ḴEṬĀY-NĀMA (Book on China), written by Sayyed ʿAli-Akbar Ḵeṭāʾi (q.v.) in Istanbul. According to the colophon, the book was finished on the last day or in the last days of Rabiʿ I 922/3 May 1516 (Ḵeṭāʾi, 1993, p. 174), but in the preface a panegyric on Suleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520-66) can be found (ibid., p. 27). However, this may be a later addition in the different manuscripts, which do not comprise an autograph (Kahle, 1933, p. 94).

Apart from the information given in his work, nothing is known of the author, and the book itself does not contain any biographical details about him. He calls himself several times qalandar (dervish), but this might be more to stress his humbleness than to show an affiliation to any dervish order. Though the name ʿAli-Akbar may indicate a Shiʿite affiliation, he praises all four caliphs in his preface (Ḵeṭāʾi, 1993, p. 26), which, however, may also indicate the renouncement of his former faith in a time shortly after the battle of Čālderān (q.v.) against the Shiʿite Safavids. Furthermore, he possibly tries to reinforce his position in the Ottoman capital by referring to ʿAli Qušji, the famous astronomer, who, as ʿAli-Akbar maintains, was ordered by Oloḡ Beg to go to China and write down a travelogue (Ḵeṭāʾi, 1993, p. 28). ʿAli-Akbar’s familiarity with Transoxanian conditions may also be a clue to his origin, perhaps Bukhara (Mazahéri, p. 85). The Chinese scholar Lin Yih-Min, who translated the Ḵeṭāy-nāma into modern Turkish and annotated it, insists that this author never saw China (Lin, 1967, pp. 1-22; idem, 1983, p. 59), whereas Paul Kahle, another scholar familiar with the subject, affirms that ʿAli-Akbar did visit the major places which he describes, as he mentions himself in several places in his book (Kahle, 1933, pp. 96-97).

The Ḵeṭāy-nāma has twenty or twenty-one chapters according to the counting of the different manuscripts. Their titles are (Ḵeṭāʾi, 1993, pp. 33-38, abbreviated here or slightly changed): roads to China, different religions, cities and castles, armies, magazines, the imperial throne, the imperial jail, celebrations, entertainments, brothels and prostitutes, wonderful arts and strange cures, legislation, schools, persons from the west, Qalmāqs, agriculture, personal observations, gold, silver, and money, obedience to the law, and, finally, Chinese temples. However, the content of each chapter does not always correspond with its title. For example, not much is written on the Qalmāqs in chapter 16 with that title (idem, pp. 147-49), but in chapter 4 on the armies, there is a lengthy and fairly exact description of the war between the Ming dynasty and the Oirats (Qalmāqs), the capture of the emperor, and the ensuing enthronement of the new emperor (idem, pp. 67-72). To give some more examples of the content: ʿAli-Akbar outlines imperial worship, the postal system and domestic communications, the imperial palace and the related administration, imprisonment and prisons, foreign envoys and merchants, social customs and culture, and also introduces porcelain, produced in Jiangxi 쉭鮫 province (idem, pp. 43-47, 53-59, 77-110, 143-44, 160-63; Kahle, 1933, pp. 102-7). Many poems by different authors are disseminated in the text.

Five Persian manuscripts are extant, three of which are found in the Süleymaniye Library in Istanbul: (1) Reisülküttap 609 (Aşir Ef. 249, 127 fols.), (2) Reisülküttap 609 m. (Aşir Ef. 609 m., 110 fols.), (3) Reisülküttap 610 (Aşir Ef. 610, 129 fols.). The first of these manuscripts was printed as a facsimile in 1994 (ʿAli-Akbar Ḵeṭāʾi, The Book on China). (4) Leiden University Library (Or. 854, 94 fols., from the Legatum Warnerianum). (5) Cairo, Dār al-kotob 17 (Ṭalʿat Persia collections). The original Persian text was translated into Ottoman Turkish during the reign of Morād III (1574-95), probably in 1582 (title: Qānun-nāma-ye Čin va Ḵaṭāy; for a facsimile see Ḵeṭāʾi, 1993, pp. 195-266).

