Ling Ming Tang and the Influence of Babi and Bahá'i Teaching

By Jianping Wang

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #36
London School of Economics: London, England
July 13–15, 2001
(see list of papers from #36)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 3, pages 185-200
under new title
"The Influence of Bábí Teachings on Ling Ming Tang and Nineteenth-century China"
© 2002, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    This paper is based on the written and oral sources from Ling Ming Tang, a Sufi Order in Northwest China and explores the possible historical linkage between the followers of Babi and Bahá'i Movements in Iran and the believers of a Qadiriyya Order in China. Through the mystical spiritual contacts following the ancient Silk Route: from Baghdad, Yemen, Hamadan, Tehran, Kashghar, Yarqand, Hami to Lanzhou, as the evidence indicates, Fragrant Papa and other followers of the Bab and Bahá'u'llah (i.e. Habib Allah, Hamid al-Din and Jamal Effendi or his disciples) transmitted Babi and Bahá'i teaching mingled with Sufi mysticism to Ma Lingming, the founder of Ling Ming Tang in the period of late 19th century and early 20 century. As Ma Lingming's Sufi ideas clearly integrates a concept of Bab that is very different from other Sufi orders in China, and Ling Ming Tang emphasizes the ties with South Xinjiang where Jamal Effendi stayed for a certain time, the paper strongly argues that Babi and Bahá'i teaching may indeed have influence over the Sufi creed embraced by Ma Lingming. The hypothesis also becomes more convincing through a comparing the Bab and Ma Lingming, their background, their life experiences and their social basis. Finally in describing present-day Ling Ming Tang, its tolerance to and interaction with other religions, its efforts in improving environment and its harmonious relationship with neighbours including local authorities, the paper concludes that in many aspects the thought of Ling Ming Tang is similar to the Bahá'i Faith. Such similarities are due to the constant connection in spiritual exchanges between Iran and China, between West and East and between Islam and Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism.

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