Head-wagging and the sounds of obscenity: Conflicts over sound on the Qing-Muslim frontiers | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN: 2043-1015
  • E-ISSN: 2043-1023



On both the southwestern and the northwestern frontiers of their expanding empire, the eighteenth-century Qing dynasty (1636–1912) ruled over considerable numbers of Muslims. This article examines two legal cases in which Muslims sued other Muslims in a secular Qing court to resolve issues of Islamic practice that involved sound. The southwestern (Yunnan) Qalandar case (c.1710) pitted conventional imams and Sino-Muslim elites against ‘wild Sufis’ from India and northwest China. The northwestern (Gansu) litigation (1760s–1780s) was brought by two Sufi orders that claimed to practice different rituals: one silent and one vocal. In both cases, the Qing officials found themselves adjudicating accusations of Islamic heterodoxy, which they decided by analogy to Qing legal definitions of Confucian heterodoxy. Using new materials for the Gansu case, the article concludes that one of the Sufi orders manipulated the Qing officials’ ignorance of Islam, the Arabic language and Islamic sound to win a conflict that thereafter divided the region for more than a century.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Gansu; Jahriyya; Khufiyya; Minshar; Qalandars; Yunnan
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