Edward Harper Parker.

China and religion online

. (page 12 of 23)
Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina and religion → online text (page 12 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

was of an extremely scientific and enquiring turn
of mind, handed them a document (it is not said
of whose composition) telling the story of how in
the year 628 the Emperor of the T'ang dynasty
had had a dream of a turbaned man from the
West, which led him to send a mission to Hami,
in order to learn whether the interpretation of
his dream was correct ; from which place in due
course an envoy came to explain the mysteries
of the Koran ; in consequence of which the
Emperor showed great favour to the new
religion. Apart from the fact that the Chinese
pilgrim, Hiian Chwang, in 629 visited Hami (a
Turkish possession, which was not then called
Hami, nor yet for 600 years after that),
and found it strictly Buddhist, the whole story is
manifestly an adaptation of the a.d. 62 dream
about Buddha, and the mission to India. More-
over the date 628, as also the " 1059 years ago"
of 1657 {i.e. 599), proves that the greater number
of Mussulman lunar years as compared with the
lesser number of Chinese solar years since the
Hegira in 622, and since the death of Mohammed,
in 632, had caused the Mussulman Chinese story-
makers to concoct false dates. In 1755, after the
complete and final crushing of the Eleuth power


by the Emperor K'ien-lung-, grandson of K'ang-hi,
it was found necessary for China's safety to take
possession of the Mussuhiian states of Little
Bucharia ; this brought on a war with the two
grandsons (Borhan-uddin and another) of the above
mentioned Abdul, scions of the Mahmoud race of
the Khodjo (as they were called) — a priestly caste.
All this brouofht China into closer contact with
Kokand, Bokhara, Badakshan, Affghanistan, and
the network of Andijan trade intrigues. Between
1820 and 1828 the great Mohammedan rebellion
under Jehangir, son of Samsak, son of Borhan-
uddin, broke out, immediately connected with
which, again, was the rise and fall of the Andijan
Yakub Beg's Kashgar state in 1864- 1873. All
these Mussulman complications were, of course,
beyond the pale of China proper ; yet they
successively reacted upon the Dungans, or Chinese
Mohammedans, farther east. For instance, in 1647-
1659 a serious Mussulman rebellion, caused at the
outset by the indecent behaviour of Manchu
soldiers, broke out in the Kan Chou (Polo's
Campichu) region, and spread to Shan Si. In 1781-
1783 there were quarrels about the proper w^ay of
reciting the Koran between the old Mussulmans
and Reformed Mussulmans of the Si-nincj region
near Kokonor, which led to severe repression, some
bloody fighting, and terrible imperial butcheries ;
after the suppression of the revolt, the Reformed
religion was interdicted as a political measure in
order to obviate further disputes; but in 1863 the


same Mussulmans once more broke out into serious
rebellion in sympathy with the movements, first of
Burzug Khan, heir of Jehangir, and then of Yakub
Beg and. his friends. Only eight years ago there
was yet another alarming insurrectionary movement
amongst the Mussulmans of the Si-ning region,
which was finally quelled by the notorious General
Tung Fuh-siang, later of " Boxer " fame. In fact,
the "Salar" Mussulmans of those parts, originally
recruited from Hami, have always formed a nest
of disaffection. Then, of course, the Panthay
rebellion of i860- 1873 is fresh in the recollection
of middle - aged persons interested in Chinese
questions ; the causes of this terrible war were
in themselves small, yet the result was the utter
devastation of the province of Yiin Nan, One of
the leading Mussulman chiefs of this period had in
1842 made an interesting pilgrimage to Mecca,
which is on record ; of course it then gave him
great political influence. Even now it is by no
means an uncommon thing for Chinese Mussulmans
from distant interior provinces to travel thus by
way of Burma; in fact, "Panthay" is simply a
corrupt average form of the Burmese words for
"Mussulman" and "Chinese-Mussulman," and the
son of the Panthay sultan is still a British pensioner
at Rangoon.

