Islam in China


Islam in China
Islam, which entered China in the seventh century, is one of five religions recognized by the People’s Republic of China. It has a membership of between 18 and 25 million adherents.
After more than a thousand years of dissemination and development, Islam mixed with Chinese traditional and indigenous cultures to become a Chinese Islamic religion which is tightly bound to ethnicity. Nearly all Muslims are members of the ten designated ethnic minority groups: Hui, Uyghur, Kazakh, Tartar, Khalkhas, Tajik, Uzbek, Dongxiang, Salar and Baoan. A few Muslims are members of Zangzu (Tibetan) or Han nationality.
Although present throughout China, most Muslims live in compact communities in the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Ningxia; in the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Henan, Hebei, Shangdong, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Anhui, Yunnan, Liaoning; and in the cities of Beijing and Tianjin.
As with other sanctioned religions, Islam is subject to the comprehensive religious policies of the state. Historically, mosques and full-time Islamic professionals increased in number between 1949 and 1957, and religious activities were vigorous; between 1958 and 1965, mosque-building was curtailed and activities came to a standstill. All mosques in China were closed in 1966 as the Cultural Revolution began, and religious life closed down or went underground. However, some female ahong (religious leaders) held prayer services and kept collective faith alive. Since the 1980s, Islamic organizations but also Islamic scholarship and education have entered a new, active era. During the 1990s, many Muslim communities have given special attention to Islamic education, and modern Islamic schools have been founded. At the same time, more liberal policy and greater affluence have seen restoration and enlargement of mosques; also, more new mosques are being built. Construction funds for mosques come in the main from individual donations. Only a few ancient mosques (such as the Beijing Ox Street Mosque), classified as cultural relics, receive subsidies from the Heritage Department or the Religious Affairs Bureau.
In 1979, serious scholarly study of Islamic religion in China was conducted by senior research scholars from the Chinese Academy of Social Science and from provincial academies, from universities as well as from the China Islamic Association and provincial Islamic associations. Studies focus on the history of Chinese Islam and on the diversity of Muslim ethnic cultures. Numerous academic conferences, scholarly research papers and books, authored by both Chinese and foreign scholars, testify to a reinvigorated academic culture. Moreover, religious professionals, such as ahong, and ordinary Muslims are contributing to satisfy popular interest in Islamic culture and Islamic study. This grassroots movement, commenced in the 1990s, accounts for the creation of Muslim magazines, of compiled and printed booklets carrying Islamic news, and of new translations from Arabic to Chinese. Many of these initiatives are carried by local communities and individual Muslims, and are a force not to be ignored in the re-awakening of Islam.
The China Islamic Association, created in 1953, carries out government religious policy, oversees publication of religious literature, collects and collates historical Islamic documents, salvages cultural relics and conducts research into Islamic history and belief. The Association also organizes annual pilgrimages to Mecca. In 1955, the Association set up a national Islamic College in Beijing for the training of religious professionals and founded a bi-monthly magazine for Muslims in China in 1957. With the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, these activities ceased and were reactivated only in 1979. Provinces, cities, autonomous regional prefectures and counties with large Muslim populations set up local Islamic associations in the course of the 1980s, as did Taiwanese and Hong Kong Muslims.
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SHUI JINGJUN AND MARIA JASCHOK

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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