Friday, 17 February 2012

Muslim Chinese Figure: Wang Daiyu

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

Calligraphy by Haji Nurdin Mi Guangjing

We return to our Muslim Chinese figure since it is very important for us in the Eastern part of the world. I think researches should also be conducted about the clerics and scholars of Islam from China other than those from Indian sub-continent or Nusantara which consists of Malay, Javanese and Achehnese speaking people. We also need to check about those in Indo-China as well. Researches about these are very rare or maybe do not reach audiences. It needs to be spread widely.


I am not sure about his Arabic name but I am sure he must have his Arabic name along with his indigenous name 王袋輿 Wang Daiyu. He was a Ming dynasty imperial scholar of 15th C and he was known as Zhenhui Laoren. I guess it is perhaps an equivalent to Muslim Sheikh in Arabic. His early paternal ancestor came to Ming dynasty of China but later end up in the imperial court as a master supervisor of imperial observatory since he was talented in calenders calculation and astronomy. Due to this, Wang's ancestor was given a residence in Lu Fei Lane which is now in the South part of Hongwu street in Nanjing. So, if brothers and sisters are visiting China, you may also visit this place and capture some pictures to share with others. I wanted to travel to China, India and Middle East but now I am still occupied because we need financial support for that. Our country is no Welfare State like in Europe or Australia where jobless people could use tax-payers money to travel around and later producing personal works either for Orientalism, Socio-Political studies or Anthropology. I hate being tied like this but we have no choice.  


Wang Daiyu studied under his dad's supervision. Then he was sent to a Muslim teacher known as Ma Junshi in Nanjing city. Only around 20 years old of his age that he began to study Chinese language. He also investigated the writings of philosophies and religions such as Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism and etc. 

Around 15th year of the reign of Chongzhen emperor, he produced a translation of a True Explanation of the Right Teaching. Then he translates Islamic sutras or scriptures. He also wrote the Great Studies of Islam and the Rare and True Answers. Within the Chinese tradition, he was known as among the "Great Saint" of the Qing period. He believes in providing Islamic works in Chinese language version instead of just depending on Arabic ones. Our people in South East Asia also have the same belief that make some of the foreign teachers from Southern Arabian Peninsula trying hard to learn local languages and later we as their descents have also abandoned our identity. 


Wang was fluent in Chinese, Arabic, and Persian. I am also not sure whether he was fluent in term of speaking or written or both. I speak Chinese too but my Chinese is still rusty as compared to the last five years but I could still write in Chinese. People might feel weird if I read everything in Malay or English but it is Chinese writings, hehehe.  

He studied Confucianism and using its terminologies to explain Islamic concepts. Urmm, sometimes I am also using Taoism concepts to explain about things like angelic beings and stuffs about worship to some Chinese friends so they would also forgotten that I am a Muslim. I could also use Arabic terms transliterated into Chinese but it would be very weird and people could not understand them. In other time, I also used Buddhism terms that I had translated into Chinese.

Besides, he used Chinese Classical texts to explain Islamic concepts and writing commentaries because Chinese speakers do not read original Islamic texts. However, he is very critical to Buddhism and Taoism. He favors Confucianism more because its ideas agrees more with Islamic teachings. Urmm, I am not sure about Taoism but I understood most of Buddhism ideas through Theravada school and Forest Monastic traditions. It is closer to people here as compared to Confucianism and Taoism but we don't need to translate everything into native languages here anymore because our elders had helped us with it. And many natives are also proficient in Arabic as they were sent to Arabian Peninsula and Middle East to study religion. 

His intention of writing about Islamic teachings in Chinese language and citing Confucian text was not to convert non-Muslim Han Chinese. It is just a way to help Muslims in China to understand their own religion better. Most of Muslim in China at that time already speaking in Han language or Chinese so it would be very difficult to transliterate stuffs into Chinese scripts without using the already in existence terms used by Chinese speakers.

He also used Chinese language and Confucianism concept to explain about Islam to non-Muslim Han Chinese if they ask him about the teachings. His work became part of an Islamic text known as the Han Kitab along with those Muslim scholars from Eastern provinces of China such as Liu Zhi and Ma Zhu.

Translation of concepts

Yesterday, as per my experience talking with non-Muslim friend, I used Taoism terms to explain about metaphysical stuffs like angels or malaaikah to friend and talking about angels who taking the notes at the masjid before the Friday sermon. I don't know if it is correct because I have no Muslim Chinese here to ask what are the correct terms and a Chinese national brother is still in his semester break. Maybe he would return the next week. I bought a Chinese translation of Quran for parah 30th which was translated by few individuals like Prof. Obaidellah bin Mohamed, Ustazah Ma Lee, Ustazah Hajjah Alina Wong, Ustazah Nuralina Tay, and Ustazah Juliyana Wong simply to check religious terms. I also need to polish up my Chinese since it has been a long time being separated from Sino-sphere. If I have free time perhaps I could also do some writings in Chinese about Islamic figures like prophets and messengers of Allah so I could also have the terms imprinted in my mind again. This is also a motivation for myself and also for beloved brothers and sisters. Now, I could peacefully go back to my thesis. Wishing it quickly finish. Please, help me pray brothers and sisters. Thank you.

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace, and love, amin!

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