As to Manchuria and North China, Mussulman
Chinese are an exceedingly numerous and law-
abiding race, more thrifty, manly, and self-respecting
than the average "lay" Chinese. They are to be


found in Kirin, Potune, Alchuk (Harbin), and
Sansing ; indeed a quarter of the Alchuk population
is Dungan — perhaps 1 800 families ; socially, they
keep a good deal aloof from the ordinary Chinese.
In many parts of Chih Li province the Mussulmans
have almost a monopoly of the inn and cart trades,
probably because their scruples about slaughtering
meat render it necessary for themselves, as cart
contractors, that they should keep the inns. They
do not intermarry (formally) with pagans, and are
strict on the subject of pork, — practically the only
meat of other Chinese. In Canton there is a well-
known Mussulman pagoda which popular tradition
and vulgar Mussulman literature says was erected
by Mohammed's uncle Saad Wakkas, who is
supposed to have come to China in 611, to have
constructed mosques at Canton and Nanking, and
to have died at Canton. As a matter of fact, it
has been proved by M. Deveria that this man
actually took part in the identical battle which
practically put an end to the Sassanides in Persia
(636) ; that he was a second cousin only (in the
generation of uncles) of Mohammed, and that he
died at Medina, never having been near China at
all. There are half-a-dozen mosques at Canton,
five inside the walls ; and if the one of which
striking remains in the shape of a leaning pagoda
still exists was really built during the T'ang dynasty
(which we have shown to h^ prima facie very likely),
it was destroyed by fire in 1343, and rebuilt in
1350 by one Mahmud, at the close of the Mongol

i6o ISLAM [chap.

dynasty. An Arabic inscription, dated 135 1, states
that it was rebuilt in the 751th year (Hegira).
The Chinese inscription below says nothing of
Saad Wakkas, but vaguely mentions that "about
800 years ago, the religion developed itself here."
After the defeat of Borhan-uddin and Khodjo
Jehan in 1759, a number of Mussulman prisoners,
including a beautiful Kashgar girl for the Emperor,
were brought in triumph to Peking. A mosque
was constructed in a street close to the Palace
wall, and in 1764 the Emperor wrote with his own
hand the Chinese dedication, reproduced on stone,
which also appears in Manchu, Mongol, and Turkish
translations; the last alone being horizontally written.
Here it is that the Emperor (who besides being
a smatterer in philology, distinguished himself by
disfiguring the three Tartar histories through a
course of tampering with the "spelling" of foreign
words), deliberately tells the world that li-pai-sz^
(the ordinary word for "mosques") really began
with the Hwei-heh, who first began to come to
China in 581-600, and who obtained in 807 per-
mission to erect at T'ai-yiian a sz for the Mani
who brought tribute along with them. This extra-
ordinary statement is (or was) repeated on a sixth
mosque outside the north wall of Canton, where
the remains of Saad Wakkas — visited in 1749
by one Hadji Mohammed also buried there — are

^ The word li-pai was first used of Buddhist "worship" ; thence
it came to mean " weekly worship," and now it is the only Chinese
name for " Sunday," " Sabbath," and " a week."


supposed to lie. According* to the Chinese books
on Islam, none of which have a high reputation
for accuracy, and few of which are more than
200 years old, there are also some old mosques
in existence at Si-an Fu and at Nanking (probably
referring to the old Ouigour temples at Ch'ang-an,
and certainly to Nanking as it was previous to
the T'ai-p'ing rebellion). One of the Si-an Fu
mosques, which had been frequently repaired during
the Sung Mongol and Ming dynasties, is said to
state that it stands on the site of one originally
built in 742 ; but, as no European has seen either
the mosque or a rubbing of the inscription, and
as we have seen that the very emperors of the
present dynasty are untrustworthy authorities on
Islam, it is unnecessary to hazard further remarks.
There are no statistics of Mohammedans in
China ; but, having from the first taken the position
of trading guests, abstaining from dogma and
aggressive proselytism, and simply courting the
favour of protection, the followers of the Prophet
have rarely caused "objective" trouble; their
White-cap (Sunnite) and Red-cap (Shiite) rivalries
are quite subjective, and confined among them-
selves, while their resigned fatalism and con-
servative tendencies do not often run counter to
Confucianism. " Know thyself and thou knowest
God " might have been translated word for word
from Taoism. Belief in a Supreme Being is in
accord alike with ancient teachings, Taoism, and
Buddhism ; even the doctrine of predestination and


God's absolute decree shocks no Chinese elementary
principle. Resurrection and a Day of Judgment
were quite new ; Hell and Paradise were presented
in new and material forms ; but, being treated in
vague and general terms, these novelties do not
menace the public peace of mind. Moreover, the
Koran does not seem to have ever been translated
into Chinese, and the native Imams and Mollahs
are as often as not quite ignorant of the meaning
of the Arabic characters they are taught to read
aloud, just as the bonzes glibly chaunt Sanskrit
prayers in unmeaning Chinese phonetics. Though
the reverence due to ancestors is manifested in a
different manner from that in general Chinese vogue,
yet the fact that such a duty is recognised at all
by the Mussulmans gives them a respectable status
in the Chinese cultivated mind, and the general
spirituality of Islam is quite above the ignorant
classes. Be that as it may, the undoubted fact
remains that Chinese Mussulmans have from the
very beginning played their cards so prudendy
that there has never been a single spiritual perse-
cution, or a persecution pretexted by alleged
immorality or corruption on the part of the priests,
who, moreover, not being celibates, and not herding
in monasteries, have never been exposed to the
suspicions and temptations of bonzes and Buddhist
nuns : besides, polygamy and the general treatment
of women are viewed almost eye to eye, from a
Mussulman as from a Chinese point of view. In
a word, Islam is, and always has been, tamed and


