Chinese Century with Muslim characteristics?

Razib admonishes all of us for not knowing nearly enough about China. To lighten the tone I’ve shared Nas’s video above about Singapore.

It sounds cliche but it does seem that these Chinese are onto something. As I quipped on Twitter:

On a more serious note, Razib’s Open Thread has some really interesting factoids on China; I had learnt about the Dzungharian genocide from his blog many moons ago.

I used to love this turn-based game, when I was a lad, called Genghis and the adjacent territory next to Mongolia was Dzungharia. I never thought much about it but for the fact that it was always the first spot that Genghis would conquer as soon as the game began.  I never connected that Dzungharia was commingle with Uighurstan in Xinjiang; it seems a bit like Greater Armenia and the Kurds.

Image result for map of dzungaria

From a map of Inner Asia; it seems that Uighurstan is plugged into the Central Asian/Turanian network. Like the two Dashts in Iran that separate Iran from Khorasan it seems the Taklamakan Desert separates Turkestan from the Tibetan-Mongol orbit. Islam’s borders sometimes seems etched in geography; it’s not a coincidence that the Muslim further East in China practice “Islam with Chinese characteristics” as opposed to the more restive Uighurs.

I believe the map above has to date to pre 5th century Asia since Taxila was abandoned right about then. One interesting thing about maps is that depending on how you look at it there seems to be a strong clustering affect of Central Asia (Kashmir seems as Central Asian geographically as it does South Asian).

Unfortunately in our histories Iran has eclipsed the idea of Khorasan almost entirely and it’s importance to both South & Central Asian history.

Until the devastating Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century, Khorasan remained the cultural capital of Persia.[18] It has produced scientists such as Avicenna, Al-Farabi, Al-Biruni, Omar Khayyam, Al-Khwarizmi, Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi (known as Albumasar or Albuxar in the west), Alfraganus, Abu Wafa, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Sharaf al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, and many others who are widely well known for their significant contributions in various domains such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine, physics, geography, and geology. Khorasan artisans contributed to the spread of technology and goods along the ancient trade routes and decorative objects have been traced to this ancient culture, including art objects, textiles and metalworks. Decorative antecedents of the famous “singing bowls” of Asia may have been invented in ancient Khorasan.[citation needed]

The strange story behind the ‘Khorasan’ group’s name

After the region was taken over in an Arab conquest in the 7th century, Khorasan became a part of the Umayyad Caliphate, and with that, part of early Islamic culture. Notably, a widely discussed (though disputed) Hadith speaks of how “black banners will come out of Khorasan” in the end times. Will McCants of the Brookings Institute notes that the prophecies derive from the 8th century Abbasid revolution, a revolution that began in Khorasan and saw the end of the privileging of Arabs over non-Arabs in the Islamic empire.

Over the years, the Khorasan region had a fractious history, and was eventually swallowed up by a variety of different states. A part of Khorasan eventually became Khorasan state in modern Iran, and “Greater Khorasan” is generally used to refer to the larger historical region.

33 thoughts on “Chinese Century with Muslim characteristics?”


    Stumbled across this. Not sure how true it is. Reads like a long-winded defense of Karachi business interests and IK.

    Also, it has been fairly obvious to me for a while that Persian/Sanskrit will have far more status (and indeed usefulness in a culture/literature sense) than Urdu/Hindi. Far better investment to spend time on learning the former pair. You will automatically gain access to the latter two in addition to a host of other languages across a wide geographical area. That they are closely related is just a bonus.

    1. Each language is a different entity (that is why they are separate languages) and needs learning and practice. Just learning Sanskrit (for a non-Indian) won’t give automatic knowledge or fluency of Hindi or Mahratti or Odiya.

      1. I think it depends on what one wants to do with the language. If one is interested in ancient India or in Hindu scripture, then learning Sanskrit is important. If one is interested in actually talking to today’s North Indians and Pakistanis then Urdu-Hindi is much more useful. According to Wikipedia, there are more than 329 million native speakers of Hindustani.

        Persian is obviously important for those with a serious interest in Iran.


    “It is altogether possible—some might even say likely—that a more authoritarian government might perform better in a strictly technocratic sense, at least in the short term. The Chinese “model” provides strong evidence for this. As the scholars Dingxin Zhao and Hongxing Yang write, “the Chinese economy has developed quickly under an authoritarian regime with a strong capacity in manipulating economic activities.” Turning the notion of democratic responsiveness on its head, the political scientist Wenfang Tang argues that “leaders in authoritarian China do not have the luxury of electoral cycles.”

