The Hundred-word Eulogy, known in Chinese as 百字讃 or baizizan, is a 100-character poem in praise of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. Written by the Hongwu Emperor in the mid-1300s, this ancient poems stands as an important but little recognized reminder of how wide-spread the beauty of Islam historically was.
The Hongwu Emperor, who was the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty in China, ruled from 1368 to 1398. Born as Zhu Yuanzhang, the Hongwu Emperor rose to power after leading the force that ended the long-standing Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty, that ruled China from 1279 to 1368. After establishing himself as the Emperor of the new Ming Dynastry, the Hongwu Emperor claimed the ancient Yuan capital, Khanbaliq, as the new capital of the empire. Khanbaliq is today known as Beijing.
The reign of the Hongwu Emperor was revolutionary in many ways: he encouraged the cultivation of new land and agriculture across China, reduced taxes, cracked down on political corruption, and established new laws that protected the rights of peasants. He also notably forbade private slavery, and redistributed land held by nobles to the poorer levels of society.
The Hongwu Emperor also reportedly built mosques in Xijing and Nanjing, as well as in Yunnan, Fujian, and Guangdong in the southern regions of China. His Hundred-word Eulogy, in praise of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, remains one of the most unique examples of the importance and spread of Islam during the medieval ages.
The poem in Chinese runs as such:
Since the creation of the Universe,
God had decreed to appoint,
This great faith-preaching man,
From the West he was born,
He received the Holy Scripture,
A Book of thirty parts,
To guide all creation,
Master of all Rulers,
Leader of Holy Ones,
With Support from Above,
To Protect His Nation,
With five daily prayers,
Silently hoping for peace,
His heart towards Allah,
Empowering the poor,
Saving them from calamity,
Seeing through the darkness,
Pulling souls and spirits,
Away from all wrongdoings,
A Mercy to the Worlds,
Traversing the ancient majestic path,
Vanquishing away all evil,
His Religion Pure and True,
The Noble & Great one.
In the translation below the translator has strayed away from trying to keep the 4 word per verse translation in favour of a more literal translation which conveys the full meaning in flowing English.
Translation by Sh. Musa Cerantonio
Today, several copies of the poem are on display in mosques across Nanjing, China, as an important reminder of the influence of Islam in even the far corners of China during the early Ming Dynasty.