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Tibet and Islam

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    Tibet in Islamic Geography and Cartography Anna Akasoy THE WARBURG INSTITUTE, WOBURN SQ, LONDON 16 - 17 - 18 November 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2007
      Tibet in Islamic Geography and Cartography
      Anna Akasoy
      16 - 17 - 18 November 2006

      An international conference organised with the support of
      The Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain, The British
      Academy, The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation and The Wellcome Trust

      If we want to learn about medieval Islamic attitudes to other
      cultures, geographical literature is a true treasure trove. There are
      references to Tibet (usually `Tubbat') in Arabic texts as early as the
      ninth century. Some of these testimonies to early contacts between
      Tibetans and Arabs have been fruitfully exploited by historians of
      Tibet, who naturally adopted a Tibeto-centric perspective and tried to
      identify the people, places and historical events in the Tibetan past.
      I would like to present a different perspective in my talk and
      re-contextualise this information in the history of Arabic literature.
      In addition to geographical literature "proper," often somewhat
      artificially divided into two branches, human and mathematical
      geography, I will look into texts which are usually described as
      encyclopaedias or works of adab. The borders between these genres are
      often blurred, which might affect also our assessment of the different
      accounts of Tibet. At the end of my talk I would like to present some
      cartographic material.

      There are several questions I would like to raise throughout this paper:

      * What exactly does Tubbat refer to in Islamic sources and is this
      the only way in which Muslim authors referred to Tibet. What is the
      character of this `Tibet'? A cultural or ethnic region or a political
      entity with fixed borders?
      * Where did Muslim authors obtain their information from and did
      they have any particular reasons for including a certain kind of
      * How does the description of Tibet in Islamic literature change
      throughout the centuries? Should we assume with Luciano Petech that
      all relevant information on Tibet had been gathered during the first
      military campaigns of the Arabs without later authors taking notice of
      changes within the Himalayan region, or should be rather assume that
      Muslim authors remained up-to-date with their information on Tibet?

      Do all the Muslims of Tibet belong to the Hui ? The Origin and
      Development of the Chinese Term Hui and the Equivalent Terms in the
      Tibetan Language

      Diana Altner (Humboldt University, Berlin)

      While all the Muslims who live in Tibet are identified as belonging to
      the Muslim minority (and nationality) Hui by the Chinese state, the
      Tibetans distinguish different Muslim groups according to the origin
      of their ancestors. My paper will discuss the origin and development
      of the Chinese term Hui and compare it with Tibetan ethnonyms used in
      relation to Muslims. Next to Muslims living in the Tibetan areas whose
      ancestors come from Ladakh, Kashmir and China there also exist small
      groups of Tibetans who converted to Islam and who are known as Zang
      Hui ("Tibetan Muslims"). I will introduce an example of one such
      group, the Zang Hui of the Kaligang region in Hualong (Qinghai/Amdo).

      Cave Temples in Iran and the Encounters with Tibetan Buddhism - A
      Photographic Survey
      Arezou Azad (Oxford)

      Does Iran have a Buddhist past, and if so, when did it begin, how long
      did it last, and when did it die out? Did Buddhism die a slow death
      and vanish into nothing, or did it merge with Islamic doctrine and
      practices in Iran? These questions have been little studied, although
      there are traces of a Buddhist past in the literary and material
      evidence. I will consider the literary references on the Ilkhanid
      encounters with Tibetan Buddhism and complement these with my findings
      from a recent photographic survey of some rock-cut structures in Iran
      that had been previously assessed to carry Buddhist elements.

      Mongols and Tibetans the First Time Around: Dimensions of a World
      Paul D. Buell (Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington

