Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Everyday Life of a Chinese Muslim: Between Religious Retention and Material Acculturation

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Everyday Life of a Chinese Muslim: Between Religious Retention and Material Acculturation

Article excerpt

Introduction to the locale and the community of research

This research is focused upon a Chinese Muslim minority known as Hui in today's China and the locale of research is confined to Xi'an, the capital of the Shaanxi province in central China. The Communist government has included Muslims among the 'five great people of China', along with Mongols, Tibetans, Manchus and the Han majority. Islam in China today includes ten "nationalities" (minzu). These are partly the Turkish or Turko-mongol speaking communities (Uygur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Bao'an, Dongxiang, Tatar, Ouzbek, Salar) living in the provinces of Northwest China (Xinjiang, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai), a small group of Farsi speakers, the Tadjik in Xinjiang, and partly a population of Chinese speaking Muslims, the Hui, who are scattered all over China. Islam has been the characteristic element of Hui identity until the Republican period, but the CCP has devised a new nationality criterion based upon Stalin's definitions. Based on this standard, there are 55 nationalities in China and the Hui are one of them with its basic determinant being the lineage of people. It has always been a problematic and debatable issue among scholars whether Stalin's definition of nationality can be applied to the Hui since they don't possess any of the characteristics mentioned in the definition of Minzu (nationality). Minzu is supposed to share a common territory, language, form of economic livelihood, and psychology, all of which are non-existent with the Hui, so that they are not eligible to be categorized as Minzu on this basis. But despite all these debates and arguments, the State Nationalities Commission of 1989 agreed to bestow on anyone who could verify his or her descent from foreign Muslims, a distinct Minzu called Huizu1. The ancestors of today's Xi'an Hui community were the Arab and Persian Muslim settlers who came as traders and soldiers during the Tang and Song dynasties in several waves. Xi'an comprises more than 8 million people out of which the Muslim Hui population counts almost 50000 people according to the 2005 census. The Hui have been selected as a subject of research among the ethnic minorities of China because they have displayed the maximum tendency towards acculturation. Xi'an, located in central-northwest China, records the great changes of the country just like a living history book. Called Chang'an (meaning the eternal city) in ancient times, Xi'an is one of the birthplaces of the ancient Chinese civilization in the Yellow River Basin area. As the Eastern terminal of the Silk Road and the site of the famous Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty, Xi'an has won a reputation all over the world. More than 3,000 years of history including over 1,100 years as the capital city of the ancient dynasties, have endowed Xian with an amazing historical heritage. Xian boasts 1,300 years of Islamic history. Proud of their Islamic heritage and their country's traditions, the Muslims of Xi'an have merged their parent ancient Chinese culture with Islam, remaining faithful to the central tenets of their religion. Moreover, the long heritage of the Chinese Muslims is evidently visible in the Muslim quarter of Xian. A visit to the Muslim quarter strongly evokes the feeling of a unique blend of Chinese and Muslim cultures.

Literature Review

We live in an age marked by globalization and intercultural communication, where cross-cultural interaction and its impact on individual and social lives are commonplace. With the ever-growing progress of the means of communication and transportation, people and societies are influencing each other more vigorously than ever. This intercultural interface has brought about significant changes in the behaviors and social patterns, i.e. in the identity and culture of immigrants and sojourners. Numerous models have come to be employed in the analysis of the patterns and consequences of acculturation and adaptation in an alien cultural atmosphere2. …

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