    That’s why no democracy can ever be China

    1. Saurav, China is becoming more plural and open. China will gradually have elections at the local and state level and it will evolve gradually from there. I am very optimistic about China in the long run.

      I think the entire world can learn a lot from Malaysia, including India and America. Malaysia = free democracy + outer husk of Sharia + discipline + respect.

      The outer husk of Sharia will be burned away by global Islamic reform; leaving {free democracy + discipline + respect}. There is much to be said for such a system. There is no edge to being undiscipline, having bad mannars and being disrespectful. Malaysia rocks!

      Malaysia the Model!

        1. VijayVan, it use to be that. China is changing.

          Zach, China isn’t nearly as authoritarian as it use to be. This said some Chinese intellectuals are saying that things have regressed back slightly in the last two years.

  3. In my dealings with English-language Chinese strategic circles, they view Pakistan as the Kushan state…a Chinese driven buffer state deep in the heartland of Indian subcontinent. They view the expulsion of the Yuezhi from the Tarim by Chinese state power and subsequent settlement and political organization of a Kushan state in northwestern subcontinent as something they did in the past and continue to do today through Pakistan…

    1. Undoubtedly China will nurture Pakistan and at the same time keep it on a leash for the forseeable future. The question is, Pakistan, which once fancied itself as the vanguard and leader of Muslim revival in the world, will remain reconciled towards being an appendage (suggestible shape) of the Yellow empire.

      1. Shafiq, thank Allah almighty that China has Pakistan on some leash. Without that, things would be orders of magnitude worse.

        China doesn’t want to be forced to fix Pakistan by herself. China will increasingly insist that the rest of the world help, including India, Iran, Europe, America, Japan, Australia and South Korea. Pakistan is likely to be a protectorate of the international community until the Islamic reform movement wins.

        On the positive side the global Islamic reform movement is making rapid progress. Pakistan will be fixed mostly as a collateral effect of global Islamic reform.

          1. Kushan were better than Muawiyah, Yazid, Marwan and Malik. The Kushan were accustomed to open architecture spirituality, religion, civilization and culture.

    2. Bharotshontan, that is part of it. There is more to it than that. Note that Chinese until recently were deeply ignorant about Pakistan.

  4. // Kashmir seems as Central Asian geographically as it does South Asian //

    Not really. Looking at a map with political boundaries is misleading compared to looking at a physical map with topographical contours.

    Kashmir Valley is physically separated from C Asia to the North/NE by some of the highest peaks on Earth (>7000m), whereas the average elevation of the Southern/SW Pir Panjal (< Skt. pIra pAJcAla) is 2-3000m. That alpine range separates Kashmir from the lower Punjab riparian.

    (We'll have train services joining Delhi straight to Srin next year. It is beyond the level of any engineering to do this from C Asia – at current levels of technology)

    1. genetically kashmiris are like ppl to their south far more than to their north. (though as i admitted earlier, some tibetan admixture is clear along the circum-himalayan fringe, and that probably means harder to detect iranian central asian too).

      1. Yes, that makes sense. Incidentally, the Ladakhi Buddhist-turned-Muslim Rinchen Shah was the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir Valley in 14c and paved the way for Muslim rule in Kashmir.

        We were never successfully invaded from our West or North. Always from our South and East 🙂

        1. How much of Giligt/Baltistan or for the matter Jammu is “really” Kashmir? Some Pakistani friends tell me even the Pakistani Kashmir is “different” than the Indian one.

          1. Azad Kashmir is essentially “Muslim Jammu”; Mirpuri is Punjabi/Lahnda verging onto Dogri (which if memory serves me right is another Punjabi dialect).

        2. usually by Central Asians.

          speaking of geographic links from what I can recall Srinagir’s closest link is in fact Lahore. From what I remember the Kashmiri traders threatened that if JN didn’t build them an all-weather highway after Partition they would simply trade down-river to Lahore.

          Let’s also not forget the gerrymandering done to Muslim-majority Gudarspur so that there could be a viable link from Delhi to SN at the time of Independence/Partition.

          I think it’s fine to speak for your community in Kashmir but it’s stretch to speak for the whole of Kashmir. For instance as we see in religiously divided Punjab; the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all espouse extremely different identities.