subdued in China, except perhaps at the two
centres — Yiin Nan and Kan Suh — where Arabs and
Ouigours have been directly introduced as soldiers ;
and being on a footing of equality, if not superiority,
have formed fanatical hot-beds of disaffection.
Mussulmans in China have never been, and are
not now at all disqualified, by reason of their
religion alone, from holding any post, however
high, open to ordinary Chinese.



May be said to have disappeared with the year 1900. — Persian Jews
arrive in 1163; positive evidence. — Stone tablet records descent
from Adam, Abraham, Moses, etc. — Tao once more introduced to
explain the doctrine. — Dates from the Chou dynasty. — Jewish
fasts commanded. — The first synagogue at K'ai-feng Fu. —
Repaired during Mongol rule. — Ming dynasty tolerant towards
the Jews ; they repair the synagogue. — Destroyed by a flood. —
Native Jewish comparison of Judaism with other religions. —
Trims the faith to suit Chinese ideas. — Evidence of Persian
origin ; other Jews said to be in China. — Transmission through
Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron, to Joshua and
Esdras. — Further compromise with Chinese doctrines, and claim
for higher antiquity in China.— Destruction by inundation at the
close of the Ming dynasty. — Rebuilding of the synagogue under
the Manchu rule. — No real evidence of any Judaism in China
anterior to 1163. — How Ricci 300 years ago first heard of these
Jews; and of others at Hangchow. — Pere Trigault's special
opportunities for examining the Nestorian and Jewish stones. —
Protestant Bishop of Hongkong sends to make enquiry. — Some
of the Jews come to Shanghai. — Disappearance of the synagogue.
— Rev. W. A. P. Martin himself visits the Jews in 1866. —
Unsympathetic attitude of the Moslems. — Total degeneration of
the last surviving Jews. — Effects of the T'ai-p'ing rebellion. —
Other recent visitors to the site. — More Jews visit Shanghai, and
the Jewish merchants there take the matter up. — Scrolls and
other valuables placed in museums under British control. —
Arabic words for " Christian " and " Jew." — Turkish race for
2000 years a link between religious China and religious Europe. —
Clue by which we can trace the Jews of the Mongol dynasty. —
Mussulman independence contrasted with Jewish suppleness.

The Jews may be said to have disappeared from



China with the nineteenth century, and with the
publication in the year 1900 of their official
obsequies by the Jesuit, Pere Jerome Tobar. Yet,
strange to say, the history of their arrival in China
from Persia in 1163 (Sung dynasty), since when
they have lived in almost complete seclusion and
obscurity, is as clear and positive as the coming
of the first Moslems, now counted perhaps in the
whole of China by tens of millions, is lost in the
mistiness of oblivion. The authority is of the
highest, being nothing less than the original stones
of 1489 and 15 12 (Ming dynasty), and that of 1663
(present Manchu dynasty), commemorating the
rebuildings and repairs of the synagogue in which
they were found ; moreover, they are still in sitil.
The first inscription begins by stating that
Abraham, "founder of the Israel religion," was
nineteenth in descent from Adam (as stated in the
first chapter of the Chronicles), none of the inter-
vening patriarchs between those two having
worshipped idols or believed in any but one God.
Abraham, observing that the tao of Heaven did
not speak, set himself to draw it out from God
by faithful service, and thus founded the religion
as transmitted to this day. After over 500 years
of successive transmissions, the true religion came
to the charge of Moses, who retired to Mount
Sinai in order to seek the Scripture amid fasting
and prayer. All this took place during the Chou
dynasty (b.c. 1122-206, — a chronology which
requires elucidation) : and so things went on up

i66 THE JEWS [chap.

