The Qāḍī and the Yamen: Islam on the Ground in Late Imperial China

Speaker: Dr Tristan Brown, Cambridge

Islam in China has often been analyzed in stark terms, with Muslims seen either as rebels against the state or as elite Confucian scholars; though Islam has been practiced in China for over a millennium, it is often still discussed as a foreign import. In this talk, which is based on my second book-length project, I argue that Muslims found ways to appeal to critical nodes of imperial power during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Mosques were routinely financially supported by officials across the empire. Muslims engaged in rainmaking rituals endorsed by the imperial state. The tombs of Sufi saints secured examination success for localities. Islamic butchery was incorporated into the imperial cult. This paper aims to revise our understanding of Islam’s relationship to imperial politics and society and to illuminate the place of Islam in China today. 



Tristan Brown is currently a Junior Research Fellow at St John’s College. He received his PhD in History from Columbia University in 2017. From 2017-2018, he was the Chinese Studies Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University. He holds an MA in History from Columbia University and an AB in Near Eastern and East Asian Studies from Harvard College. He has previously been a visiting research associate at Sichuan University. Before moving to the UK from the US, he also lived in China, Japan, Mongolia, Syria, and Jordan. Tristan is a historian of late imperial China, with interests in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. He is broadly interested in the social and cultural history of late imperial China, comparative legal and environmental history, and the history of minority peoples in China.