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The Qur'an and Identity in Contemporary Chinese Fiction

Ouyang, Wen-chin (2014) 'The Qur'an and Identity in Contemporary Chinese Fiction.' Journal of Qur'anic Studies, 16 (3). pp. 63-84.

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Abstract

How is it possible to comprehend and assess the impact of the Qur’an on the literary expressions of Chinese Muslims (Hui) when the first full ‘translations’ of the Qur’an in Chinese made by non-Muslims from Japanese and English appeared only in 1927 and 1931, and by a Muslim from Arabic in 1932? But perhaps the fact that such a translation appeared so late in the history of the Muslim community in China, who have had a continuous presence since the ninth-century, is the best starting point. For it would be possible to address the relationship between the sacred text (as well as language) and identity among minority groups in a different way. This paper looks at the ways in which the Qur’an is imagined then embodied in literary texts authored by two prize-winning Chinese Muslim authors: Huo Da (b. 1945) and Zhang Chengzhi (b. 1948). While Huo Da, who does not have access to the Arabic language, alludes to the Chinese Qur’an in her novel, The Muslim’s Funeral (1982), transforming the its teachings into ritual performances of alterity through injecting Arabic and Persian words for religious rituals into her narrative of a Muslim family’s fortunes at the turn of the twentieth century, Zhang Chengzhi, who learned Arabic as an adult and travelled widely in the Muslim world, involves himself in reconstructing the history of the spread and persecution of the Jahriyya Sufi sect (an off-shoot of the Naqshabandiyya) in China between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries in his only historical novel, A History of the Soul (1991), and in education reform in Muslim communities, inventing an identity for Chinese Muslims based on direct knowledge of the sacred text and tradition and informed by the history of Islam not in China alone but in the global Islamic world, especially Arabic Islamic history.

Item Type: Articles
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East
ISSN: 14653591
Depositing User: Wen-Chin Ouyang
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2014 16:31
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/19213

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