Yusuf Ma Dexin

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Yusuf Ma Dexin
Traditional Chinese馬德新
Simplified Chinese马德新
Courtesy name (字)
Traditional Chinese復初
Simplified Chinese复初

Yusuf Ma Dexin (also Ma Tesing; 1794–1874) was a Hui Chinese scholar of Islam from Yunnan, known for his fluency and proficiency in both Arabic and Persian, and for his knowledge of Islam.[1] He also went by the Chinese name Ma Fuchu. He used the Arabic name Abd al-Qayyum Ruh al-Din Yusuf (عبد القيوم روح الدين يوسف).[2] He was also styled as "Mawlana al-Hajj Yusuf Ruh al-Din Ma Fujuh" (مولانا الحاج يوسف روح الدين ما فو جوه).


Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar was an ancestor in the 25th generation of Ma Dexin.[3]


Ma performed the Hajj in 1841, leaving China by a circuitous route; as ocean travel out of China had been disrupted by the Opium War, he chose instead to leave with a group of Muslim merchants travelling overland. After passing through Xishuangbanna, they went south to Burma, then took a riverboat along the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay to Rangoon. From Rangoon, they were able to board a steamship which took them all the way to the Arabian Peninsula.[4] After his time in Mecca, he stayed in the Middle East for another eight years; he first went to Cairo, where he studied at Al-Azhar University, then travelled throughout the Ottoman Empire, going to Suez, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Cyprus, and Rhodes.[5]

Return to China[edit]

As a prominent Muslim in Yunnan, Ma became involved in the Panthay Rebellion in Yunnan shortly after he returned from the Hajj. The Panthay Rebellion, which flared up in 1856 as part of a wider series of uprisings by Muslims and other minorities, was led mainly by Du Wenxiu; though Ma disagreed with Du Wenxiu's revolutionary methods, he also encouraged his followers to aid in the uprising; later, he would try to act as a peacemaker between the central government forces and the rebels.[6] Ma Dexin said that Neo-Confucianism was reconcilable with Islam, approved of Ma Rulong defecting to the Qing and he also assisted other Muslims in defecting.[7] However, despite his efforts to bring about peace, the Qing government still regarded him as a rebel and a traitor; he was executed two years after the suppression of the rebellion.[1] Europeans reported that he was either poisoned or executed.[8]


Sources say that Ma produced the first Chinese translation of the Qur'an, as well as writing numerous books in Arabic and Persian about Islam.[1] His most famous writings compared Islamic culture and the Confucian philosophy in an effort to find a theoretical and theological basis for their coexistence. At the same time, he harshly criticised the absorption of Buddhist and Taoist elements into the practise of Islam in China. As he is generally regarded as an orthodox Islamic thinker, his writings also demonstrated a positive attitude towards Tasawwuf, or Sufi mysticism.[6] In total, he published over 30 books, most of which fall into five categories.

  • Islamic jurisprudence and philosophy: 四典要会, 大化总归, 道行究竟, 理学折衷, 性命宗旨, 礼法启爱 据理质证,
  • Islamic calendar and history: 寰宇述要 (Description of the World), 天方历源 (History of Arabia)
  • Introduction and analysis of works of other Muslim authors in China, such as Ma Zhu and Liu Zhu: 真诠要录, 指南要言, 天方性理注释
  • Qur'an: the first five volumes of 宝命真经直解 (True Revealed Scripture), the earliest translation of the meanings of the Qur'an into Chinese
  • Arabic grammar: 纳哈五 (Nahawu), 赛尔夫 (Saierfu), 阿瓦米勒 (Awamile)
  • Other: 朝觐途记 (Diary of a pilgrimage), a description of his time in Mecca; originally in Arabic, translated to Chinese by Ma's disciple Ma Anli[9]

Ma Dexin appears to have picked up anti-Shia hatred from his time in the Ottoman lands and referred to them by the derogatory name Rafida 若废子 in his works which attacked and criticized Shias and Sufis. Ma, like other most other Hui in China, belonged to the Hanafi Madhhab of Sunni Islam.[10]

