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Pen of the Jahriyya: A commentary on The History of the Soul by Zhang Chengzhi

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image of Inner Asia

China’s leading Muslim writer, Zhang Chengzhi, published in 1991 an historical novel about a Sufi Islamic community, entitled The History of the Soul. The novel covers the two hundred years leading up to 1919, the year of the May Fourth Movement that is conventionally considered as the beginning of modern Chinese history. During this period, the Sufi community that is the subject of Zhang’s novels, called the Jahriyya, was involved in a series of violent clashes with the Qing imperial state. The author weaves through his historical narrative of a Chinese spiritual community the story of his own spiritual crisis, which he underwent in the 1980s and finally overcame through his encounter with the Jahriyya.


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