      Of all the peoples with whom the Mongols came into contact with in
      building their empires and successor states, Tibetans were, with the
      exception of the many Turks, the most universally present, although
      never in similar numbers. Tibetans were found almost everywhere, even
      in the earliest stages of imperial development, as missionaries in
      conquered former Tangut domains, for example, in a similar role in
      Mongolia itself, widely in what became Mongol China, where they helped
      rebuff Taoist upstarts, later in Mongol Iran, where a Buddhist revival
      took shape, in Turkistan, and even, apparently, in Golden Horde
      domains. In China they converted the ruling house and provided serious
      competition to Islam in Mongol Iran, along with an equally resurgent
      Nestorianism. Everywhere, Tibetans were agents of cultural exchange,
      although their role is little documented in many parts of the Mongol
      world order. In Mongolia and China, for example, Tibetans became known
      for their medical knowledge and may even have exerted a major
      influence on the formation of the Mongol imperial dietary in the
      latter area, the Yinshan zhengyao, "Proper and Essential Things for
      the Emperor's Food and Drink," presented to the Mongol court in China
      in 1330. Tibetans also helped reformulate Buddhist art there and
      introduced a new wave of Buddhist knowledge, as exemplified by Chinese
      texts directly translated or adapted from Tibetan texts. In the
      present paper, I will look at this larger role of Tibetans within the
      Mongol World Empire and its successor states and also, more
      specifically, at their apparent agency as key conduits of information
      between East and West, West and East, principally between China and
      the Islamic world and back.

      Ritual Theory across the Buddhist-Muslim Divide in Late Imperial China
      Johan Elverskog (Dallas)

      One response among Mongols and Tibetans to the late eighteenth-century
      Muslim Hui uprisings and the Qing state's subsequent militarization of
      northwest China was to revive the myth of Shambhala. At the time, this
      myth, which posits that when Muslims take over the world the Buddhist
      king of Shambhala will ride forth and crush the infidels, perhaps
      seemed apt, especially for those Mongols fighting on the front lines
      or witnessing the destruction of their homes and families. However,
      within this atmosphere of escalating violence and claims of Muslims'
      inherent propensity for violence, one Mongol author offered another
      point of view. Injannashi, the most famous Mongol littérateur of the
      nineteenth-century, tried to reconcile Buddhist-Muslim tensions by
      engaging in a cross-cultural analysis of ritual. This paper will
      explore his interpretation of Islam and his attempt at generating
      cross-cultural understanding in a time of war.

      Kashmiri Muslims in Tibet: Identity and Acculturation
      Marc Gaborieau (CNRS, Paris)

      My research on Muslims in Tibet—actually an unplanned by-product of my
      dissertation on Muslims in Nepal—was conducted mainly between 1965 and
      1972 in Nepal, India, London and Paris. This being the time of the
      Cultural Revolution, I could not go to Tibet—a frustrating
      circumstance for a social anthropologist. This research culminated in
      my first book Récit d'un voyageur musulman au Tibet (Paris, 1973). I
      still have not had the opportunity to go to Tibet. Retrospectively it
      seems to me—although I cannot pretend to have read exhaustively all
      that was published since—that Ghulam Muhammad's narrative referring to
      the winter 1882-83, which I edited and translated in that book,
      remains the most precise anthropological account of the Kashmiri
      Muslims of Tibet. In this paper I will build on this account, and I
      will compare it both with more recent publications on Muslims in Tibet
      and with my own first hand experience of the Kashmiri Muslims of
      Kathmandu—see my Minorités musulmanes dans le royaume hindou du Népal,
      Nanterre, 1977, part I, chapter II. I will try to distinguish between
      what these Kasmiris of Lhasa and other Tibetan towns have kept from
      their inherited Indian identity, and what they have borrowed from
      Tibet in matter of language, social structure and religion. I would be
      grateful if those of the participants in the Conference who have a
      first hand experience of Tibet could bring additional information on
      the subject.

      Tibetan Musk and Medieval Arab Perfumery
      Anya King (Indiana University)

      For the medieval Arabs, the most famous product of Tibet was musk.
      Musk is produced by the musk deer, which is native to the highlands of
      eastern Central Eurasia. Since the musk deer lived beyond the
      boundaries of the Islamic world, all of the genuine musk used in
      medieval Islamic culture had to be imported. In addition to its use in
      perfumery, musk was extensively used in medicine and most of our
      knowledge of the making of medieval perfumes comes from the works of
      physicians who blended perfumes.

      The few extant works include numerous formulas for many different
      perfumed substances. Musk was used in almost every kind of aromatic
      compound. The most famous of these, ghaliyah, an ointment, and nadd,
      an incense, generally included high percentages of musk; the more musk
      used, the higher the quality. The use of perfumed cosmetics was
      essentially mandatory among the upper classes of the medieval Near
      East, and great quantities of musk, along with other imported
      aromatics, must have been expended in the manufacture of aromatic
      compounds. While the Arabs were familiar with musk from China and
      other places, Tibetan musk was always considered to be the best for a
      variety of reasons. While perfume recipes do not always specify the
      type of musk to be used, the only kind ever called for by name is
      Tibetan musk, signaling the high quality of a particular perfume.

