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Observation Report of China

Research and Collection of Islam-Related Source Materials in Northwest China

August 1997
UMEMURA Hiroshi (Chuo University)

One of the tasks undertaken by the 6th unit of Islamic Area Studies was a trip to Northwest China in August over a period of thirty days. This trip was limited to specific areas in Xinjiang, Gansu, and Ningsha of Northwest China. The following is an outline of our trip:
  1. Tours and introductions
  2. Observation of the old source materials related to Islamic Studies (*1`*8)
  3. Comments on purchasing general source materials
  4. Other observations and comments

All purchased documents, publications and source materials are deposited at the Toyo Bunko, and as soon as filing procedures are completed, we will proceed to make the materials available for public use in stages. (Due to mechanical limitations of the system in use, transcription of Uygur characters in this report may be incorrect.) We would like to thank Shinmen Yasushi, Sugawara Jun, and Sawai Mitsuo for their assistance.

1. Tours and Introduction

August 1 (Fri) - 4 (Mon) Beijing

  • Meeting with local collaborators.
    Confirmed our schedule and obtained information on specific regions of Northwest China.
  • Purchased books at local bookstores (Central University for Nationalities Publishing House, Haidian qu Zhongguo Shudian, Sanlian Shudian, Kaogu Shudian.
  • Visited Niu Jie Islamic books and goods store).
  • Visited the Institute of Nationality Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and toured the stack room. *1
  • Gathered information on documents and source materials concerning the Hui nationality.

August 5 (Tue) left for Urumqi - 10 (Sun) Urumqi

  • Meeting with local collaborators to confirm our schedule for local tours.
  • Purchased documents and source materials at local bookstores (Nanmen Xinhua Shudian, Xinjiang People's Publishing House, Xinjiang Urumqi Islamic Association Muslim books and goods store, Xinhua Shudian on Yenan Road and others.)
  • Obtained information on old materials from local scholars and collaborators and source materials collected during the 1950-1960's
  • Meeting with one of the leaders of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Administrative Committee for Religion, Old Materials Office (Received information on the framework of the Old Materials office). *2
  • Visited the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reading room (journals and newspapers), Chinese materials stack room (Old books and others), modern Chinese materials stack room (Geography, List of local place names and historical accounts of past events seemed reasonably well collected), Research Institute of Religious Studies reading room (a new bibliography was found), Minority Literature stack room was closed because the librarian was not on duty.*3
  • Visited the Xinjiang People's Publishing House and purchased some of their publications.
  • Requested to purchase publications at the Xinjiang Xiyu Book House.

August 11 (Mon) Turfan (All day)

  • Visited local mosques. Xida si and Dongda si.
  • Visited Toudaohezi Mazar.

August 12 (Tue) Urumqi-Lanzhou

  • Gathered information on publications in Xinjiang's local private collections. *4
  • Left for Lanzhou.
  • Met with local collaborators of Lanzhou to confirm our schedule.

August 13 (Wed) Lanzhou

  • Toured Lanzhou University Library.
  • Toured Gansu Sheng (Provincial) Library. *5
  • Obtained information on the late Li Guoxiang's —›š collection *6

August 14 (Thur) Guanghe L‰Í

  • Visited an Arabic School.
  • Visited Nanjie Mosque.
  • Visited Huasi Mosque and another Mosque.

August 15 (Fri) Linxia —Õ‰Ä

  • Meeting with local collaborators.
  • Visited Chengjiaosi Mosque.
  • Visited Mingde Mosque. *7
  • Purchased source materials at a local bookstore.
  • Visited Da mazar.
  • Visited Suoma Mosque.
  • Visited Xinwansi, Laowansi, Beisi, Daqisi, Xisi and other Mosques

August 16 (Sat) Lintan —ÕàK

  • Visited Xidasi Mosque (Xidao tang), gathered publications.