          1. “For instance as we see in religiously divided Punjab; the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all espouse extremely different identities.”

            As i said on Razib’s post, religion impacts “culture” more than what we give it credit for.

    2. Slapstik, rail lines connecting India, Iran, Turn and China would facilitate an economic miracle. It is economically feasible. The problem is everybody’s best friend forever does not want it.

      Afghanistan is connecting to the Chinese rail network. The Chinese are forming a brigade for the Afghan National Army for Badakshan province which borders China. One of their tasks will be to protect the rail lines. My hope (and the Afghan hope) is that the Chinese assume responsibility for a division in the ANA subordinate to 209th ANA Corps. The division can be responsible for Badakshan and Takhar and the western part of Nuristan. This can be a high security COIN inkspot for development.

      The more involved China is in Afghanistan, the more everyone benefits.


      Historically Kashmir has been close to Tibet. And at the nexus of Sharada, Trika, 18 Siddha, Nath Sampradaya, Vajrapani Mahayana, Maha Siddha, Sufi fusion.

      One example of this that I deeply admire is Lalleshwari or Lal Ded.

    3. Kashmir’s (the Valley) natural geography ties it almost entirely to the Indus rather than the Gangetic plains. No wonder it followed the Indus Valley in becoming the few parts of the Subcontinent to become Muslim majority. Kashmir is not so different to Sindh and Western Punjab but the million dollar question what is the soul of the Indus (and that includes the SN Valley).

      Two passes lead northward from the Kashmir valley, the Burzil (13,500 ft.) and the Kamri (14,050). The Burzil is the main pass between Srinagar and Gilgit via Astor. It is usually practicable only between the middle of July and the middle of September. The road from Srinagar to Lehin Ladakh follows the Sind valley to the Zoji-la-pass (11,300 ft.) Only a short piece of the road, where snow accumulates, prevents this pass being used all the year. At the south-east end of the valley are three passes, the Margan (11,500 ft.), the Hoksar (13,315) and the Marbal (11,500), leading to the valleys of the Chenab and the Ravi. South of Islamabad, on the direct route to Jammu and Sialkot, is the Banihal pass (9236 ft.). Further west on the Panjal range is the Pir Panjal or Panchal pass (11,400 ft.), with a second pass, the Rattan Pir (8200 ft.), across a second ridge about 15 m. south-west of it. Between the two passes is the beautifully situated fort of Baramgali. This place is in the domain of the raja of Punch, cousin and tributary of the maharaja of Kashmir. At Rajaori, south of these passes, the road divides: one line leads to Bhimber and Gujrat, the other to Jammu and Sialkot by Aknur. South-west of Baramulla is the Haji Pir pass (8500 ft.), which indicates the road to Punch. From Punch one road leads down to the plains at the town of Jhelum, another eastward through the hills to the Rattan Pir pass and Rajaori. Lastly, there is the river pass of the Jhelum, which is the easy route from the valley westward, having two ways down to the plains, one by Muzaffarabad and the Hazara valley to Hasan Abdal, the other by the British hill station of Murree to Rawalpindi.

  5. Thanks for remembering Khorasan. Many Afghans want to rename Afghanistan Khorasan. This is one of the largest obstacles to peace talks with the Taliban.

    Khorasan is very much one of the ancient sources for global culture. Arya Varsha (Persia + Sanathana Dharma [including Tibet in this])

    Loved the Singapore video. Amazing. The whole world should study and adopt the best aspects of Singapore.

    1. yes Afghanistan is made up of Afghanistan + Khorasan + Baluchistan.

      Remember the Iranian province of Sistan va Baluchestan is basically Baluchistan + Khorasan.

      In the south, east and west of Sistān and Balūchestān, the people are mostly Balōch and speak the Baluchi language, although there also exists among them a small community of speakers of the Indo-Aryan language Jadgali.[3]:25 In the far north of Sistān and Balūchestān, the people are mostly Persians and speak a dialect of the Persian language known as Sistani/Seestani, similar to the Dari Persian language in Afghanistan. The name Balūchestān means “Land of the Balōch” and is used to represent the majority Baloch peoples inhabiting the province, Sistan was added to the name to represent the minority Persian peoples who speak the Sistani dialect of Persian.

      Sistan means Land of the Sakas (the Scythians). One of the most notorious Iranian race still inhabit a small corner of Iran zamin.

