Ibn Batutta’s Observations in China

Ibn Battuta the famous 13th century Muslim traveler from Morocco. He was an extremely well travelled man of his day. He traveled from Morocco to all the way to China. He was greatly impressed by the Chinese people and the amount of wealth in that country. Here are some observations that Ibn Battuta made in China, taken from an article in the Aramco magazine.

“We entered the harbor in great pomp, the like of which I have never seen in those lands,” he noted, “but it was a joy to be followed by distress.” Then he describes the great Chinese junks that monopolized traffic to China.

The large junks had three masts and up to twelve sails, which were “never lowered, but turned according to the direction of the wind.” Three smaller vessels usually accompanied the junks to tow them if they became becalmed. The junk was the fourteenth-century equivalent of the modern ocean liner. It even carried its own fresh food: “The sailors,” notes Ibn Battuta, “have their children living on board ship, and they cultivate green stuffs, vegetables and ginger in wooden tanks.”

When Ibn Battuta finally sailed again for China, he landed at Zaytún, the storied “Shanghai” of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, which may have been what is today the island of Amoy, opposite Formosa. He traveled through China as an ambassador, although he actually represented no one and was without credentials. Despite the fact that the Muslim and Chinese empires were not on the friendliest terms, Ibn Battuta journeyed from Zaytún to Hangchow and Peking and back without any difficulty. On the contrary, he was feted in most places, a testimony to his charm and native diplomacy.

“There is no people in the world,” noted Ibn Battuta, “wealthier than the Chinese.” He called Hangchow “the biggest city I have ever seen on the face of the earth.” This was the same city described by Marco Polo as “beyond dispute the finest and noblest in the world.”

13 responses to “Ibn Batutta’s Observations in China

  1. salaam and nihao

    I’ve been a an of yours for some time – this is a fantastic blog and fills a unique niche in the Islamic blogsphere. If you don’t mind, I am linking to your post from the Carnival of Brass.


  2. Pingback: …::MvMuslims::… » Blog Archive » Links: 09-May-2008·

  3. Salam Alaikum

    Very beautiful and interesting website or blog!
    You’re doing a good job dear brother!
    My best regards to Chinese people.

    Your brother Chahid from Morocco

  4. wa’alaikum’as’salam’wa’rahma’tullah’wa’bara’ka’tahu Fatimah, Ahmed, Aziz, Chahid, Welcome to the blog. I am glad that you people liked it.

    Brother Aziz, Thanks for your comments. I have also been following your blog for some time although haven’t commented yet. 🙂

  5. The history of Chinese Islam is fascinating. Today many Chinese Muslims are suffering under the current regime but this is rarely in the news. Thank you for the article, Saudi Aramco World is a fantastic resource and I recently also put something on my blog about an article on Chinese Muslim women

    • what is it u hv to say abt Chinese muslims? am going to marry an atheist from Guangzhao but she is going to.be a believer…

  6. Ibn Battuta, the great traveler- we remember you. Kashi Samaddar, First person travels all over for World Peace.

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