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Rectifying God's Name

Liu Zhi's Confucian Translation of Monotheism and Islamic Law

James D. Frankel

Publication Year: 2011

Islam first arrived in China more than 1,200 years ago, but for more than a millennium it was perceived as a foreign presence. The restoration of native Chinese rule by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), after nearly a century of Mongol domination, helped transform Chinese intellectual discourse on ideological, social, political, religious, and ethnic identity. This led to the creation of a burgeoning network of Sinicized Muslim scholars who wrote about Islam in classical Chinese and developed a body of literature known as the Han Kitab. Rectifying God’s Name examines the life and work of one of the most important of the Qing Chinese Muslim literati, Liu Zhi (ca. 1660–ca. 1730), and places his writings in their historical, cultural, social, and religio-philosophical context. His Tianfang danli (Ritual law of Islam) represents the most systematic and sophisticated attempt within the Han Kitab corpus to harmonize Islam with Chinese thought.

The volume begins by situating Liu Zhi in the historical development of the Chinese Muslim intellectual tradition, examining his sources and influences as well as his legacy. Delving into the contents of Liu Zhi’s work, it focuses on his use of specific Chinese terms and concepts, their origins and meanings in Chinese thought, and their correspondence to Islamic principles. A close examination of the Tianfang dianli reveals Liu Zhi’s specific usage of the concept of Ritual as a common foundation of both Confucian morality and social order and Islamic piety. The challenge of expressing such concepts in a context devoid of any clear monotheistic principle tested the limits of his scholarship and linguistic finesse. Liu Zhi's theological discussion in the Tianfang dianli engages not only the ancient Confucian tradition, but also Daoism, Buddhism, and even non-Chinese traditions. His methodology reveals an erudite and cosmopolitan scholar who synthesized diverse influences, from Sufism to Neo-Confucianism, and possibly even Jesuit and Jewish sources, into a body of work that was both steeped in tradition and, yet, exceedingly original, epitomizing the phenomenon of Chinese Muslim simultaneity.

A compelling and multidimensional study, Rectifying God’s Name will be eagerly welcomed by interested readers of Chinese and Islamic religious and social history, as well as students and scholars of comparative religion.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiii


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pp. xv-xxi

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Chapter 1 The World of Liu Zhi

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pp. 1-25

The multifaceted nature of Islam in China invites us to view it with an adjustable lens, sometimes focusing widely over a span of centuries and across vast geography, sometimes requiring a narrower scope to view particular circumstances of time and place. Our overview...

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Chapter 2 Chinese Muslim Tradition And Liu Zhi’s Legacy

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pp. 26-55

With the formation and spread of the Jingtang Jiaoyu educational reforms came the demand for texts to fill out the new curriculum. Previously, the founder of the nascent education system, Hu Dengzhou, had been driven by the scarcity of texts to venture away from his hometown, and eventually outside China, in search of Islamic knowledge. Specifically, ...

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Chapter 3 Liu Zhi’s Concepts And Terminology

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pp. 56-92

It is difficult to single out a particular work by Liu Zhi to the exclusion of the others, for Liu Zhi expected his readers to have read his other writings. Chinese Muslim intellectual readers would likely have been familiar with other Han Kitāb texts. These, of course, included the original writings of Liu Zhi's predecessors, Wang Daiyu and Ma Zhu, and..

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Chapter 4 Ritual As An Expression of Chinese-Islamic Simultaneity

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pp. 93-114

Liu Zhi viewed his three most famous works, the "Tianfang trilogy," as operating together to present a comprehensive, systematic, and holistic view of Islam. So while each of the books can stand on its own, the discourse that runs through them must be viewed as progressive, enabling one to cross-reference the earlier texts in the later ones. The overlapping...

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Chapter 5 The Spirit of Ritual And The Letter of The Law

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pp. 115-154

That the Tianfang dianli is predominantly concerned with what may be termed Islamic orthopraxy is clear: sixteen of the twenty juan into which Liu Zhi divided his work are devoted to ritual law and other matters of practical performance. Liu Zhi's emphasis on ritual in the Tianfang dianli is a reflection of the importance attached by the Islamic tradition to correct...

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Chapter 6 Allah’s Chinese Name

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pp. 155-179

The Tianfang dianli is arguably the most syncretic of Liu Zhi's writings. Because it was the only Han Kitāb book dedicated to ritual law, Liu Zhi found in its subject matter a theme especially conducive to his aim of presenting Islam as a Teaching consistent with the fundamental values of Confucian culture and ideology. By focusing...

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Chapter 7 Conclusion

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pp. 180-184

Liu Zhi did not universally convince the Confucian literati establishment of the truth of Islam, yet his efforts were successful in achieving expressed goals. We must not get sidetracked and bogged down by questions of "successful" versus "unsuccessful" assimilation or syncretism, as if there were some objective criteria by which to gauge such things. We should...


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pp. 185-224


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pp. 225-236


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pp. 237-248

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861032
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824834746

Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 794925362
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rectifying God's Name

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Islam -- China -- History.
  • Islam -- China -- Rituals.
  • Muslims -- China -- Intellectual life -- 18th century.
  • Liu, Jielian, fl. 1670-1724 -- Influence.
  • Liu, Jielian, fl. 1670-1724. Tian fang dian li ze yao jie.
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