Reviews

Looking into the patterns of trans-Asiatic communications and into their evolution in the pre-modern period, the author examines the conditions created by the abandonment by Ming dynasty of its sea expeditions in 1433 (the traffic henceforth flowing only in the direction of China) and by the growing difficulties sustained by Islamic maritime trade after the beginning of European expansion at the turn of the sixteenth century. This time, his main source is the Khitay-nama (“Book of China”) in 1516 by ‘Ali Akbar ‘Khatayi’, a possible Shiite-background slave originating from the southern Caucasus. Dedicated to Sultan Suleyman, it was issued in Istanbul in 1520, before being translated from Persian to Ottoman Turkish in 1582, by a certain Husayn Efendi, under the title of Qanun-nama-yi Chin wa Khata (“Book of the Law of China”). This article provides a brief outline of the book’s content and some considerations on its author. Instead of a traditional travel account, the Khitay-nama is meant to be an encyclopaedia of Ming China, with twenty chapters devoted respectively to roads, cities, military, stores, administration, jails, etc. Although its author may never have visited China, his work aroused considerable interest, in the Ottoman Empire but also in nineteenth and twentieth-century scholarship (the author briefly mentions Charles Schefer’s discovery and partial translation, Iraj Afshar’s critical edition of the Persian text, and Aly Mazaheri’s French translation).

The Redaction
CER: II-3.1.B-117