Kaveh Hemmat & John Curry - Utopia, Law, and Civic Lore from the Chinese-Inner Asian Frontier: New Insights on the “Book of China” of `Ali Akbar Khatayi (fl. 1500-1520)


Oct. 12, 2023, 4pm to 6pm
Show Recurring Dates

Office/Remote Location

Beverly Rogers Literature and Law Building (RLL), Room 101


The Forum lecture grows out of a National Endowment for the Humanities project, headed by Professor Kaveh Hemmat of Benedictine University, that aims to produce an annotated translation of a critical and unique text from the early 16th century. It represents a rare account by an eyewitness who visited China and the Ming Dynasty court around 1500, and includes a description of the frontier borderlands of Inner Asia as well.

Many early modern European writers, including Dominicans and Jesuits and 17th century philosophers, extolled the Chinese state as orderly, meritocratic, and tolerant, and in some cases envisioned it as enclosed and inaccessible. This idealized, and in some cases utopian, image of China had close precedents in earlier Persian, Arabic, and Turkic writing, especially the 1516 “Book of China” (Khataynameh) of ‘Ali Akbar Khatayi, suggesting that writers in Western Europe and the Islamic world were drawing on a similar body of civic lore, or local memory and understanding of political institutions that originated in some port cities and the Chinese-Inner Asian frontier. Khatayi’s Book of China, which depicts China as strictly and comprehensively regulated by law and system at all levels including the emperor himself, was informed by Khatayi’s experiences traversing the Inner Asian frontier region, home to diverse populations of Persian- and Turkic-speaking city-dwellers, Mongolian-speaking pastorallists, and Han Chinese, as well as soldiers, bureaucrats, and other agents of the Chinese state. This Central Asian political context, as well as the political environment of the Ottoman court in Istanbul, to which Khatayi presented his book, shaped his depiction of the Chinese state. Following Dr. Hemmat’s presentation, Dr. John Curry of UNLV will outline the discovery of a novel manuscript of the Khataynameh that was presented at the court of Suleyman the Magnificent in the Ottoman capital of Istanbul and how it provided novel information about both the Ming Dynasty and the court culture of the Ottoman Empire.



Admission Information

Open to UNLV students, staff, faculty, and the general public.

Contact Information

College of Liberal Arts' Dean's Office