August 18 (Mon) Lanzhou

  • Visited Dongchuan mazar
  • Visited Shexide and Sailimai mazar
  • Visited Shuishangsi, Hepingdaisi, Lanzhoufangsi and Nanguansi Mosques.
  • Purchased books at the Islamic books and goods store.

August 19 (Tue) Lanzhou to Yinchuan (by rail)

  • Meeting with local collaborators to confirm our schedule.

August 20 (Wed)-22 (Fri) Yinchuan

  • Discussed and exchanged information with 11 staff researchers of the Institute of Hui Islam, Ningxia Academy of Social Sciences. *8
  • Selection and purchase of source materials.
    Visited Nanguandasi, Xinhuadasi and Zhongdasi Mosques.
  • Visited the Ningxia People's Publishing House and exchanged information with 5 staff members.
  • Purchased books.
  • Visited Xita (Chengtian Buddhist temple) Ningxia Museum, Beita (Haibaota Buddhist Temple).
  • Visited Xixia Mausoleum, tomb #3, and the remains of the Great Wall at Sanguankou from Ming Dynasty, Chenghua period.
  • Visited Xiguandasi Mosque
  • Purchased books at a local bookstore (at the Islamic books and goods store in front of Xiguandasi Mosque)

August 23 (Sat) Yongning (All day)

  • Visited Najiahu Mosque in Yanghe County, Yongning Prefecture.
  • Visited Suqiliangzi mazar in Wuzhong

August 24 (Sun) Yinchuan

  • Visited, discussed and exchanged information with 12 researchers of the Institute of Hui Culture and Literature of Ningxia University.
  • Received complimentary publications.

August 25 (Mon)

  • Travelled from Yinchuan to Beijing (by rail)

August 26 (Tue) - 29 (Fri) Beijing

  • Purchased source materials at bookstores (Liulichang Zhongguo Shudian, Minzuwenhua Shudian)
  • Requested information on the collections at the Institute of Nationality Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
  • Reproduction of source materials (Xidaotang Shiliaoji ¼“¹“°Žj—¿S1987) and others. Final exchange of information with local researchers.
  • Visited Madian Mosque.

August 30 (Sat)

  • Left Beijing

2. Observation of old source materials related to Islamic Studies (*1`*8)

*1. Institute of Nationality Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing)

The 300 or so Chagatai, Persian and Arabic manuscripts and publications collected in Xinjiang in the 1950s, the collection probably transferred to Beijing in the 1960s, can mostly be found intact in their original binding and collecting dust in the stacks. Some materials have Chinese titles written in pencil. According to some sources, there are also materials preserved in private homes. These materials being uncatalogued, a new catalogue and arrangement of materials should be prioritized. We suggested that cooperation from Japan is possible, but did not receive an answer. We found the following concrete information:
  • Xinjiang Shaoshuminzu Shehui Lishi diaochazu pienyin, Xinjiang Shumu Part I Vád‘–Ú[‘æˆê•”n, Xinjang Kitapliri Katologiyisi I. qisim (Uyghur, total of 216 entries, 1962, type print)

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Nationality Studies published Youguan Yanjiu Xinjiang de Gushu Mulu —LŠÖŒ¤‹†Vád“IŒÃ‘–Ú˜^, Xinjan gning Tatqiq Qilirtiq ait Kona Kitaplar Katalogi (Uyghur, 1965, type print). Most likely this catalogue was compiled after the materials were transferred to the Institute of Nationality Studies. We were able to find and identify these two catalogues in Xinjiang, but unfortunately not in Beijing. @

*2 The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Administrative Committee for Religion, Old Materials Office (Urumqi)


Founded in 1984 (in Tianshan qu Official's Guest House).
Transferred to nearby Shengli lu-yenanlu intersection in 1986.
Relocated to Government Printing division in 1988.
Relocated to the present location, the14th floor of Wenlian Lianhe dalou, Youhao Nanlu 22 near Hongshan in 1989, the central area of Urumqi, and this is the present location.

