An Archive of Comparison: Between Adab, Wenxue and Literature

This talk draws from ongoing research on parallels and points of intersection between Chinese and Arabic literatures from the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries. Professor Hill takes up a portion of the writings and translations of a group of Muslim intellectuals from the Republic of China who studied at Al-Azhar University in Cairo in the 1930s and 1940s. These intellectuals left behind an extensive archive of writings that worked to think through the connections between China, Islam, the Arab world and, in some cases, literatures in Chinese and Arabic. Examples of these efforts include the Book of the Sayings of Confucius (Kitāb al-Hiwār li-Kūnfūshīyūs, 1935), an Arabic version of the Analects translated by Ma Jian (1906–1978) and Recollections of Childhood (Tongniande huiyi), a version of Taha Husayn’s The Days (al-Ayyām, 1947) translated by Ma Junwu (1918–1971). These works make surprising connections between texts and traditions and, on a methodological level, provide a valuable resource for scholarship work that attempts to go beyond East/West approaches to cultural exchange and encounter.