      Calling Tibet. Mobilization of Tradition in the Contemporary Baltistan
      Jan Magnusson (Lund University)

      The "Baltistan Movement" is a social movement emerging over the past
      10 - 15 years in the Northern Areas of Pakistan and in Kargil, India.
      What signifies the movement is the revival and renewal of Balti
      culture and identity in distinction from the dominant cultures of
      respective country. Two cultural processes stand out. One is the
      revival of Tibetan script, the other is the manufacturing of cultural
      products. The former is mainly going on in Pakistan while the latter
      is mainly going on in India. These processes articulate a renewed
      collective identity for the Balti people and create a new Balti
      political conciousness on a human, emotional level. The revival and
      renewal of Balti traditions in the form of cultural products and the
      use of Tibetan script changes the values of the Balti people rather
      than gains particular political results. In my paper I want to explore
      the "mobilization of tradition" in the Baltistan Movement (What
      histories/traditions/products are selected and why) as well as the
      creative work with Balti cultural materials going on today. The data
      was collected through fieldwork in Baltistan and Kargil in 2004 and
      2005, and is being collected in Kargil in October, 2006.

      The Kālacakra Tantra as a Source for Tibetan Knowledge of Islam
      John Newman (New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida)

      The primary texts of the Indian Vajrayāna Buddhist Kālacakra ("Wheel
      of Time") system of mysticism were completed during the early decades
      of the 11th century CE, during the period Mahmud of Ghazni launched
      his epoch-making raids into northern India. The authors of the
      Kālacakra literature had considerable knowledge of Islam, depicted it
      in mythic terms as a barbaric, demonic anti-religion opposed to the
      Dharma of the Buddha, and prophesied an apocalypse in which a
      messianic bodhisattva emperor will eradicate Islam.
      Within a few years of the first appearance of the Kālacakra in India,
      Tibetan Buddhists adopted the system and began to translate its texts
      from Sanskrit into Tibetan. These translations were the most important
      textual sources for pre-modern Tibetan understanding of Islam. This
      paper will discuss the factual knowledge and the mythic representation
      of Islam derived from Tibetan translations of Kālacakra texts, and
      ways the Kālacakra myths cooperated with actual Muslim persecution of
      Indian Buddhism to shape Tibetan attitudes towards Islam.

      So Close to Samarkand, Lhasa. Sufi Hagiographies, Founder Myths and
      Sacred Space in Himalayan Islam
      Alexandre Papas (EHESS, Paris)

      Confronting Tibetan, Dongxiang or Salar popular legends and Turkistani
      Sufi hagiographical texts, the historian can hardly reconstitute the
      modern history of Muslim communities in the Himalayan regions (Tibet,
      Qinghai, Gansu). He has to favour an anthropological approach,
      focusing on collective memory and self-representation of each
      community. After remarking, first, that both legends and texts claim a
      common origin located among the Sufi milieus of the pre-modern
      Samarkand, I shall analyse the role of Muslim saints in several
      narratives. Lastly, I propose to examine these typical minorities
      founder myths in terms of a sacred space, which breaks out their
      isolation and links the Himalayan minorities to the Muslim world
      through Central Asia.

      Islamic Astronomy in Northeastern Tibet (14th c.)
      Benno van Dalen (Frankfurt University)

      During the last third of the 13th century, the Mongol empire included
      both China and the Iranian part of the Islamic world. As a result, an
      exchange of scholars and scholarly information became possible.
      Khubilai Khan founded an Islamic Astronomical Bureau with observatory
      in his new capital near present-day Beijing in 1271, which was headed
      by Zhamaluding (presumably Jamal al-Din al-Bukhari), and at which a
      large number of other Muslim astronomers were active. The main
      surviving source for the achievements of the Bureau is a Chinese
      translation of an Islamic astronomical handbook with tables, called
      the Huihuilifa, which was made in the early Ming dynasty (1383) and
      was later reworked in Nanjing in 1477, as well as in Seoul in 1442. It
      was finally included in the Annals of the Ming Dynasty (in a distorted
      version) and in the Sikuquanshu. The Huihuilifa turns out to be based
      on a set of astronomical parameters that are mostly unknown from any
      other Islamic astronomical sources and which are therefore very
      probably the result of Zhamaludings observational program at the
      Islamic Astronomical Bureau.

