Professeur invité EHESS-CCJ : Noriko Unno, Universite Waseda, Tokyo — Paris, février 2024


Noriko Unno

mots clés: Histoire de la Chine, Histoire de l’Asie centrale, études islamiques, Musulmans chinois





Noriko UNNO has studied the modern history of Sinophone Muslims, historically called “Hui” Muslims who are roughly equivalent to the Hui ethnic group in contemporary China. From the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, Chinese and Ottoman bureaucrats, intellectuals, and revolutionaries visited each other’s countries to inspect modernization policies. This project titled “The Qing and Ottoman Empires: The Formation of Muslim Networks in Search of Modernization” examines how the Muslim networks between Hui Muslims and the Ottoman Empire influenced the two countries’ politics, economy, society, military, and diplomacy, as well as international affairs such as the Xinjiang problem and the Sino-Japanese War. It aims to depict the modernization of the Qing and Ottoman empires, not as a result of “westernization” imposed by the Great Powers, but as a process of interactive communications, and to illuminate the rich relationships between East Asia and the Islamic world.


Conférences de Noriko UNNO 

Sino-Muslims and the Xinhai Revolution

Das le cadre du séminaire « Histoire sociale, économique et institutionnelle de la Chine moderne (XVe-XXe siècle) » de Luca Gabbiani

This paper explores how Sino-Muslims, especially the religious leaders, educationists, and journalists who lived in the Qing capital of Beijing and its neighboring Tianjin, responded to the political turbulence and social transformations before and after the 1911 Xinhai Revolution. Some of them regarded this historical event as a golden chance to elevate the social status of Muslims in Chinese society. They cooperated with the frontier policy of the Republican government and pledged loyalty to the state. Others, who pretended to be obedient to the Qing dynasty, took a wait-and-see attitude as they were afraid of the possibility of Qing restoration. Such tendencies among the Muslim elites were also reflected in their diverse opinions and attitudes towards the change of hairstyle. Many of them cut off their queues for reasons that were not necessarily grounded in nationalism or modernism. They rarely expressed strong anti-Manchu sentiment when promoting queue-cutting. Instead, they primarily debated whether the queue hairstyle was Islamic and often removed the braid for religious reasons. By analyzing these polemics, this paper explores how the queue-cutting trend during the period of regime change influenced Muslim communities in North China and demonstrates that nationalism was not the sole motivation of Muslims at that time. Their concern over how other members of their community viewed them is also important for accounting for their thoughts and behavior even during the Xinhai Revolution period.

  • Jeudi 8 février 2024, 14:30-16:30, Campus Condorcet, Bâtiment EHESS, Salle A302, 2 cours des Humanités, 93300 Aubervilliers

Sino-Muslims and the Ottoman Empire in the Early Twentieth Century

Das le cadre du séminaire « Histoire de la boutique et du petit commerce urbain en Chine (XIXe-XXe siècles) » de Xavier Paulès

In early twentieth-century Beijing, Muslim intellectuals, especially the prominent ahong (religious leader) Wang Kuan and his supporters, promoted educational reform. To elevate the social status of Muslims in Chinese society, they established modern schools inside mosques, where they taught not only Islamic scriptures and the Arabic language, but also practical sciences through Chinese books, as well as handicraft manufacturers. To secure a sufficient budget to run schools, repair mosques, and offer jobs to vulnerable people, the Muslim intellectuals did whatever they could, even in the face of fierce criticism. In addition to requesting subsidies from the municipal government applying for bank loans, they called on their coreligionists in and outside Beijing for donations. They also proposed teaching handicraft and business skills, urged young Muslims to study by giving them gifts, and issued lottery tickets in mosques, even though gambling is prohibited in Islam. Wang Kuan even tried to build an economic relationship with the Ottoman Empire and supported the industrial espionage conducted by Ottoman envoys who were dispatched to China by the Sultan, which invited a harsh backlash from other Muslims.

By examining these desperate funding attempts, this paper shows that the Sino-Muslim intellectuals struggled to collect funds for education, sometimes even by taking “un-Islamic” measures, such as selling lottery tickets. It also demonstrates that they were primarily concerned about the economic benefits to be gained through links to the Ottoman Empire. The Caliph of the declining power was regarded by these reformers as either a generous sponsor or a would-be troublemaker—hardly the religious authority he is sometimes thought to have been in the eyes of his far-flung coreligionists.