      1. The Sakas fought bravely in the Mahabharata war. And the Scythians (another name for the Sakas) fill many legends.

        At the time of the Mahabharata, Sakhas, Herat, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Mazar, Tibet, Sri Lanka and Islands to the far east and South East (Java? maybe Sumatra) were all considered part of Arya Varsha.

        Kalayavana plays an important role, but he is not considered Arya. Was he from Africa? If so from where?

        Many Hindu Gurus and Hindu scholars are now saying that Bhagadatta comes from Baghdad, Iraq. That Bhagadatta is associated with the name Baghdad. I think this is unlikely for many reasons:
        -Distance, Bhagadatta brings an enormous army and logistics trail to Kurukshetra. It takes him over a year. Baghdad seems a little too far because of the size of his force
        -I have not seen ancient records compatible with this in the 18 Maha Puranas, Mahabharata and Hari Vamsha. Not saying that no such records exist; simply I am unaware of them
        – I am unaware of Farsi, Avesten, Sumerian, Akkadian or Babylonian texts compatible with this theory. Not saying that no such records exist; simply I am unaware of them. Bhagadatta is suppose to have crossed huge mountains from far away to arrive at Kurukshetra. My guess is that he came from Tibet or Burma. But I might be wrong. Turan or Iran are other possibilities.

        During the Kurukshetra war (the highlight of the Mahabharata):
        —Bhagadatta is was the one big force of nature whose allegiance in the war was unclear. Both sides tried to win Bhagadatta over.
        —Bhagadatta was one of the big three upstoppable fighters in the Kuru army
        ——Other big dogs were:
        — ——Bhishma/Dyaus/Zeus/Akaash (student of Parashurama, Jupitor, Venus (associated with Swadishtana Chakra of brain/nervous system and love), Markandaya, Vashishta, Sanatkumara, and Chyavana )
        ———Sapta Rishi Baradwaja putra Dronacharya
        —Bhagadatta was like the prime Shaquille O’Neal of the Kuru army . . . an unstoppable nuclear weapon that could change the momentum of the battle no matter the circumstace.
        —He rode the toughest elephant the world has ever seen.
        —Bhagadatta was a friend of Indra [incredibly rare thing]
        —Known as one of the most good and righteous people alive, loved by young and old alike. ——–Bhagadatta was incredibly consistent and didn’t have bad days.
        —No one other than Arjuna with Krishna’s help (Arjuna without Krishna’s help found Bhagadatta very difficult to contain) or Ghatotkacha could manage him. Ghatotkacha fought him for twelve days and lost every fight other than two.
        —Bhima, Satyaki, Abhimanyu,Dhristadyumna all couldn’t hold their own against Bhagadatta.
        —although perhaps Arjuna’s son with an alien snake (Iravan or Aravan) might have slowed him down a little

        Whatever the truth about Bhagadatta and Iraq; it appears that there was extensive trade between Hindustan, Turan, Tibet, Java/Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Iran, Sumeria, Turkey/Lebanon/Greece/Serbia (Yavana), East/North Africa (Kalayavana) and Tushara during the Mahabharata.

        What is Tushara I do not know. Is Tushara China or Xingjian province. Tushara is not Tibet.

      2. Re: The name Balūchestān means “Land of the Balōch”

        Wiki Says: – The suffix -stān in Baluchi means “place”.

        I already wrote about the meaning of the Serbian word STAN +STANiste (=habitat) and about 50 other derivatives. It literally means STOP and it probably originated from the time when nomadic tribes were constantly moving until they STOPed (i.e. settled) and this is now their place of living.
        Ergo, Baluchistan = place where Balochi (i.e. Belići, i.e. Whites) live.

        Wiki is not official academic reference but it also says:

        “The exact origin of the word ‘Baloch’ is unclear. Rawlinson (1873) believed that it is derived from the name of the Babylonian king and god Belus (MT remark: ‘Nino Belov, the first Aryan leader’). Dames (1904) believed that it is derived from the Persian term for cockscomb, said to have been used as a crest on the helmets of Baloch troops in 6th century BCE (MT: ‘first used by ancient Serbs, today many armies have this as a part of their uniform, e.g. Italian’). Herzfeld (1968) proposed that it is derived from the Median term brza-vaciya, (MT: ‘brza=fast, in Serbian’) which describes a loud or aggressive way of speaking.”

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