      In recent years a Persian manuscript in St. Petersburg and an Arabic
      one from the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris have been found to be
      related to the Huihuilifa. The St. Petersburg manuscript appears to
      have been a document used in the preparation of the original Chinese
      translation. The Paris manuscript is an astronomical handbook by the
      otherwise unknown astronomer al-Sanjufini, who worked for the Mongol
      viceroy in northeastern Tibet in the 1360s and who based himself
      heavily on the material which is also included in the Huihuilifa. In
      my talk I will discuss various characteristics of this work and show
      through which route the knowledge it contains may have reached Tibet.

      Between Legend and Reality: about the `Conversion' to Islam of Two
      Prominent Lamaists in the 17th-18th Centuries
      Thierry Zarcone (CNRS, Paris)

      At the end of the 17th century, the Northern part of Eastern Turkestan
      and Qinghai were dominated by the Mongol Jungghars who recognized the
      spiritual jurisdiction of the Dalai Lama of Lhasa. Meanwhile the
      Muslims of Kashgaria were politically divided. Although the Mongols
      were considered infidels and traditional enemies of Islam, Afâq Khwâja
      (d. 1694), member of the famous Sufi family of the Khwâjas, both a
      spiritual and a political dynasty, and a pretender to the throne of
      Kashgaria, requested the help of the 5th Dalai Lama (d. 1682) and of
      the Jungghars khan Ghaldan (d. 1697), against his rival. Thanks to the
      Jungghar army Afâq Khwâja became king of Kashgaria in 1680. This event
      is recorded in a quite surprising way in a hagiography of the Khwâja
      dynasty in Persian (written in the 18th century) and in a 19th century
      Chagatay printed source based on oral tradition, in order to give
      Islam a glorious role and to minimize the help provided by the
      Lamaists. Actually the hagiography and the oral tradition presented
      the 5th Dalai Lama and the Jungghar sovereign Ghaldan as new converts
      to Islam. The 5th Dalai Lama would have adopted Islam after he was
      defeated at Lhasa by Afâq Khwâja in a magic competition. Ghaldan would
      also have converted to Islam because he was fascinated by the miracles
      performed by another Sufi named Mashrab, disciple of the same Afâq
      Khwâja. So hagiography and oral tradition advocate the fact that only
      Muslims—i.e. new converts—and not infidels have helped Afâq to recover
      his throne; the contrary should have been disgraceful in the eyes of
      the believers. In this presentation, my aim is to analyse how myth and
      history intertwines in these competing narratives and conversion
      stories. It goes without saying that, in the case of the 5th Dalai
      Lama, history does not confirm the allegations of the hagiographies;
      nevertheless the question is open in the case of the Mongol sovereign
      Ghaldan since Chinese official sources have regarded him as a traitor
      to "Tsong-ka-pa faith", i.e. Tibetan Buddhism, and a convert to Islam.

      Notes on the Religions in the Mongol Empire
      Peter Zieme (Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin)

      The paper attempts to give an overview on the religious situation in
      the Uyghur Kingdom and in the Mongol realm during the thirteenth and
      fourteenth centuries. Buddhism and to a lesser degree (Nestorian)
      Christianity are well documented (Daoism as part of the cultural
      heritage in China proper is excluded here). But it is questionable,
      whether, and if, how long, Manichaeism was still alive during this
      period (after its decline in the Uyghur Kingdom during the first half
      of the eleventh century).

      The paper also discusses issues connected with the slow advance of the
      "new" religion, i.e. of Islam, to the eastern regions of the Tarim
      basin including the Turfan oasis and Dunhuang after the first half of
      the eleventh century when it had reached the Western regions of the
      Tarim basin (Kashgahr, Khotan) and where it got, at least seemingly,
      deeply rooted.

      Finally some examples shall demonstrate the infiltration of Muslim
      terms into Uyghur Buddhist texts, while on the other hand several
      Buddhist poems moderately, but clearly show the fear Uyghur Buddhists
      had envisaging the "new" religion, i.e. Islam.



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