The Chinese Muslim Arabic writing scholars Ma Lianyuan 馬聯元 1841-1903 was trained by Ma Fuchu 馬复初 1794-1874 in Yunnan[11] with Ma Lianyuan writing books on law 'Umdat al-'Islām (عمدة الإسلام) شىي ش grammar book on ṣarf (صرف) called Hawā and Ma Fuchu writing a grammar book on naḥw (نحو) called Muttasiq (متسق) and Kāfiya (كافية). Šarḥ al-laṭā'if (شرح اللطائف) Liu Zhi's The Philosophy of Arabia 天方性理 (Tianfang Xingli) Arabic translation by (Muḥammad Nūr al-Ḥaqq ibn Luqmān as-Ṣīnī) (محمد نور الحق إبن لقمان الصيني), the Arabic name of Ma Lianyuan.[12] Islamic names, du'ā' (دُعَاء), ġusl (غسل), prayers, and other ceremonies were taught in the Miscellaneous studies (Zaxue) 雜學 while 'āyāt (آيات) from the Qur'an were taught in the Xatm al-Qur'an (ختم القرآن) (Haiting).[13] Ma Fuchu brought an Arabic Qasidat (Gesuide jizhu 格随德集注) poem to China.[14][15] It was al-Būṣīrī's Qaṣīdat al-Burda.[16]

See also[edit]



  •  This article incorporates text from The history of China, Volume 2, by Demetrius Charles de Kavanagh Boulger, a publication from 1898 now in the public domain in the United States.
  1. ^ a b c "Laluan-laluan Mubaligh Islam ke China dan Empat Ulama terkenal di China (Islamic missionaries to China and four famous Muslim scholars in China)". China Radio International. 2005-12-02. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
  2. ^ "馬徳新 - CDSIA". kias.sakura.ne.jp (in Japanese). Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  3. ^ Muslim Public Affairs Journal. Muslim Public Affairs Council. 2006. p. 72.
  4. ^ Dillon, Michael (1999). China's Muslim Hui Community: Migration, Settlement, and Sects. United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1026-4.
  5. ^ MA Dexin (馬德新); MA Anli (馬安禮), translator; NA Guochang (納國昌), editor (1988). 朝覲途記 (Diary of a Pilgrimage) (in Chinese). Ningxia People's Publishing House. ISBN 7-227-00233-0.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ a b YANG Guiping (楊桂萍) (December 2004). 馬德新思想研究 (Research into Ma Dexin's Ideas) (in Chinese). Religion and Culture Publishing House. ISBN 7-80123-660-2.
  7. ^ John King Fairbank (1978). The Cambridge History of China: Late Chʻing, 1800-1911, pt. 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 213–. ISBN 978-0-521-22029-3.
  8. ^ Demetrius Charles de Kavanagh Boulger (1898). The history of China, Volume 2. Publisher W. Thacker & co. p. 443. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  9. ^ WANG Jianping (王建平) (June 2004). "试论马德新著作中的"天"及伊斯兰教和儒教关系 (Discussion of the concept of "heaven" and the relation between Islam and Confucianism in Ma Dexin's works)" (in Chinese). Shanghai Normal University. Archived from the original on February 21, 2008. Retrieved 2007-02-16. English translations of some of his works and a major work on his life are under way by Kristian Petersen.
  10. ^ https://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/e-journal/articles/wang.pdf
  11. ^ Kees Versteegh; Mushira Eid (2005). Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics: A-Ed. Brill. pp. 380–. ISBN 978-90-04-14473-6.
  12. ^ "馬聯元 - CDSIA". kias.sakura.ne.jp (in Japanese). Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  13. ^ Kees Versteegh; Mushira Eid (2005). Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics: A-Ed. Brill. pp. 381–. ISBN 978-90-04-14473-6.
  14. ^ http://mideast.shisu.edu.cn/_upload/article/fb/db/19a957ee4eb3ae82fbbea2186643/47aadfee-840d-4e2c-a95c-a0284510f630.pdf
  15. ^ "《天方诗经》著译简考". Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  16. ^ "Arabic Literary Translations in China: A Brief History". Arabic Literature (in English). 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2017-11-30.

Further reading[edit]

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