Islam in the Chinese Religious Landscape: Secularization of Mosque Leadership in Late Imperial China, 1600–1900

In: International Journal of Islam in Asia
Shaodan Zhang Assistant Professor, School of Area Studies, Xi’an International Studies University Xi’an China

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This paper argues that in late imperial China, leaders of mosques and Muslim communities underwent a secularizing process, shifting from traditional spiritual leaders to social and political Muslim elites in the mainstream Chinese society. Instead of causing a decline of Islam, the process produced seemingly contradictory outcomes. On the one hand, Muslims came to embrace Chinese political ideology and apparatus. On the other hand, mosques and Islamic education flourished in China. Secularization in this case was a “reconfiguration” of Islam – a strategy of Muslims to incorporate themselves into the Chinese polity and society without losing their Islamic features.

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