This 17th-century Chinese Qur’an shows how Islamic styles of calligraphy and illumination were combined with local styles, symbols and aesthetics that came from a very different culture.
How is this Qur’an distinctively Chinese?
Examples of the adaptation of Chinese symbols include the lantern motif on the final pages of this Qur’an. The structure of the lantern is outlined in gold and set within a rectangle drawn with a double red line. The impression of a Chinese lantern is further reinforced by hanging tassels attached to the hooks on the outer side of the structures. The script used here is a variation of muhaqqaq. It is penned in a way that suggests the brush strokes associated with Chinese calligraphy, and is often referred to as sini (Chinese) Arabic.
How did Islam come to China?
Islam has a long history in China: in 650 a companion of the Prophet Muhammad was sent as an envoy to the emperor, who then ordered the construction of the first Chinese mosque. Census returns do not include information on religion, so putting a figure on the number of Muslims in the country today is a matter of informed guesswork. Many live in the areas bordering Central Asia, Tibet and Mongolia, and do not speak Chinese as their native language. The Chinese-speaking Muslims belong to a people known as the Hui, who number about 10 million. The vast majority of Hui practise Sunni Islam, and are divided into a number of traditionalist, Sufi and reformist factions.