Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Islam in China
According to China Muslims' traditional legendary accounts, Islam was first brought to China by an embassy sent by Uthman, the third Caliph, in 651, less than twenty years after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The embassy was led by Sa`d ibn Abī Waqqās, the maternal uncle of the prophet himself. Emperor Gaozong, the Tang emperor who received the envoy then ordered the construction of the Memorial mosque in Canton, the first mosque in the country, in memory of the prophet.
While modern historians say that there is no evidence for Waqqās himself ever coming to China,they do believe that Muslim diplomats and merchants arrived to Tang China within a few decades from the beginning of Muslim Era. The Tang Dynasty's cosmopolitan culture, with its intensive contacts with Central Asia and its significant communities of (originally non-Muslim) Central and Western Asian merchants resident in Chinese cities, which helped the introduction of Islam. The first major Muslim settlements in China consisted of Arab and Persian merchants. During the Tang and especially the Song eras, comparatively well-established, even if somewhat segregated, mercantile Muslim communities existed in the port cities of Guangzhou, Quanzhou, and Hangzhou on China's southeastern seaboard, as well as in the interior centers such as Chang'an, Kaifeng, and Yangzhou.