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Colloquium on Asian religions | Hajj and the Transformation of Chinese Muslim Identity in the Republican Era (1911-1949)

When:Mo 19-09-2016 17:00 - 18:30
Where:Oude Boteringestraat 38, Old Court Room

Speaker: Prof. Tsai Yuan-lin (National Cheng Chi University, Taiwan)

Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and the most important symbol of the unity of the Muslim Ummah. The Hajj pilgrims who return to Mecca and observe the mandated rituals at the holy sites would have a profound feeling of belonging to a global community that shares the same religious beliefs. Before the mid-19th century, few people were able to make their way to Mecca for the pilgrimage, especially Chinese Muslims, who had lived in the far eastern corners of the Islamic world and had to dedicate a year or more to the journey through the difficulty ‘silk routes’ by either land or sea. After the western colonial powers reopened the door to China after the Opium War (1840-1842) and used firearms and steamships to control the sea routes, it made easy for the Chinese Muslims to perform the hajj pilgrimage.

My research explores the relationship between the re-awakening of the Chinese Muslim identity and the hajj pilgrimage in the early twentieth century on the basis of a large amount of original official documents, news reports, memoirs and other biographical materials regarding the Chinese Muslims’ hajj experience. In the new historical context of pan-Islamism and Chinese nationalism, it is interesting to see how the Chinese hajjis understood and responded to the Islamic revivalist call to the unity of the Ummah and the Chinese nationalist voice to build up a new nation-state.