Blog #4:   Maris Boyd Gillette, Between Mecca and Beijing: Modernization and Consumption among Urban Chinese Muslims

The three chapters from this book were truly amazing. Reading this ethnographic account really gave a taste of daily lives of the people we have been so closely examining. The first chapter was regarding housing and, education. Here, Gillette discussed how celebrating religious holidays indicated that you were still backwards, or how the Hui were only thought of as entities to be taxed and punished for breaking laws. The most ironic point for me was regarding housing. There, you could not own the land that your residence was built on however it would be labeled as “private” regardless for which the government would not provide running water.  It was nice to see that the community had formed a close bond and sense of togetherness. I’m not so sure that this same bond would be formed with the “new” district.

The second chapter was about the Hui education system. This section made a very interesting point that the Hui felt that in order to modernize, they must go back to practicing Islam the way it is practiced in the Middle East. This of course clashes completely with how the Han define modernization, which makes it rather comical.

Finally, the third chapter dealt with Food. Consumption is one of the more obvious ways of distinguishing between the Hui and the Han. For the Hui, the term Qingzhen which is the title of my site, the equivalent to “Halal” has come to hold a much deeper meaning. It is more than just the food they eat but a life style. It literally means “the pure and true”, and has really allowed the Hui to set themselves apart from the Han by living that notion. As they believe that you are what you eat, the Hui do not eat pork whereas the Han have it as an important part of their diet. This is why the term “pig” has become a common vulgarity used for the Han.