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Author Topic: Promulgation of Persian Islam in China by Persians (Tajiks)  (Read 2275 times)
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« on: June 26, 2009, 12:55:21 PM »

The Persian language has clearly contributed greatly to the promulgation of Islam in China over the years, the Iranian cultural attaché in China said at Nanjing University, MNA reported.

At a seminar on Xiao-Er-Jin, Mohammad-Javad Aqajari said, “Xiao-Er-Jin script, which is a combination of Persian, Arabic, and Chinese scripts, was used by the students of Islamic science in China with the aim of accessing Islamic sources.”

Xiao-Er-Jin is the practice of writing Sinitic languages such as Mandarin (especially the Lanyin, Zhongyuan and Northeastern dialects) or the Dungan language in the Arabic script.

The Xiao-Er-Jin writing system is similar to the present writing system of the Uyghur language in that all the vowels are explicitly marked at all times. This is in contrast to the practice of omitting the short vowels in the majority of the languages for which the Arabic script has been adopted (like Arabic, Persian, and Urdu).

“According to some sources, the Persian language has been used regularly in Chinese Islamic centers and many Chinese scholars believe that this fact has promoted the Persian language among the Muslim and even non-Muslim Chinese,” Aqajari noted.

“Studies by Islamic bibliographers show that many of the old Islamic manuscripts of China were written in Persian.

“According to some historical sources, some Chinese rulers even used the Persian language in their correspondence with European kings in previous centuries.

“The large number of antique Persian translations of the Holy Quran, Persian exegetic, mystical, astronomical, medical, and Islamic historical texts, and Persian dictionaries in China indicates that Persian was China’s official Islamic language, and we Iranians are proud of this,” he explained.

According to Wikipedia, since the arrival of Islam during the Tang dynasty (beginning in the mid-7th century), many Arabic or Persian speaking people migrated into China.

Centuries later, these peoples assimilated with the native Han Chinese, forming the Hui ethnicity of today. Many Chinese Muslim students attended madrasahs to study classical Arabic and the Quran. Because these students had a very basic understanding of Chinese characters but would have a better command of the spoken tongue once assimilated, they starting using the Arabic alphabet for Chinese.

This was often done by writing notes in Chinese to aid in the memorization of suras. This method was also used to write Chinese translations of Arabic vocabulary learnt in the madrasahs. Thus, a system of writing the Chinese language with Arabic script gradually developed and standardized to some extent.

Perso-Arabic script in China
"Xiao-er-jin" is a Chinese notation using Arabic letters developed from Hui (Muslim Chinese) religious schooling (Islamic linguistic education under Masjid) in the middle of the 16th century. Using the Arabic alphabet to express Chinese, it was originally used for annotations of Islamic holy scripts. With the development and expansion of Islamic religious schooling, it spread within the educated Hui-people and has been since used in their daily life for means such as recording and communication. Since it reflects verbal speech, it contains dialects from various regions of China. Today, a small population continues to use it in provinces such as Ningxia, Qinghai, Gansu and Koran publishing by the Hui-people still bear "Xiao-Er-Jin" translation along with a Chinese translation. The focus of this project will be on the "Xiao-Er-Jin" script and research will extend into the milieu of Arabic alphabet scripts as well.

The uniqueness of the "Xiao-Er-Jin" script is that it possesses both Arabic and Chinese script culture characteristics. Though its presence and importance in script culture studies has been long pointed out by Chinese scholars, it has not yet been fully studied. Thus this project aims to collect as much "Xiao-Er-Jin" material (manuscripts and published books, images of inscriptions, so forth) as possible, to categorize and put them on a database as well as to digitize and create a "Xiao-Er-Jin" script corpus for future thorough study. Since the "Xiao-Er-Jin" script was originally used for Islamic religious schooling, much of the existing published materials are of Islamic holy scripts. This coincides with the GICAS research plan of "Construction of Corpus of Scriptures and Commentaries". Collecting material for numerous research areas such as Chinese Islamic cultural studies, Chinese linguistic cultural studies, Arabian literary culture studies and presenting them online on the web will be of significant importance. It will also contribute to the promotion of Hui literary culture, the second most minority group in China (population of 9million), and help to clear the digital-divide situation of these people.

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