Present Condition

There are 12 staff researchers representing 9 nationalities (Uyghur, Ozbek, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Xibe, Mongol, Tatar, Tajik, Hui). They are divided into 6 groups (Uyghur-Ozbek, Kazakh- Tatar, Mongol-Daur, Kirgiz, Xibe-Manzhou, Hui) not necessarily for knowledge of old characters and language. Tasks are shared among themselves, and old materials are arranged and numbered before being stored in the stacks. We didn't have any access to the stacks, which are closed to the public. Currently, some 3,800 manuscripts, printed materials, and about 300 Chagatai manuscripts and some seals have been collected.


Arrangement of materials

With the cooperation and assistance of specialists from universities, research institutes, museums, Mullahs, Ahons and others with special knowledge of old materials from all over Xinjinag are gathered for the arrangement of materials. The arrangement is done in the following order:

1) All basic information are put on cards.

2) Revision and interpretation are prepared by specialists.

3) The result of these tasks are being inputted in Arabic and other languages with a MS-DOS compatible software retrievable in different languages. In some cases, scanners are used for inputting the information.

4) Cards with basic information are prepared for cross-reference.

Schedule for Catalogue publication

The compilation numbers used in Qurban Wali (ed.), Uyghur, Ozbek, Tatar Qadimki Asarlar Tizimliki ˆÛŒáŽ¢E‰GŽy•ÊŽE“ƒ“ƒŽ¢ŒÃÐ–Ú˜^, 1988, a catalogue of 1,500 old materials collected by 1986, first printed in Kashgar, 1989, by Uyghur Publishing House were completely changed (XKQ= temporarily used transliteration method Xinjiang Kadimki, Qaghatai was dropped. Although a similar transliteration method, XG= Xinjiang Guji { A (Arab), P (Persia), Q (Qaghatai), K (Kirghiz), M (Mongol), H (Hui=Chinese characters)is now used). With the newly complied 2,300 entries after 1988, the catalogue is scheduled to be published in August, 1998. This catalogue of old materials will first be published in Uyghur, and will hopefully be translated later into Chinese and English. But problems remain as to financing this publication. Furthermore, when this material will be accessible has not yet been finalized.

Publication, Collection and Preservation

Including photocopied reproductions, numerous editions have already been published as a series of old materials, but circulation is minimal, and furthermore, funds for future publication are scarce. Even with the former reproduction of the Kutadgu Bilig (not found in Xinjiang), over 200 copies remain unsold. There is a major plan to gather and publish in photocopied reproduction materials such as Rashid al-Din's Jami al-tawarikh, Mahmud al-Kashghari's Diwan Lughat at Truk, Suvarna-prabhasa-sutra and others related to Xinjiang now scattered around the world. Furthermore, they have a vision to publish a catalogue of materials related to Xinjiang scattered overseas.

As to future projects of collecting old materials, with the assistance of Old Materials offices across Xinjiang, the estimated 8,000 old materials preserved at Bureau of Public Security, Customs, Academy of Social Sciences, colleges, museums, and more than 10,000 old materials found among private hands are now under consideration.

In terms of preservation of materials, microfilming is probably the most efficient method, but facilities as well as funds are nowhere to be found. Moreover the old materials office lacks international level networking. Therefore, there are no realistic methods of preservation at the moment which are sufficient for their future plans.

*3 Institute of Nationality Studies, Xinjiang Branch of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Urumqi)

Once again, as mentioned in *1, the old materials collected during the 1950s have been collectively transferred to Beijing, but a portion of another collection of old materials (mostly works concerning Wangshouli ‰¤Žç—ç) gathered throughout Xinjiang before and after the Cultural Revolution are preserved at this Institute. Some of the materials are catalogued in the Xinjiang Ijtimai Panlar Akademyisi Din Tatqiqat Institutidiki Kit aplarning Katalogi, and published in type print in 1988. Presently, this catalogue can be found in the Toyo Bunko.

*4 Private collections

In Xinjiang, old materials concerning Islam which were not damaged or burned during the Cultural Revolution are in the hands of private ownership. This has been assumed by the Autonomous Region Old Materials Office as mentioned in (*2).

