Blog # 5:  Justin Rudelson and William Jankowiak, “Acculturation and Resistance: Xinjiang Identities in Flux”

Again, another very interesting piece. Here Jankowaik and Rudelson discuss how China wants to weaken the Uyghur by implementing policies that weaken and divide the people and cause them to act in three different ways: through acculturation which the most favored, nonviolence, and finally, violent resistance. Fluxes in Chinese policies from hard to soft are radical and dramatic and very confusing for the people. These hard and soft policies are contradictory as they implement ethnic tolerance and intolerance at the same time. It reminds me a bit of the “Good cop/Bad cop” theory! The soft are used to win them over, and then the hard are to clamp down on their independence. An example of this is the promotion of mosques and then their shutting down. It seems as though they are constantly testing the people, like lab mice! The State is also promoting “cultural diversity” only used really to discourage pan-ethic movements from arising in the region. One must ask though, how can you “promote cultural diversity” if you are trying to wipe out the differences between groups and acculturate them all into Han ways?? Another thing they have tried to do is make other minority groups such as the Kazaks to make them stronger by promoting their educated people. To overcome this, they must learn to overcome their local oasis identities based on geography.


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.

          While reading Sachiko Murata’s “Chinese Gleams of Sufi light” I found that I was confused by the notion of the “Real One” and the “Numerical One.” It is interesting that Wang felt as though his Chinese audience would have a hard time understanding the difference between the two yet here I am familiar with Western and Islamic notions and I am just as confused.

            I felt that Wang’s use of Neo-Confucian terminology and examples in interpreting Islam had a nice twist, although he may have led a group of believers to want to mix aspects of the two, or a sinification of Islam, which could be interesting. On the other hand, I have always thought that following the Confucian ideals of how humans should behave work well with those held by the monotheistic religions. Regardless, I guess to understand something we need to use our own terminology to explain it and that is what Islam had to go through to be received in China.

            Architecture has always been interesting to me because it physically embodies time and influence into something tangible. Looking at different architectural pieces, one can see the mixture of cultures and thoughts at a given time erected into something meant to exist until the time of its destruction. The two types of mosques discussed in “The Mosque: History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity” are prime examples of the narrative architecture can provide about a people. Just as Islam the religion had to go through a Chinese medium to be understood, so did its mosques and its calligraphy. This resulted in beautiful and very distinct forms than what is found in the Middle East and the rest of the Muslim world. Even within China there are different architecturally designed Mosques representing the different faces of the Muslim community of the country.  

             Even the differences between Islamic calligraphy in China are interesting to note. As the “Islamic Calligraphy in China” article indicates, “Arabic writing is most readily distinguished by the flowing tails of its letters, while Chinese characters are neatly contained within a square form”.  Again this could stem from tendencies such as the boxy nature of Chinese script. 

Regardless of the differences found in the various aspects of Islam in China, each synthesis is just as beautiful as the original.

Blog # 1: Jonathan Lipman, “Introduction” and “Frontier Ground and Peoples of Northwest China: James Millward and Peter C. Perdue, “Political and Cultural History of the Xinjiang Region through the Late Nineteenth Century”

Who are the people that you meet? How do you define them? Do you define them by their ethnicity, their religion, culture, race, or the clothes they wear? I think it’s a mixture of all of them. The interactions between the values of the society and individuals as wells as groups that they are in. Lipman, Millward and Perdue set the stage for the topics that will be discussed in this course. They focus on muslim chinese people living specifically in the Gansu and Xingjian . As I noted from these literary pieces, their identity has been shaped by the interplay between many interacting things such as cultures, languages, histories, and political interests to vary degrees.  Some of these interactions lead to conflicting images which can make the task of assigning identities, as Lipman has done, rather difficult, the outcome usually being their simplification.

History is often used as the basis for many of these assigned identities, however as this article showed, history is also subjective, and the way a historian writes one’s history is reflected in the identity that is assigned to them. The State of China seems to want to ignore the histories that make the group different and in doing this, the affected groups are always seen as lesser if they want to maintain their culture and heritage. It would be even hard for them to adapt to the “Chinese” ways or what the State defines them as, while keeping their own traditions alive. So although as Milward and Perdue have stated, coming up with complex identities is not only difficult to create but also to “categorize” and define. And we humans just can’t deal with things if they are not categorized!

Blog #2:   Michael Dillon, China’s Muslim Hui Community

This article was loaded with all kinds of interesting material. I enjoyed reading it much more than the previous blog’s. The most important and interesting note to me in this whole reading was that one’s identity is in some ways self-assigned. The Hui for example have a difficult history to track in terms of their lineage. Back in the days wanted to be considered Hans instead of Hui and they would minimize the ethnic and religious significance for fear of conflict. The story of identity then is about the conflict between one’s outer acculturation inner faith. This clash creates a complex, ever- changing concept of identity that one must keep maintaining in order to be.

Another aspect of self-assigned ethnicity is that the inheritors of a tradition are as much a part of the creation of that tradition as those from whom they inherit it (pg 7). This fact is often forgotten, because when a tradition is passed down, it is thought to have been passed down in its “pure” form. This however is incorrect because as one is living the tradition, that person is also adding and changing it as they pass it down.

Also, level of assimilation as Dillon discusses is important when talking about the Han, for they try to be more assimilated into Han ways than other Muslim communities of China. The thought of assimilation is common for any immigrant family. Where do you draw the line of being who you are versus who “they” are?

The section on the Establishment of Hui Communities during the Ming Dynasty was also very interesting. This was the period where the Hui acculturation began. The Hui were forced to marry non-Hui in order to mix into Chinese society but this backfired because it gave rise to an increase in Hui population because the children of those marriages would remain Muslim!  That was a very interesting point for me.