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'Muslim Diaspora' in Yuan China: A Comparative Analysis of Islamic Tombstones from the Southeast Coast

  • Published : 2016.08.23

Abstract

This paper presents a case study of the Muslim diaspora through comparative analysis of Islamic tombstones from the Southeast Coast of China under Mongol rule. The locations of the nisbas in the Islamic tombstones are widely dispersed, covering Xinjiang, Transoxiana, Iran, Khorasan, Khwarazm, Armenia, Syria, Palestine, and Arabia. Unexpectedly, we did not find a single named location from India or Southeast Asia. It is well known that notable descendants of distinguished families traditionally produced officials, intellectuals, and wealthy merchants, and surrendered to the Mongols during the war against the Qara Khitai Khanate and the Khwarazm Empire. There were a great number of appointed officials with Muslim names in the Jianghuai (around Lower Yangtze) and Fujian regions. This is consistent with the concentration of epitaphs written in Arabic on the southeast coast of China. The frequent use of the specific tradition of the prophet Muhammad associating the death of the exile with martyrdom in Islamic tombstones in Quanzhou, Hangzhou, and Yangzhou indicates that the Muslims in these port cities eventually established an interregional or diasporic identity of Muslim foreighners whoimmigrated into the region.

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