Ownership of such old materials is estimated as being preserved by people related to Mosques. But, due to actual use in religious practice, consciously private owners hesitate to inform the public institutions about their holdings. Therefore, the actual situation with the materials are at best unclear. In the future there might be other chances, but preservation and public access of such valuable material for research will take time, regardless of who is in charge of the tasks. Also, this process will be detailed, requiring complex procedures.

Furthermore, a portion of the materials gathered by private collectors and museums during the 1950s, might still be preserved in the museums. Generally these materials are not open to the public and this time was no different. It is possible that a portion of the materials were taken out of the country (Soviet Union) during the 1960s and others lost during the Cultural Revolution.

The catalogue Uyghur Klassik Adibiyati Tolyazmilirining Katalogi by Yusupbek Muhasuw, published in 1957 with 74 material entries was purchased during this trip.

*5 Gansu Sheng Library (Lanzhou)

Just out of curiosity, I checked the library cards under Northwest China to see their collection of materials on the Xinjinag area, and noticed that the library has numerous publications on Xinjiang. From the 1950s through the 1960s, publications such as mimeographed Xinjiang Wueuar Zizhiqu Ziliao suoyin VádˆÛŒáŽ¢Ž©Ž¡‹æŽ‘—¿õˆø, and Xinjiang difang wenxian shumu Vád’n•û•¶Œ£‘–Ú, Xinjiang difang wenxian suoyin Vád’n•û•¶Œ£õˆø, Xinjiang lishi zhiliao Vád—ðŽjŽ‘—¿, from the 1970s, and Xinjiang Daxue Tushuguan Guji Shumu Vád‘åŠw}‘ŠÙ‘ ŒÃÐ‘–Ú, 1983, Xinjiang Zongjiao Yanjiu Zhiliao Vád@‹³Œ¤‹†Ž‘—¿, 1979-continued, necessary for research have been found. I also noticed that there were several Qing Dynasty memorials to the throne. Of those, we found the original and a reproduction (1987) of an abstract of Xinjiang Kenhuang Zougao Vád¤r`e, by Bu Yantai •z•F` and others, and Yili Jiangjun Ma Guang Zougao ˆÉ೏«ŒR”nœA`e (abridged version with Manchu inscriptions, 1958), but how the library acquired these materials or how they were reproduced was not indicated. Not only that, the library no longer has a specialist in this field. But for various reasons, it is still possible to gain access to internal or restricted materials in Xinjiang. Thus, in order for research on the Xinjiang area as well as Gansu to progress, a thorough survey of the collection should be made.

*6 The late Li Guoxiang —›‘ Collection (at North Eastern College for Nationalities Library, Lanzhou)

Li Guoxiang, a self-taught researcher of literature, and professor at North Eastern College for Nationalities, excelled in Uyghur, Chagatai, Persian languages and literature. Born to a farmer, Li studied in Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming prior to Lanzhou University. He taught many years at the North Eastern College for Nationalities founded in the early 1950s. The year after he passed away in December 1990, his collection consisting of several hundred Uyghur, Chagatai language publications was donated to the Library of North Eastern College for Nationalities. At least some of the donated publications were previously in the hands of private owners in Xinjiang and Gansu. We assume that a portion of those publications were included in his posthumous work entitled "Uygur Wenxueshi"ˆÛŒáŽ¢ŠwŽj (Lanzhou University Publishing House, 1992). We were not able to see the entire donated collection, but a catalogue is currently being compiled. In the near future we should make an effort to investigate this collection.

*7 Minde –¾“¿ Mosque (Linxia)

Qi Mingde (1898-1987) is the 10th generation Ahon counting from Qi Xinyi tutored by Appaq hoja of Kashgar, and maintained the Qadim (Muslim) mosque. Its been said that during his lifetime, his learning and teachings won praise among the locals. An evidence of this is the massive collection of canons. According to a book we acquired during this trip, published by this Mosque entitled "A Mute Ahon"˜Wˆ¢ , there are 144 types of "zhengtong pai zhuyao jingdian" ³“”hŽå—vŒo“T canons.

