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Islam In Turkestan

The story of Mohammedanism in China goes back to the days of Mohammed himself; the introduction of the religion into China being attributed by Chinese Mohammedans to Wahab Abi Kabcha, an uncle of the prophet, who was accredited as envoy to the Chinese court, and arrived in the country some six years after the Hejira, about 628. This was in the days of the great T'ang dynasty which has been described as " one of the most brilliant epochs in the history of China," and under the auspices of an Emperor (T'ai Tsung) who may be regarded as the most accomplished in the Chinese annals, famed alike for "his wisdom and nobleness; his conquests and good government; his temperance, cultivated tastes, and patronage of literary men."

With regard to the position of Moslems in China under the T'ang dynasty it may be said that, although welcomed at first by the broad-minded and tolerant T'ai Tsung, succeeding emperors did not regard the presence of the " foreigner" in their midst with the same equanimity. Active proselytism was, no doubt, discouraged, for such has ever been a cause of offense in Chinese eyes. The exhibition of a spirit of independence or national conservatism was strongly deprecated, and continual pressure was exerted with a view to de-nationalize the foreigners, by discouraging relations with their ancestral homes; forbidding the much desired pilgrimages to Mecca, and the introduction of foreign Mullas. The observance of their religious rites was frequently curtailed, and the erection of mosques interdicted.

A new and bewildering factor had now to be reckoned with in the rise of Islam ; for its conquering spirit, which so profoundly affected the Near and Middle East and Northern Africa, even approached the confines of the distant Chinese empire. The movement in favor of conversion to Islam began in Chinese Turkestan in the middle of the tenth century. From this period Chinese Turkestan was definitely occupied by the Turks. Turki became the universal language.

The Hu-he were followed by the Kara-Kitai, in the eleventh century; then came the desolation of Jenghiz Khan. Chengiz Khan, the organizing genius who welded tribes, with their constant feuds, raids and petty wars, into a single vast, obedient army, was born in 1162. In 1218 Chengiz invaded Chinese Turkestan. He massacred freely, but he and his free-thinking family were a protection against the fanatic proselyting-by-violence of the Mohammedan states on the west of the Alai Mountains. The Mongol general proclaimed freedom of worship, which was one of the few benefits conferred by these nomad rulers. He bestowed Eastern Turkestan on the Dughlat family, and its chiefs became hereditary rulers of the province.

Islam steadily gained ground throughout Central Asia, and ere many centuries had passed persecution ceased because of a happy uniformity of sentiment. By the end of the fourteenth century Islam had supplanted Buddhism generally throughout Eastern Turkestan.

In 1375, hearing that Moghulistan was weakened by disorders, Tamerlane decided to invade it. He invaded Moghulistan altogether five times, the valley of the Yulduz being the meeting-place of his armies, and Eastern Turkestan suffered terribly from these raids, in the course of which the country was laid waste. In 1397 this Islamic and Buddhist Uyghur Kingdoms merged into one state and maintained their independence until 1759. As the centuries rolled by without producing other universal tyrants, the priesthood, the letter-worshipping Khojas from Bokhara's schools, seem to have usurped the State, until, in the seventeenth century, a Kalmuk power northward from Kashgaria entered to control the struggle of priest-ridden factions.

In 1729 a new rebellion was started by Tsening, who defeated the imperial armies at Hami; during three years he maintained his position, but in 1732 he was defeated and fled to Ili. Here he was left undisturbed, and, in 1734, the Altai mountains, in south-western Mongolia, were accepted as the boundary of his principality, under the nominal suzerainty of the emperor. Tsening died in 1745 ; his death was followed by intertribal wars, centring around Ili, and ultimately composed by the assumption of the khanship by Davatsi. He ruled for nine years, when, in 1754, he was opposed by a rival Amursana. Davatsi was victorious, and Amursana fled to the court of Kien-lung, by whom he was received with great honor.

It was the policy of the Emperor Keen Lung to reconquer Hi and Eastern Turkestan for the Celestial Empire ; and in 1755 he despatched an army 150,000 strong, which met with little resistance and enabled him to consolidate the allegiance tendered through Amursana, who was appointed Paramount Chief. The emperor's troops then conquered Ili, which was divided into four subordinate khanates. Amursana rebelled against this partition, but he was defeated and fled into Russian territory, where he died. Having subjected Hi to his rule, the emperor then proceeded to tighten his hold on Turkestan (Kashgaria), the portion of Sinkiang south of the Tien Shan, the mountains of Heaven.

The Zungar soon tired of Chinese rule and massacred a detachment of the Celestial forces ; but the Chinese reoccupied Zungaria in 1757, and in the following year crushed the tribe. Resistance was offered, but in the end Kashgar and Yarkand were taken by assault in 1760, and the Mohammedans of Turkestan were subjected to the direct governance of Peking. Turkestan sank back into the arms of China, whose battalions had decimated Dzungaria and spared not the resisting zealots of Kashgaria. Kulja was founded on the site of the Zungarian capital, and the modern name of Hsin-Chiang or the "New Province" was formally bestowed on the reconquered countries.

The Khans of Central Asia were alarmed by this display of Chinese power, and formed a confederacy, headed by Ahmad Khan, the Amir of Afghanistan, who despatched an embassy to Peking to demand the surrender of Chinese Turkestan on the ground that it was inhabited by Moslems. Receiving an unsatisfactory reply, the Afghan Amir was careful not to attack the Chinese, but contented himself with holding Badakshan in force ; and soon afterwards the confederacy broke up.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:30:05 ZULU