Saturday, March 4, 2017

Aladdin was Chinese--probably from Fujian's Quanzhou (Zayton) 阿拉丁是中国人!

Aladdin Chinese Sinbad Cinderella Amoy Xiamen Fujian Quanzhou Zayton 阿拉丁,辛巴得和灰姑娘都是中国人Ahoy from Amoy (historic Xiamen, China).

I loved Disney's 1992 cartoon Aladdin--largely, of course, because of Robin Williams' inimitable Genie. But if Disney had followed the original story, Aladdin would have been Chinese--as depicted on the cover of this 19th century children's book. In fact, his story probably took place in Quanzhou (the Arab's legendary port of Zayton) just 50 miles up the coast from Xiamen!

The classic story begins and ends with China! The 1st line: "Aladdin was the son of Mustapha, a poor tailor in one of the rich provinces of China." And when the Princess tricks the evil magician into drinking the poisoned wine, "she asked the magician to changes cups, as was the custom, she said, between lovers in China." 
Aladdin Chinese Sinbad Cinderella Amoy Xiamen Fujian Ashab Mosque Quanzhou Zayton 阿拉丁,辛巴得和灰姑娘都是中国人

Aladdin Chinese Sinbad Cinderella Amoy Xiamen Fujian Quanzhou Zayton 阿拉丁,辛巴得和灰姑娘都是中国人So why would an obviously Arab tale (part of the 1,001 Nights, though added later) take place in China? Because Muslims who traded with China via the Silk Road of the desert and Quanzhou's Maritime Silk Route viewed China as the most distant and exotic place on earth.

And the "rich province of China" was probably our Fujian province because 2,200 years ago, Fuzhou's Mawei built China's first oceangoing ships, Fujian merchants and fishermen were known all over Asia and Africa as China's greatest seafarers, and Quanzhou (known by the Arabs as Zayton) was the richest, greatest port on earth according to Marco Polo and famed Arab explorer Ibn Battuta. Marco Polo said that for every ship in the west carrying pepper (spices), Quanzhou had 100 ships.

Columbus carried Marco Polo's Travels with him on his 1492 voyage to find not a new world but a shortcut to India and China's Zayton (of which my own Amoy was a part of :) ). Columbus had underlined Marco Polo's descriptions of Zayton's fabulous wealth. Had Chris ended up in Zayton instead of the New World, gold would have flowed not to Spain but from it, because South Fujianese were known for 1,000 years as China's toughest business folks (fair, but tough).

1000 Years ago, Quanzhou had 40,000 Muslims (as well as Jews, Nestorian Christians, Manicheans, Hindus, Jain, Tibetan Buddhists, etc.) and 7 mosques, including Ashab Mosque. Modeled after a mosque in Damascus, it was considered the most beautiful mosque outside of the Middle East.

As the greatest and richest port in the world, and a center of culture and religion, it's no wonder the legendary Zayton figured in tales of Aladdin, Sinbad (who was probably Chinese Muslim Admiral Zheng He, aka Sanbao), etc. South Fujian--especially Zayton and Amoy, are truly magical places,

In closing, I do love Disney's Aladdin--but it would be fun to see an Aladdin movie in the setting for which it was intended--China!

To learn more about Zayton and Amoy, try my "Discover Xiamen and South Fujian" Amazon eBook, which has 200 additional pages over the print version, including history, culture, etc.)

Enjoy Amoy!

Dr. Bill
School of Management, Xiamen University
Amazon eBook
"Discover Xiamen"

Bill Brown Xiamen University

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