Charles Schefer started a translation into French, but published only three chapters. Paul Kahle and Mu­ham­mad Hamidullah produced a draft translation into English which was never published. Kahle tried to persuade the Chinese scholar Zhang Xinglang 張槿烺 to collaborate on a joint annotated edition of the book, and both exchanged many cordial letters from 1934 onwards, but the endeavor never came to fruition because of the Japanese invasion of China and World War II. However, the son of Zhang Xinglang, Zhang Zhishan 張至善, started a search for the draft translation in 1982, found it, and translated it into Chinese with the help of Chinese Iranists, and the book was published in 1988. Lin Yih-Min had already published his annotated translation into modern Turkish in 1967, and Aly Mazahéri translated the Ḵeṭāy-nāma into French (1983). The authoritative critical edition, based on the Cairene manuscript (collated with mss. 2 and 3) was produced by Iraj Afšār (1978; 2nd ed. 1993).

The basis of the first researches on the Ḵeṭāy-nāma was not the Persian, but the Ottoman Turkish, version, which was also included in some Ottoman geographies and became the basis of Ottoman knowledge on China (Hagen, 2003, pp. 95-97). Matthias Norberg was the first who made use of the Ottoman Turkish version in his work De regno Chataja in 1818; H. L. Fleischer and J. Zenker continued these first appraisals with more thorough researches in 1851 and 1861. Schefer was the first who studied the Persian original.

The immediate impact of the Ḵeṭāy-nāma is difficult to estimate, but astonishingly the Ottoman empire, transcribed as Lumi 魯촬 (Rūm), figured rather prominently in Chinese sources after a first embassy arrived in Beijing in 1524; others followed until 1618 (Kauz, pp. 264, 266-67). The year 1524, only a few years after the work was finished, could indicate a direct influence on Ottoman diplomacy and commerce toward Central Asia and China by ʿAli-Akbar and his book.



ʿAli-Akbar Ḵeṭāʾi, Ḵeṭāy-nāma: šarḥ‑e moštahadāt‑e Sayyed ʿAli-Akbar Ḵeṭāʾi moʿāṣer‑e Šāh Esmāʿil Ṣafawi dar sar-zamin‑e Čin, ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1978; 2nd ed., 1993. Idem (Ali Akeba’er 각쟁 각옹것爾), Zhongguo jixing 櫓國紀契 (Chinese travelogue), ed. Zhang Zhishan, Beijing, 1988.

Idem, The Book on China: Khiṭāynāma, ed. Fuat Sezgin and Eckhard Neubauer, Institute for the History of Arabic-Islamic Science, Series C, vol. 56, Frankfurt am Main, 1994.


Pinar Emiralioğlu, “Relocating the Center of the Universe: China and the Ottoman Imperial Project in the Sixteenth Century,” Osmanlı araştırmaları/The Journal of Ottoman Studies 39, 2012, pp. 161-87.

H. L. Fleischer, “Über das türkische Chatâï-nâme,” in Kleinere Schriften III, Leipzig, 1888; repr., Osnabrück, 1968, pp. 214-25; from Berichte über die Verhandlungen der königlichen Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philol.-histor. Cl., 1851, pp. 317-27.

Gottfried Hagen, Ein osmanischer Geograph bei der Arbeit: Entstehung und Gedankenwelt von Kātib Čelebis Ğihānnümā, Berlin, 2003.

Paul Kahle, “Eine islamische Quelle über China um 1500: Das Ḵẖiṭāynāme des ʿAlī Ekber,” Acta Orientalia 12, 1933, pp. 91-110.

Idem, “China as Described by Turkish Geographers from Iranian Sources,” in Opera Minora: Festgabe zum 21. Januar 1956, Leiden, 1956, pp. 312-24 (from Proceedings of the Iran Society 2, London, 1940).

Ralph Kauz, Politik und Handel zwischen Ming und Timuriden: China, Iran und Zentralasien im Spätmittelalter, Iran-Turan 7, Wiesbaden, 2005.

Yih-Min Lin, Ali Ekber’in Hitayname: adlı eserinin çin kaynakları ile mukayese ve tenkidi, Taipei, 1967. Idem, “A Comparative and Critical Study of Ali Akbar’s Khitāy-nāma with Reference to Chinese Sources (English Summary),” Central Asiatic Journal 27, 1983, pp. 58-78.

Aly Mazahéri, La Route de la soie, Paris, 1983. Matthias Norberg, “De Regno Chataja,” in Johannes Norrmann, ed., Selecta opuscula academica II, Londini Gothorum, 1818, pp. 71-144.

Charles Schefer, “Trois chapitres du Khitay Namèh: Texte persane et traduction française,” in E. Leroux, ed., Mélanges Orientaux, Paris, 1883, pp. 31-84.

Z. V. Togan, “Ali Ekber’in,” in İA I, 1962, pp. 318-19.

J. Zenker, “Das chinesische Reich nach dem türkischen Khatainame,” ZDMG 15, 1861, pp. 785-805.

(Ralph Kauz)

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