Contextualization of Sufi Spirituality in Seventeeth and Eighteenth-Century China: The Role of Liu Zhi 1662-1730

By David Lee

A significant study of the writings of the Chinese Muslim scholar Liu Zhi and his innovative role in contextualising Islamic texts for a Chinese audience.

ISBN: 9780227176207


Liu Zhi (c1662-c1730), a well-known Muslim scholar writing in Chinese, published outstanding theological works, short treatises, and short poems on Islam. While traditional Arabic and Persian Islamic texts used unfamiliar concepts to explain Islam, Liu Zhi translated both text and concepts into Chinese culture. In this erudite volume, David Lee examines how Liu Zhi integrated the basic religious living of the monotheistic Hui Muslims into their pluralistic Chinese culture. Liu Zhi discussed the Prophet Muhammad in Confucian terms, and his work served as a bridge between peoples. This book is an in-depth study of Liu Zhi’s contextualization of Islam within Chinese scholarship that argues his merging of the two never deviated from the basic principles of Islamic belief.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 304

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

David Lee is Associate Professor of Theology at Evangel Seminary in Hong Kong. He has served as Senior Pastor in the Chinese Church of London.


List of Figures and Tables
Foreword by Peter G. Riddell

1. Methodological Introduction
2. The Historical, Philosophical, and Islamic Context in China
3. An Examination of Liu Zhi’s Writings
4. Liu Zhi’s Engagement with the Concept of the Unity of Existence of the Ibn ‘Arabi Tradition
5. Liu Zhi’s Sufi Spirituality in Conversation with the Neo-Confucian Context in China
6. Liu Zhi’s Engagement with Islam and Neo-Confucian Culture in His Rules and Proprieties of Islam: An English Translation and Detailed Examination
7. Model of Contextualization, Contemporary Relevance and Final Conclusion

Appendix I: The Poem of the Five Sessions of the Moon in English
Appendix II: Translation of Selected Texts of the True Record of the Utmost Sage of Islam
Appendix III: Personal Narrative of Tianfan Dianli: (Selected Essential Explanations of the Proprieties of Islam)
Appendix IV: The Rules and Proprieties of Islam



Endorsements and Reviews

This is a brilliant study of the contextualization of Arabic and Persian Sufi Muslim writing for a Chinese audience by one of the most influential Chinese Muslim writers, Liu Zhi (c1662-c1730). David Lee has shown clearly how Liu Zhi translated key Sufi works using Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucianist concepts to encourage the reception of Islam as a fourth recognized tradition alongside the other three.
Mark Beaumont, Senior Lecturer in Islam and Mission, London School of Theology

Scholars have previously focussed on the innovative nature of Islamic contextualization in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century China. Lee’s work goes further, firstly by focussing on: 1) a significant Muslim from the network of scholars in this period, Liu Zhi; 2) his uniquely indigenized use of the Akbarian tradition both for teaching and apologetics; secondly, by combining the use of 1) his own translations with the existing ones; 2) selected Western sources with the previously unknown Chinese secondary sources.
David Emmanuel Singh, OCMS, Oxford

David Lee’s book is a significant contribution to analysing the legacy of Liu Zhi and translating his literature for an international readership. By conceptualizing Liu Zhi’s active engagement of Islamic texts within Chinese traditions and contexts in the translation-conversation framework of contextualization, Lee’s contribution will not only stimulate scholarly interests in exploring Liu Zhi’s work within and beyond the Nanjing Islamic tradition, but will also provide an important theoretical outlook to further study the contextualization of other Islamic texts in the period of Ming-Qing China.
Wai-Yip Ho, author of Islam and China’s Hong Kong: Ethnic Identity, Muslim Networks and the New Silk Road

David Lee’s book makes a simple but potentially significant intervention in this field: it argues on the basis of Liu Zhi’s less-studied popular didactic writings that Liu was not mainly appealing to an emergent elite Sino-Muslim identity or the concerns of Sufi mysticism, but rather was engaged in a Muslim apologetics for Chinese audience.
Erich Schluessel, in Journal of Chinese Religions, Vol 46, Issue 1