Interpreting Islam in China

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 11.13.47 AMInterpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab. Oxford University Press. 2017.

Interpreting Islam in China explores the contours of the Sino-Islamic intellectual tradition through the works of some of its brightest luminaries in order to identify and explicate pivotal transitions in their engagement with the Islamic tradition. Three prominent Sino-Muslim authors are representative of major junctures within the history of Sino-Islamic thought and are used to illustrate discursive transformations within this tradition, Wang Daiyu 王岱輿 (1590-1658), the earliest important author; Liu Zhi 劉智 (1670-1724), the most prolific scholar; and Ma Dexin 馬德新 (1794-1874), the last major intellectual in pre-modern China. Through an analysis of the subjects of pilgrimage, scripture, and language this project fosters an exploration of broader issues of vernacularization, dialogics, translation, centers and peripheries, and tradition in their writings.



“Kristian Petersen contributes substantially to the intellectual and religious history of Islam in China by analyzing the Han Kitab through the lens of Religious Studies.  Focused on themes of pilgrimage, scriptural translation, and the significance of the Arabic language, he skillfully attends to both the ideas and the contexts of three central Sino-Muslim thinkers.  All three tried to reconnect their communities to what they perceived as a lost religious heritage, originally written in Arabic and Persian but lived and comprehended in Chinese.  Petersen reconstructs an intellectual middle ground, a series of ‘dialogic environments,’ in which Islam made authentic and authoritative sense within Chinese culture at particular historical moments.  Theoretically broad and contextually specific, he demonstrates that Chinese and Islamic civilizations have conversed, not simply clashed.”—Jonathan Lipman, Professor Emeritus of History, Mount Holyoke College, author of Familiar Strangers: A History of Muslims in Northwest China

“Through close readings, by turns contextual and deconstructive, of the writings of three leading Sino-Muslim scholars, Kristian Petersen unravels the translations and transfers that molded an Islam both in and for China. His case studies of the changing status of pilgrimage, scripture and sacred language among Han Kitab authors at once broadens the scope of Islamic Studies and deepens our understanding of world history by pursuing the intellectual traffic of inter-Asian interactions.”—Nile Green, author of Sufism: A Global History

“With painstaking erudition and great care, Kristian Petersen uncovers and reconstructs many hitherto unknown bridges between Chinese Islam and the wider Islamic world. Interpreting Islam in China forges new ways of understanding and appreciating the Han Kitab, Chinese Islam’s enormous corpus, and introduces for the first time its last great author, Ma Dexin. A beautiful study of one of the remote corners of the Islamic world of thinking.”—Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, author of The Dao of Muhammad: A Cultural History of Muslims in Late Imperial China


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