*8 Institute of Hui Islam, Ningxia Academy of Social Sciences (Yinchuan)

Due to the lack of information concerning old materials related to Islam preserved at this Research Institute, various circumstances are not clarified. At least we know Huizu he Zhongguo Yisilanjiao Guji Ziliao huibian ‰ñ‘°˜a’†‘ˆÉŽz—–‹³ŒÃÐŽ‘—¿™¹•Ò (vol. 1 has been published, but pubications after vol. 2 have not been published due to financial difficulties), mainly concerns the materials at Mingzugong in Beijing. The original collection is unique as it is comprised of journals such as Yuehua wŒŽ‰Øxfrom 1909 to 1949, but the work on the task was stopped after a portion of the materials were reproduced.

Concerning this Institute, see T. Sato and M. Nakajima, M. "Survey of Research Institutions in Xinjiang, Shanghai, and Ningxia", Asian Research Trends, No. 26 (1992), The Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies for UNESCO, pp. 219-221.


3. Concerning the purchase of general books

The Toyo Bunko in the past emphasized the collection of non-Chinese materials related to Xinjiang, especially materials in Turkic languages. This time, with the principle premise that Xinjiang is part of the Islamic cultural region, our approach was such that not only materials directly related to Islam but materials in a wider perspective were to be collected. This was mainly the approach we took in purchasing materials at the local bookstores. Not only in reference to Xinjiang, but purchasing materials at publishing houses was especially troublesome. Large amounts of publications are published annually under the publishing firm's name, but these publications are not necessarily in line with the publisher's annual planning. A number of publications are either brought in to be sold under the publishing house's name or, as in many cases, they are private publications. Generally, these publications are not stocked at the publishing house. Therefore, diligently checking each and every bookstore is the most efficient method of purchasing books.

On this trip, aside from Beijing, none of the bookstores handled mailing. Inevitably we had to mail our own purchased materials. But as in the case with Ningxia Reminchubanshe, if the bookstores had anything to mail, our packages were taken along with those and mailed. At least Urumqi (Guoji Youdianju) and Yinchuan (Youdian dalou) employeed full-time packaging attendants and even if they weren't on duty for some reason, other postal service attendants handled the packaging duties. Needless to say, packaging or handling fees are charged. This modern day convenience makes the good old days when packaging and handling took almost half a day seem nostalgic. At the main post office in Linxia, it seemed as if they weren't used to sending packages overseas, thus package boxes were nowhere to be found and it was very inconvenient. In major cities like Lanzhou, even the smaller post offices were very efficient. It seems the duties of customs (Haiguan) are now handled by post office attendants.

Moreover, regardless of Xinjiang, Gansu, and Ningxia, nearby Mosques (Qingzhensi) Islamic goods stores combined with bookstores are quite common. The stores generally have Islamic texts and other related materials mostly in Arabic. The majority of the materials don't have any ISBN codes nor any reference to place of publication, thus when and where they were copied remains a mystery. Most ofthose materials are published at Mosques and in some cases circulated among Mosques and Mullahs, while copyrights are ignored.

During this trip, we heard from time to time that materials sold publically at various places can be purchased, a phrase used to insinuate that restrictions to purchasing books still exist. We sensed that they are still sensitive about old materials or even non-rare books being taken out of the country.


4. Other Observations and Comments (Concerning Islam in general and Hui nationality)

Generally, nowdays mosques have Ahons, and students being tutored by them. Needless to say, Ahons have mastered Arabic for teaching the Koran. Elsewhere, there are Arabic schools attached to mosques, but during this trip, we visited an independent Arabic school in Guanghe, Gansu Province (refer to the entry under August 14). As a key to understanding the Islamic charateristics of the Hui nationality, the following is a simple observation of our visit.

