This video is amazing because it gives a glimpse of Hui lifestyles as well as their privately owned businesses. I especially love the images of the colourful streets filled with vendors.

Summary:

This documentary sheds some light on the life of an imam in the city of Xi’an. He is one of 10 imams at the most famous mosque in the city of Xi’an, located in the central province of Shaanxi, the northern root of the famous silk route. This was where the first mosque in China was built. It was the center of Chinese civilization during the Tang dynasty, when Islam was first introduced in 650 AD by some of the prophet’s companions.

Xi’an is home to 60 000 ethnic Chinese Muslims, who are part of the Hui ethnic group. The imam, (Ma Yi ping) who has the Arabic name Yehya Salih, is shown leading the prayers in city’s most famous and largest mosque. A fluent speaker of Arabic, the language of the Quran, the imam is also their hajj leader.

Pilgrims have been making their way to Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage from this city since the 15th century. During the days of the silk road, the city was where all journeys either began or ended.

As it was forbidden for children to learn in the mosque, this imam was sent by his father to an imam’s place where he learned the quran. He studied caligraphy in the university of al medina in 1990. He travelled to egypt to hone his caligraphy skills. In this video, he will be making his fifth trip to Hajj.

Due to political pressures from the “Gang of Four”, all religions were  negatively affected. As things improved,  Ma Yi Ping did not have to study the Quran secretly. He lived inside the great the mosque until he was 6. At 16 he became an imam as mosques were re-opened after being closed by the communists in 1959.

The 1966 cultural revolution led to the destruction of 20,000 mosques across China. 

In the Great mosque of Xiang the imam attempts to educate people about their religion and the rituals of hajj and admits one of the challenges he faces is that people lack of knowledge of the hajj rituals as it is something new to them.

The imam tries to pass on some of his knowledge to his son  in the hope that he one day the son will follow in his father’s footsteps in becoming an imam.

          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.