  • Lundi 12 février 2024, 13:00-16:00, Campus Condorcet, Centre de colloques, Salle 3.01, place du Front populaire, 93300 Aubervilliers

Mirror of Fear or Desire? Chinese Emperors in Muslim Folklore and Modern Historiography

Das le cadre du séminaire « Atelier Eurasie centrale » de Stéphane Dudoignon

Sino-Muslims, roughly equivalent to the present-day Huizu 回族 in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), are said to be the descendants of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Southeast Asian Muslims who settled in China from the 7th to the 14th centuries. According to Sino-Muslim origin myths such as the Huihui yuanlai (HHYL: Origin of Muslims), that reportedly emerged between the late Ming and the early Qing periods, in 628 AD, the Prophet Muhammad dispatched his associate Sa‘d ibn Abī Waqqāṣ Mālik al-Zuhrī (ca. 595–674) to China to exorcise a ghost that had appeared to the Tang emperor in his dream. Although several scholars dismissed this folktale as baseless and even contrary to Islamic doctrine, myths and legends were generally accepted by the Sino-Muslims, and became the basis of their sense of belonging to the Islamic world of Arab ancestry linked back to the Prophet Muhammad. They are important when considering Sino-Muslims’ self-understanding and their views of the state, because they mirror the Muslims’ desire that Islam would obtain imperial approval. The images of the Tang emperor, who actually never converted to Islam, and of the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661–1722), who in the HHYL was generous to Muslims, indicate the Muslims’ trust in, expectations of, and disappointment to China’s rulers.

Some Sino-Muslims who were active in the modern period and foreigners who had interactions with them attacked these origin myths and characterized them as groundless and contrary to Islam. Notwithstanding these trends, the folklore had an impact on the modern historiography of Sino-Muslims and their genealogies, often cited as “historical facts.” Even Turkic Muslim historians in early twentieth-century Xinjiang quoted the story reminiscent of the HHYL, in which, unlike the versions circulated among Sino-Muslims in China Proper, the Tang emperor had indeed converted to Islam in secret and his descendants were Muslims for generations afterward. Thus, this paper seeks to reconstruct the emotional history of Islam in China through an exploration of how Turkic Muslims expressed their desire that a Muslim ruler would one day govern China.

  • Mardi 20 février 2024, 11:00-13:00, Campus Condorcet, Bâtiment de recherche Nord, Salle 5.067, 14 cours des Humanités, 93300 Aubervilliers

Shoes on or off? Rethinking Muslim Cultural “Reform” in Early Twentieth-Century North China

Das le cadre du séminaire « Le culte des saints musulmans en Chine. Approches historique et anthropologique. 7 » de Marie-Paule Hille

Muslim intellectuals in early twentieth-century North China, especially the prominent ahong (religious leader) Wang Kuan and his supporters in Beijing, tried to purge allegedly “corrupt” religious customs influenced by Chinese culture, referring practices promoted by Islamic scholars in late seventeenth-century Shandong. Even though Wang Kuan and his allies claimed to be advocating going back to an “authentic” Arabian Islam by following the Quran, they were disparagingly called “new sect” (xinxing 新行, lit. “new practice”) by their antagonists, who called themselves “old sect” (guxing 古行, lit. “old practice”).

The most controversial issue between the two groups was whether or not to take off shoes during the funeral prayer. The so-called “new sect” advised funeral conductors, who used to wear their shoes during the funeral, to take off their shoes, arguing that scripture dictated that all worshippers must be ritually clean (and thus not wear shoes, which have touched the dirty ground) for the prayer. By contrast, the so-called “old sect” refused to take off their shoes during funeral rites. This kind of dispute over shoes not only added fuel to the conflicts between the “new” and “old” sects but also made other Muslim intellectuals skeptical about Wang Kuan, with whom they were promoting educational reform. Some of them thought that he was splitting Muslims by taking a hostile attitude towards shoe-wearers and using the reform as a tool for power politics within Muslim society. From these examples, this study shows that the Muslim intellectuals, who have often been treated as a monolithic force in previous scholarship, had diverse opinions about religion and society and reconsiders the ambiguous concepts of “new,” “old,” “modern,” “tradition,” and “reform” in Chinese Islam.

  • Lundi 26 février 2024, 14:00-17:00, Campus Condorcet, Bâtiment de recherche Sud, Salle 0.019, 5 cours des Humanités, 93300 Aubervilliers

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Chargé de diffusion scientifique (2024, 24 janvier). Professeur invité EHESS-CCJ : Noriko Unno, Universite Waseda, Tokyo — Paris, février 2024. IISMM. Consulté le 14 avril 2024, à l’adresse

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