to Esdras, a descendant of the first patriarchs.
The tao, or "way" to honour Heaven, though
obvious in itself, needs to be based upon the overt
acts of li-pai (rite-kneeling), and on the principles
of ts'ing-chen (purity-truth). Heaven must be for
ever present to the mind ; and the tao of Heaven,
though without form, is always there above, if
only we pursue it with our hearts. After this
follows a further dissertation upon tao, proof that,
as in the case of the Nestorians, every effort has
been to accommodate the new religion so far as
possible to Chinese notions. Thus Adam is styled
'' P'an-ku Adam,'' P'an-ku being the legendary
Chinese "creator" as adopted from fiction by the
literary men of the Sung dynasty ; and there are
various quotations from the " Book of Changes,"
other ancient classics, and even popular ouranology.
Stress is then laid upon the duty of making
offerings to ancestors in the spring and autumn,
purification, good works, and fasting. The seventh
day closes each round of observances ; however,
the question of resting from labour on that day
is prudently omitted. But there is a vague allusion
to " seven days' fasting at the four seasons, in
commemoration of our patriarchal ancestor's tribula-
tions," which may possibly refer to the four fasts
enumerated by Zechariah.

The inscription goes on to say that Jewish
traditions ascribe the immigrants' origin to India
(a term in which the Chinese often include parts
of Ta-ts'in and of Persia), whence seventy families


came by command (it is not stated of whom) with
tribute of foreign cloth to Sung. The Emperor
invited them to stay at Pien-liang (then the capital ;
now K'ai-feng Fu in Ho Nan). In the year 1163
the ustdd^ Levi was in charge, and Am-tu-la
Q Abdullah) built the first synagogue. In the year
1279 of the Mongol Emperor Kublai the ustdd
rebuilt the place, or Ts'ing-cMn Sz (" Purity-truth
Monastery") as it was called. On the advent of
the Ming dynasty (1368), the founder granted
liberty to all who submitted to his will, and a
certain number of mivan-la (mollahs)^ were
appointed to the charge. In the year 142 1 the
second Ming emperor presented the synagogue
with some incense, and authorised its extensive
repair ; tablets in honour of the Emperor (for
monthly worship) were placed within it, and the
front part of the work was completed by the year
1445. A flood of the Yellow River in the year
1 46 1 did immense damage, but funds and official
sanction were obtained to rebuild on the devastated
site ; and the whole, including the back parts, was

1 M. Deveria has shown that the Chinese word wu-sz-tah (or tat)
is the Persian ustdd (or usta)^ which stands for Rdb, or " rabbi " as we
say in English ; as we shall see, in 1282 a word like it is applied to a
Christian sending envoys from India.

'-' Mohammedan mosques are also often called " Purity-truth
Temples" ; the supposed 742 mosque at Si-an Fu is so termed by the
professed authorities for its existence ; and, curiously enough, one
Abdullah repaired it in 1127. In 1482 its name was changed by
request to TsHng-siii Sz, or " Purity-effort Temple." As the Jews are
popularly called "Sinew-plucking Moslems," it is possible to see in
all this a Mussulman attempt to share and exceed the moderate
antiquity of the Jews.

i68 THE JEWS [chap.

magnificently reconstructed. Meanwhile more
sacred books had been procured from NIngpo (in
those times a place of Japanese trade), and large
subscriptions were made amongst the Jews in
order to provide the necessary furniture and
ornaments. Finally the composer of the inscription
indulges in a few general reflections ; he says :

** The three teachings (religions) have each
their way of honouring their lord. The literates
honour Confucius in their Halls of Great (Musical)
Perfection ; the S'akya honour [S'akya] Muni in
their Halls of the Sacred Effigy ; the Taoists {le.
the modern degenerates) have their Jewel Emperor
Hall (dates from 1116, 1600 years after Lao-tsz'
death). So those of Purity-truth have their Israel
Hall, where they honour August Heaven."

It is interesting to note the absence of all
mention of Manicheans, Nestorians, and, above
all, of Mussulmans, who, if they existed then in
that city, were probably as hostile as they are
now, when they are known to be numerous. Then
he goes on to say :

" Confucianists and ourselves in the main believe
the same thine, but differ in detail ; the essential
pomts of both parties being to respect the tao of
Heaven, to honour our ancestors, be loyal to our
princes, dutiful to father and mother, kind to wife
and children, content with our grade in life, and
sociable with friends ; in a word, we do not
ignore any of the Five Relationships (of the Book
of Rites)."

Here follow some political remarks flattering
to the Ming dynasty.


