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Theme

1st Track : Evolution of Mosque Architecture through the Ages

Role/Contribution

Presenter

Research paper Title

From Dragons to Domes: Secularism and Transformation of Mosque Architecture in China

Personal Biography

Esra Çifci is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in the paradigm of modern religious concepts and secularism in China. She completed her undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Theology at Marmara University (Istanbul) in 2012 and her master's degree in the same department, where she wrote a thesis titled "The Rise and Development of Muslim Confucians in the Context of Islam and Confucianism" (2015). In 2015, Esra began her Ph.D. in Religious Studies at Marmara University, focusing on the influence of Confucianism on Enlightenment and modern Western thought. She completed her Ph.D. in 2024 with a dissertation on the religious dimension of Confucianism between the 16th and 18th centuries and its role in the construction of the secular-sacred dichotomy in Western thought. She is part of the Researcher Training Project at the Turkish Religious Foundation's Islamic Studies Center (ISAM) since 2018. In 2019, she studied Chinese language for a year at Fudan University (Shanghai) to enhance her research on secular paradigms and Islamic heritage in China.

Paper Abstract

This paper explores the architectural evolution of mosques in China, focusing on the impact of secularism and globalization on design. Historically, Chinese mosques reflect a unique hybrid identity that integrates Islamic and Chinese architectural elements. This fusion is evident in the combination of the minbar and mihrab with hip roofs, pagoda-like minarets, and dragon and phoenix decorations in the courtyard. Since the 1980s, however, there has been a shift towards Middle Eastern-style mosques with domes, tall cylindrical minarets. This transformation in architectural style, in some cases with less incorporation of traditional Chinese elements, was perceived by the Chinese government as "Arabization" and associated with fundamentalism and alienation of identity. This context led to the implementation of a policy known as the "Sinicization of Islam", a term embedded in a broader government strategy aimed at "harmonizing" Islam with Chinese characteristics. This policy has led to hundreds of mosques having their domes and minarets demolished and rebuilt according to traditional Chinese architecture. While international organizations have criticized this intervention for violating religious freedoms and human rights, the debate has largely been limited to mutual accusations and political rhetoric. However, the complex interplay of factors driving these architectural transformations warrants further research. Exploring the motivations behind these architectural transformations, this study goes beyond political discourse to analyze the role of secularism in shaping religious architecture. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the research explores how secularism, often intertwined with modernity, has influenced globalized trends in mosque design, potentially compromising local cultural integrity. We will analyze how the deculturation and deterritorialization of religion driven by secularism lead to the creation of transcultural mosque architecture in China, reshaping the sacred as a purified, culture-free phenomenon. Through case studies and comparative analysis, we will investigate whether this architectural transformation is a unique issue rooted in the identity challenges faced by Chinese Muslims or if it is a broader byproduct of secular and modernist trends affecting religious architecture globally.

Theme

1st Track : Evolution of Mosque Architecture through the Ages

Role/Contribution

Presenter

Research paper Title

2023 Minarets of the East Asia: An Attempt to Read the Transformation of Chinese Muslim Identity Through Mosque Architecture

Personal Biography

Esra Çifci is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in the paradigm of modern religious concepts and secularism in China. She completed her undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Theology at Marmara University (Istanbul) in 2012 and her master's degree in the same department, where she wrote a thesis titled "The Rise and Development of Muslim Confucians in the Context of Islam and Confucianism" (2015). In 2015, Esra began her Ph.D. in Religious Studies at Marmara University, focusing on the influence of Confucianism on Enlightenment and modern Western thought. She completed her Ph.D. in 2024 with a dissertation on the religious dimension of Confucianism between the 16th and 18th centuries and its role in the construction of the secular-sacred dichotomy in Western thought. She is part of the Researcher Training Project at the Turkish Religious Foundation's Islamic Studies Center (ISAM) since 2018. In 2019, she studied Chinese language for a year at Fudan University (Shanghai) to enhance her research on secular paradigms and Islamic heritage in China.

Paper Abstract

This study will explore how the changing perception of identity of Muslims, especially the Hui community, has manifested itself in mosque architecture throughout their history in China. The research aims to uncover the underlying causes of the rupture observed in the modern period. To this end, first, the mosques built by Muslims who came to China as foreign traders will be analyzed and the connection between their early mosques and their sense of identity will be evaluated. Then, the architecture of the mosques built during the period when Muslims assimilated with Chinese culture and as a result acquired a hybrid identity known as “Hui” will be discussed. It will focus on the synchronization of Chinese mosque architecture, which underwent a major change during this period, with the match identity of the Hui. Finally, the architectural structure of the mosques built in modern China will be analyzed and the gap between collective identity and architecture will be highlighted. This study will meticulously examine the relationship between mosque architecture and collective identity through the transformation of Chinese Muslim mosque architecture, focusing on the question of how globalization, a consequence of modernity, affects the sustainability between identity and architecture. Thus, it will be argued that the ruptures and changes experienced in the mosque architecture of Chinese Muslims in the modern period, when localism in architecture has been replaced by globalized patterns, are related to the complex impact of globalization on architecture rather than identity deformation.
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لوريم إيبسوم دولور سيت أميت، كونسيكتيتور أديبيسينغ إليت. سد كونسيكوات فيليت أت أنتي بيبندوم، إن ديكتوم إليت ديغنيسيم. إنتيجر أك ليغولا إو كوام كومودو إليمنتوم. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. فيسللوس أوت جوستو فيل سابين إيفيسيتور كورسوس. بروين نك ليو فيل دولور جرافيدا كونسيكتيتور. أوت إيد تورتور نيك توربيس لاسينيا فيوغيات. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. بيلينتيسكو
لوريم إيبسوم دولور سيت أميت، كونسيكتيتور أديبيسينغ إليت. سد كونسيكوات فيليت أت أنتي بيبندوم، إن ديكتوم إليت ديغنيسيم. إنتيجر أك ليغولا إو كوام كومودو إليمنتوم. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. فيسللوس أوت جوستو فيل سابين إيفيسيتور كورسوس. بروين نك ليو فيل دولور جرافيدا كونسيكتيتور. أوت إيد تورتور نيك توربيس لاسينيا فيوغيات. أليكوام إيرات فولوتبات. بيلينتيسكو