Du Huan (杜環)’s Jingxingji – An earliest account of Islam by the Chinese

After the defeat of the Chinese Army by the Arabs at the Battle of Talas River a number of Chinese soldiers were taken as prisoners. One of the prisoners was Du Huan who was taken to Baghdad and came back to China eleven years later. After returning to China, Guangzhou to be exact he wrote an account of his travels appropriately titled Jingxingji (经行记,“Record of My Travels”). Unfortunately this book has been lost but excerpts from this book have survived mainly because of references and excerpts in other books. Thus for example for the following excerpt has survived as it was quoted in an encyclopedia compiled by one of Du Huan’s relatives.

The followers of the confession of the “Dashi” (the Arabs) have a means to denote the degrees of family relations, but it is degenerated and they don’t bother about it. They don’t eat the meat of pigs, dogs, donkeys and horses, they don’t respect neither the king of the country, neither their parents, they don’t believe in supernatural powers, they perform sacrifice to heaven and to no one else. According their customs every seventh day is a holiday, on which no trade and no cash transactions are done, whereas when they drink alcohol, they are behaving in a ridiculous and undisciplined way during the whole day.

It is interesting to note that some of the information is correct i.e., about dietary laws, some of it may be because of cultural misunderstanding i.e., not respecting the king and the parents, some partially incorrect i.e., no trade or transactions on the holiday (Friday) and some incorrect being drunk the whole day or alternatively the last two could also be because of cultural misunderstandings.

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4 responses to “Du Huan (杜環)’s Jingxingji – An earliest account of Islam by the Chinese

  1. is there anymore records ? according to wikipedia there should be about 1.5k words that were saved from his book

  2. Pingback: African in Ancient China and Vice Versa « curiosity killed the eccentric yoruba·

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