the early 18th century. The works of Wu Sunqie, Zhang Zhong, and Wang Daiyu were also included in the Han Kitab.[2]

The Han Kitab was widely read and approved of by later Chinese Muslims such as Ma Qixi, Ma Fuxiang, and Hu Songshan. They believed that Islam could be understood through Confucianism.

The book Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab is now available for order or preview.

Read further

 Reviews of the book

“Kristian Petersen contributes substantially to the intellectual and religious history of Islam in China by analyzing the Han Kitab through the lens of Religious Studies.  Focused on themes of pilgrimage, scriptural translation, and the significance of the Arabic language, he skillfully attends to both the ideas and the contexts of three central Sino-Muslim thinkers.  All three tried to reconnect their communities to what they perceived as a lost religious heritage, originally written in Arabic and Persian but lived and comprehended in Chinese.  Petersen reconstructs an intellectual middle ground, a series of ‘dialogic environments,’ in which Islam made authentic and authoritative sense within Chinese culture at particular historical moments.  Theoretically broad and contextually specific, he demonstrates that Chinese and Islamic civilizations have conversed, not simply clashed.”—Jonathan Lipman, Professor Emeritus of History, Mount Holyoke College, author of Familiar Strangers: A History of Muslims in Northwest China

“Through close readings, by turns contextual and deconstructive, of the writings of three leading Sino-Muslim scholars, Kristian Petersen unravels the translations and transfers that molded an Islam both in and for China. His case studies of the changing status of pilgrimage, scripture and sacred language among Han Kitab authors at once broadens the scope of Islamic Studies and deepens our understanding of world history by pursuing the intellectual traffic of inter-Asian interactions.”—Nile Green, author of Sufism: A Global History

“With painstaking erudition and great care, Kristian Petersen uncovers and reconstructs many hitherto unknown bridges between Chinese Islam and the wider Islamic world. Interpreting Islam in China forges new ways of understanding and appreciating the Han Kitab, Chinese Islam’s enormous corpus, and introduces for the first time its last great author, Ma Dexin. A beautiful study of one of the remote corners of the Islamic world of thinking.”—Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, author of The Dao of Muhammad: A Cultural History of Muslims in Late Imperial China

The Muslim Times’ Chief Editor’s comments

A 2009 study done by the Pew Research Center, based on China’s census, concluded there are 21,667,000 Muslims in China, accounting for 1.6% of the total population. According to the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), there are more than 21 million Muslims in the country.

They are the liaison between the billion Chinese and the 1.6  billion Muslims of the world. Let us understand each other; the place to meet is the Muslim Times. See our About us page in the top menu.

Let us be frank, Islam and the Muslims have nothing to contribute, at least for the foreseeable future, to the economic and political success of China, while majority of the so called Muslim countries are in doldrums. Muslims will do well, if they begin to think, preach and practice secularism, in every country of the world, like we do in the Muslim Times, they will be able to focus on personal and spiritual dimension of religion and the world will greet them with open arms, like the West has opened to a watered down version of Buddhism.

The above four books should be a good starting point for anyone who wants to specialize in China and Islam or Chinese Muslims.

Suggested Reading

Collection of Ideas to Overcome Sectarian Divide Among the Muslims

Who Speaks for the Flesh and Blood 1.6 Billion Breathing Muslim Souls?


The great wall of China

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.