With sales numbering over two million copies, Huo Da’s tale about three generations of a Hui family in Beijing is quite possibly the most popular ethnic-themed novel ever published in China. It spans the turbulent years of the Japanese invasion, World War II and part of the Cultural Revolution.
If Funeral of a Moslem (穆斯林的葬礼，霍达著) is not well known in the West, neither are the Hui (回族), the “other” officially recognized Muslim people in China, who actually number over ten million. Unlike the Turkic-speaking Uyghur of Xinjiang often highlighted by Western media, the Hui are descendants of Silk Road travelers—Arab, Persian and Central Asians—who married Han Chinese and raised their offspring in the Islamic faith.
Beijing October Arts & Literature Publishing House has commissioned an English excerpt, and what follows is taken from it. Inquiries regarding overseas rights should be directed to Ms. Li Ji at email@example.com
Like many of his fellow Hui over the centuries, the novel’s protagonist, Han Tzu-ch’i, makes a living in the jade industry.
＊＊＊ Chapter 1 (Excerpt) ＊＊＊
When Jade opened the storefront door, two strangers entered, one aged and one young. The old one was past sixty, tall and portly, with a bronze complexion, wide forehead and high nose, deep-set, spirited eyes, long white beard under his chin, head wrapped in a white prayer cap, wearing a full-length ch’angshan that was neither blue nor grey, and feet in a pair of straw sandals.
The younger was a boy in his early teens, not tall, swarthy skin, winsome eyes, shaven head, and wearing an old pair of cloth trousers of indistinguishable color, patched at the knees and cuffs.
Confronted with this pair of unfamiliar visitors, and their tramp-like demeanor, Jade was speechless and unsure how to turn them away. She turned and called: “Father, come!”
The lapidary Liang I-ch’ing put down the piece of jade he was carving and emerged from his workshop. But when he glanced up, he too was taken aback. This old man and young boy—he didn’t know them either.
Just then, the old man raised his right hand to his heart, and bowed slightly. “As-salamu alaykum!” he announced. Read the rest of this entry »