The second stone of 1512 once more enters
into the question of Jewish tao from the Chinese
classical point of view, but contains little of
historical novelty. The authors, — officials, and
evidently not all Jews, — condense the history of
the synagogue as given in the earlier stone, but
add a few new touches of their own. Thus, Adam
came from the Western Regions (a term always
applied to West Asia) of India; the first Jewish
Scriptures date from the Chou dynasty ; the four
local copies {i.e, the three originally there and the
Ningpo copy) are divided into fifty-three sections
(Persian Jews' computation). "The original faith
has been in China since Han times (b.c, 206-A.D.
220)." The followers of this religion, it appears,
are to be found in other places besides Pien (K'ai-
feng Fu) ; but, wherever they may be, they revere
the same Scripture and the same tao. Then after
a long dissertation and comparison the authors
give us a few more historical facts : — " After the
Creation, the first patriarch Adam transmitted to
Noah, who in turn transmitted to Abraham."
'Raham (thus euphoniously contracted, and written
with the Buddhist sounds for Arkdn) passed it
on to Isaac, who did the same to Yahakuvuh
(Jacob). 'Kuvuh transmitted to the Twelve Tribes,
whence in due course to Moses and Aaron. Aaron
transmitted to Yiie-shu-wo (Joshua), and 'Shu-wo
to Esdras, from whose time the religion obtained
a brilliant development.

The third inscription dates from 1663, the


second year of K'ang-hi (Manchu dynasty), and
introduces one or two new surprises. Adam was
nineteenth in descent from P'an-ku, and Arhan
taught his people to do God's will with their whole
heart, and also to do their utmost to discover tao.
Then follows a lengthy sermon on filial piety,
Heaven, prayer, sacrifice, purification, and fasting,
in which the " Book of Changes" and the Chinese
classics are raked for apt allusions. Moses is dis-
covered to have thought out the Chung-yung or
Golden Mean of Confucius. The religion was
first preached in China during the Chou dynasty,
"and" (evidendy with the intention of suggesting
" when ") the synagogue was erected at Ta-liang
(another name for Pien, or Pien-liang). Through
the Han, T'ang, Sung, and Ming dynasties (b.c.
206-A.D. 1644) there have been many vicissitudes,
but no swerving from the true doctrine. The
synagogue was built by Am-tu-la in 1163, and
rebuilt by an Ustad in the Mongol year 1356 {sic).
It was destroyed by the flood of 1461, and again
rebuilt. At the close of the Ming dynasty (1642)
the rebels and the imperial troops both cut the
banks of the Yellow River with the object of
damaging each other ; the city was flooded,^ 100,000
persons were drowned, and the synagogue was
again destroyed. In 1646, under the first Manchu
emperor, the books saved from the fiood were

^ P^re Martin Martini in 1656 gives an account of this flood;
many Christians perished, including the European priest Robert de
Figuereido, who decUned to abandon his flock.


collated and placed for temporary safety in a hired
dwelling ; meanwhile a military officer of the Jewish
religion exerted himself to recover the situation,
and in 1653 steps were taken to rebuild once more.
There are various other lengthy details, in which
the term mwait-la (mollah) twice occurs ; but there
is nothine further of grreat historical interest. In
ten years the place was finished and this third
stone inscription set up.

Nothing could thus be clearer than the fact
that for 500 years the Jews had flourished peace-
ably at K'ai-feng Fu ; the statements about their
earlier arrival during the Chou dynasty are self-con-
tradictory, the later inscriptions manifestly ranking
in value below the earlier, from which they were
necessarily inspired ; perhaps the allusion in the
first to Abraham and Moses " during the Chou
dynasty," (who, according to the usually accepted
chronology, both lived before even the beginning
of the Chou dynasty), caused the authors of the
two later to believe that the earliest Chinese
Jews came in the Chou or Han dynasties. Pious
aspirations, are, of course no evidence, and there
is no tittle of real evidence to be found that any
Westerners, still less any Western religion, came
to China before the Chinese themselves discovered
the Oxus region in b.c. 130-120. The fact that
Buddhists really did arrive in a.d. 67 has most
likely been mentally extended, as in the case of
the later literature on Islam, to cover more than
stern evidence will justify ; even the Catholics


(Missions Etrangeres) avail themselves of this
Buddhist event to turn it into a Christian one in
their teaching manuals. But the questions still
remain, How was all this about the 1163 Jews
found out by Europeans, and What has become
of these Persian Jews since 1663?

When the Jesuit Matthew Ricci was in Peking
three centuries ago, he was visited by a Chinese
Jew who had heard of his arrival in China, and
had taken the opportunity of an official visit to
Peking to call and see if he perchance belonged
to their faith, seeing that report said he was no

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina and religion → online text (page 12 of 23)