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Source: Index >> Culture History >> Religions

Movement of Translating and Writing Scriptures in Chinese and Nationalization of Islam in China
(Tianshannet) Updated: 2010-August-4 17:56:31


During the transitional period between the Ming and Qing dynasties (the 17th century), following Mosque Education, the movement of translating and writing scriptures in Chinese rose vigorously. As all the translators and writers appeared in this period were well versed in four major religions, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam, and they preferred to expound Islamic doctrine in Confucian ways of thinking, so it was also called the movement of expounding scriptures with Confucianism.

The movement of translating and writing scriptures in Chinese was divided into three stages which started from Wang Daiyu, Muslim scholar in the transitional period between the Ming and Qing dynasties, and ended with Ma Lianyuan, Muslim scholar at the end of the Qing Dynasty, lasting over two hundred years. In this period of time there emerged a great number of well-known Islamic scholars emerged a great number of well-known Islamic scholars and Islamic works in Chinese that exerted a long-lasting influence upon Chinese Muslims and laid a solid theoretic foundation for the nationalization of Islam in China.

The first stage of the movement began with the publication ofWang Daiyu's "Expounding Islam", right up to the completion ofWu Zunqi's "Road Leading to Islam". In this period of time, the area around Nanjing and Jiangsu was the center of the movement, and the subject matter was always closely related to Mosque Education and Ilm al-Kalam (theology). The works of this period were either reading books for Mosque Education or a monograph to a theory, which were also read by intellectuals of other religions who wanted to know more about Islam. As a matter of fact, all these works borrowed something more or less from Confucianism and Buddhism, but their Islamic nature was still obviously demonstrated by their arguing and debating with Buddhism and Taoism, and criticizing certain views of Confucianism.

The representative figures of this period and their works are: Wang Daiyu, with his "Expounding Islam", "Islamic Great Learning" and "Right Answers to Truth-Seekers"; Zhang Zhong, with his "General Knowledge of Islam", "Essentials of Islam in Four Volumes"; Wu Zunqi, with his "An Introduction to Shariah" and "Road Leading to Islam". Furthermore, there were some others of great fame who translated many scriptures into Chinese, such as Ma Minglong with his "To Know Oneself and Wake up to Reality", Ma Junshi with his "Summary to Islamic History in Arabia", She Yunshan with his "Zhao Yuan Mi Jue", "Necessary Islamic Knowledge", and "Tui Yuan Zheng Da". All these works were prepared for those who were versed in Confucianism to study Islamic theology, and were also useful for ordinary Muslims to study Islamic doctrine.

The second stage of the movement of translating and writing scriptures into Chinese began from the time Ma Zhu translated his "Islamic Guidebook" to the time when Jin Tianzhu finished his "Answers to Doubts on Islam". The movement was pushed to its peak in this period by intellectuals and their works with Liu Zhi as the most outstanding one. The movement also extended to other places, not only being limited in the area around Nanjing and Suzhou any more. The mainstream of the movement came to be connected closely with Confucian thoughts. The object of the movement was turned to the outside spheres of Islam, hoping to eliminate others religions' doubts of Islam and gain understanding and support from the feudal ruling class and scholar-officials. Thus, the audience and object of the movement changed from those either illiterate or those who only read Islamic scriptures to those who'were well versed in the three religions. As a result, the pure Islamic nature of the translated and written works was not in existence any more, and was replaced by a form of obvious combination of Islam with Confucianism, which presented dual characteristics of both religions. The Islamic scholars in this period stopped criticizing Confucian thoughts but emphasized the common ground between Islam and Confucianism, advocating learning both Islam and Confucianism.

The representative figures of this period and their works are: Ma Zhu, with his "Islamic Guidebook"; Liu Zhi, with his "Arabian Principles of Nature", "Arabian Ceremonies", "Life of the Greatest Prophet of All"; Jin Tianzhu. with his "Answers to Doubts on Islam"; Ma Boliang, with his "A Sketch of Islamic movement of translating and writing scriptures in Chinese took on new characteristics different from the first two stages.

As colonial powers invaded in 1840, China was reduced to a semi-colony; traditional Confucian thought and culture was greatly impacted. The failures of two uprisings of the Huis and the two cases of literary inquisition related to Islam halted the movement of translating and writing scriptures in Chinese for dozens of years. The center of the movement was transferred to Yunnan, and the subject was expanded to astronomy, geography, literature and Qur-'an translation from theology, religious philosophy, religious system and doctrine, becoming much more extensive. The content of the translating and writing came to focus on propagandizing Islamic theory on the hereafter, mysticism and the thoughts on nourishing one's inborn nature. This was much more closely related to Confucianism.

The representative figures of this period and their works are: Ma Dexin, with his "Ending of Creation", "Concise Four-Aspect Exposition of Islam", "Guide to Healthy Life", "What Islam Is" and "Explanations to Prayers"; Ma Lianyuan, with his "Annals of Truth", Lan Xu, with his "Right Learning of Arabia". The revised and enlarged edition of "Answers to Doubts on Islam" was completed in this period, too. "Islamic Way" appeared in this period and was of special value for it sketched out Dhikr, one of the major courses practiced by mystics in Islam. As the third stage concluded, the whole movement of translating and writing scriptures in Chinese that pursued the combination of Islamic with Confucian thoughts and cultures came to an end.

The movement of expounding scriptures with Confucianism exerted great influence upon Islam in China and made a tremendous contribution to its development. Since Du Huan wrote a brief introduction to Islam in Chinese in his "Jing Xing Ji" (Where I Traveled) in the Tang Dynasty for the first time, a few scholars, both Hui and Non-Hui, also touched Islam and tried to interpret its doctrine within the terms of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. However, they only provided very simple information on Islam, far from being enough. With the strenuous efforts of Hui scholars for generations, starting from Wang Daiyu, tremendous accomplishments were achieved in the movement of translating and writing scriptures in Chinese. Using Confucian terms and thoughts, they made profound studies on Islamic doctrine, leading to the breaking of the estrangement between Islam and Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in the sphere of ideology. By absorbing the thoughts of other religions. Islamic doctrine and philosophy was broadened and the influence of Islam
in China was enlarged as well. The long-lasting situation of tripartite confrontation of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism came to an end as a result and a new sphere of ideology was opened in China. The Islamic philosophy on human nature and rationality was combined with that of Confucianism in the movement of translating and writing scriptures in Chinese, which enriched the content of this sphere in the history of Chinese ideology.

(SOURCES:China Intercontinental Press)Editor: zhaoqian
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