Guanghe is approximately 2 hours south of Lanzhou by bus. From Guanghe, it takes another hour to Linxia. This is predominately a Hui nationality town, making up 97 percent of the total population. There are over 500 mosques in Guanghe prefecture, and this is the highest number of mosques in one prefecture throughout China. There are 4 laojiao mosques and 2 xinjiao mosques (Nanjie mosque and Zhaojia mosque) in town.

Compared to Guanghe, Linxia (formerly Hezhou) is much more metropolitan, where the first private Arabic school in China was established in 1980. It's been said that the school has an enrollment of 80 to 90 male students and approximately 100 female students. Contrary to this, the private school in Guanghe was established in 1993. Attracting Hui nationality students nation wide, currently 60 students live in the dorms, there are 8 instructors including Ma Weichong, the principal of the school. Zhang Weizhen, and one other instructor (both in their 30s) we talked to studied abroad at the International Islam University in Islamabad for 5 years, and 4 other instructors have the experience of studying abroad in Saudi Arabia and Syria allowing the school to maintain a very high standard of education.

Regardless of religious sects, Arabic, Religious Studies, Tafsir, Hadith are taught at the school. The Arabic text used at this school is published by Beijing University, while other texts were donated by the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

For enrollment, a command of high school level proficiency in Chinese is necessary. In most cases, students enroll after graduating from a general high school and then joining the work force, thus most of the students are in their 20s. Classes have beginning, intermediate and advanced levels and the program takes 3 years to complete. Students are encouraged to study abroad, while entering a higher level teaching circulum is another option. For the teaching course, completing more than 3 years of Arabic studies is necessary, and upon graduating from this course, some students become Ahon at mosques while others are scattered across the country as Arabic instructors.

The school is located in a brand new 3 storey building, with a field cultivating mushroom and other produce within the compound. Although the hours spent on farming are minimal, studies are conducted only in the morning. We were informed that sports and recreation are also emphasized. The intention behind this remains a mystery. The school is located outside the township of Guanghe situated on the highway, along a ravine in a rural district where the atmosphere is tranquil.

In this manner, we got the impression that Arabic schools are deeply rooted in Northwest China, similar to the daily activities of mosques in various districts. After restrictions on Religious practices were eased in the early 1980s, by overcoming many "threats on religion", or even when a number of sects carried Deng Xiaoping's portraits, by supporting the govenment's policy for unity of nationalities and religious freedom, they have realistically maintained their religious activities.

A question remains as to why people coming to worship at mosques, including the worship of juma are actually people in middle or advanced age groups. One possibility is that the Cultural Revolution dramatically slowed population growth. But, by no means has this affected the existence of Islam in any way. The process of educating and training the younger generation for religious affairs at these Arabic schools is one evidence of that. Furthermore, the following phenomenon will steadily revive and perpetuate Islam.

At all mosques, the Ahons are getting younger (previously people affiliated to the mosques, such as members of the resident committees, maintenance committee, accountants, and cashiers, were usually old). Regardless of the sect, most mosques now house religious students in dorms to further their studies. Even though well to do middle to old age worshippers go on the Hajj, it seems more and more younger people are going abroad to study. Nowdays mosques and schools are renovated by worshipper's private expenses (and in some cases, government assistance is being provided). These changes are not only limited to Hui Nationality mosques.

Considering the various aspects mentioned above, and furthermore the fact that as long as China advocates itself as a multi-ethnic country for the Hui people, the foundation of ethnicity as their identity can only be found in Islam. For instance, compared to the Uyghur nationality differing in language and character with the Han Chinese, inevitably discrepencies occur in the way Hui people rely on Islam.

However, the Hui people's traditional thought processes and morals, seen in the elements of Sufism and Chinese Islam fostered in the realm of Chinese culture, are a significant research topic. In the years to come, this topic will increase in importance. It is said that in the past 2 or 3 years manlahs have often been prohibited from study abroad. Thus, it is necessary for us to carefully follow Islam in China with regards to developments in Chinese society, politics, and the international community.