The earliest Muslims in China were traders who came to the south eastern ports as part of the Indian Ocean trade as well as along the Silk Route, an ancient network of routes stretching for over six thousand miles from China across Central Asia to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Muslims of China are generally divided into two groups: the first group consists of descendants of Arab, Persian, Central Asian, and Mongol traders who married Chinese women and settled in small communities around a central mosque – they are known as the Hui. Culturally and historically diverse, the largest concentration of Hui can be found in northwestern China. The second group consists of Muslims belonging to minority groups whose homelands are located in the territories of the former Soviet Union, such as the Tajiks, the Uzbeks, and Kazakhs. Most of the Muslims are Sunnis with the exception of the Tajiks in Xinjian who follow the Shia interpretation of Islam. Sufism also has a long history in China since the seventeenth century, playing an important role in sustaining Islam through centuries of repression.
A prominent Hui scholar of Islam, Ma Fuchu (d. 1874), is well-known for his five-volume Chinese translation of the Qur’an and for writing over thirty-five works on metaphysics and history in both Chinese and Arabic. The Chao Jin Tu Ji, in the Aga Khan Museum’s collection, is a travelogue, recounting his pilgrimage from China to Mecca and then to Cairo, where he studied at the Al-Azhar University, subsequently travelling throughout the Ottoman Empire before returning to China. Ma Fuchu left China with a group of Muslim merchants, travelling overland and by riverboat to Rangoon, where he boarded a steamship to take him to the Arabian Peninsula.
Ma Fuchu’s work attests to the several cultural networks that existed between China and the Islamic world.
Aga Khan Museum Online Gallery
Michael Dillion, “Islam in China” The Muslim Almanac, Detroit: Gale Research Inc.,1996
Research by Nimira Dewji
Get breaking news related to the Ismaili Imamat, the world wide Ismaili Muslim community and all their creativity, endeavors and successes.
Inspired? Share the story
Want to inspire? Send your stories to us at Ismailimail@gmail.com
Subscribe and join 20,000 + other individuals – Subscribe now!
Earlier & Related – Nimira Dewji at Ismailimail Archives:
- Fatimid craftsmen were the earliest to make large-scale decorative lustreware items
- Did you know that Ibn Sina’s “Canon of Medicine” was used as a standard medical textbook in European universities for 700 years?
- Rock crystal has been used to represent the visible and the invisible since ancient times
- Did you know that Aga Khan Development Network provides electricity to 10 million people in developing countries?
- Did you know that Aga Khan Foundation assists artisans in marginalised communities in Mozambique?
- Did you know that the Memons, the Chishti Sufis, and Bohras worship in jamatkhanas?
- The paisley motif, a Persian symbol of life and eternity
- Did you know that the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby was the first Silver Jubilee project?
- Did you know that the Blue Qur’an is considered a wonder of Islamic calligraphy?
- Did you know that Filtisac was the first IPS project in West Africa?
Islamic Art Series:
Music in Islam Series:
Aga Khan Museum Artifacts & Did You Know Series:
Research by Nimira Dewji