'Ali Akbar Khata'i

ʿAli Akbar Khata'i

ʿAli Akbar Khata'i (modern Turkish: Ali Ekber Hıtai; fl. ca. 1500–1516) was an early 16th-century Persian traveler and writer. Although there is no certainty about his origin, we know that by 1515 he came to (or returned to) Istanbul, where he published Ḵaṭāy-nāma , which is considered one of the most complete travel notes about the Ming China . His work, originally written in Persian, was later translated into Turkish, and became influential in the Turkish- and Persian-speaking Muslim world.

As with other Middle Eastern personages, there are a great number of ways to transcribe 'Ali Akbar's name. For example, Encyclopedia Iranica uses the spelling ʿAlī Akbar Ḵeṭāʾī.[1]


Nothing much is known for sure about 'Ali Akbar's origin and early life. While he created his book in Istanbul, he may have been born elsewhere in the Islamic World - perhaps, as Aly Mazahéri suggested, based on textual references, even as far as in Transoxania (Bukhara).[2][3]

Some researchers think that ʿAlī Akbar's name may indicate his Shi'ite origin. However, his text praises the Four Righteous Caliphs (venerated by the Sunnis), so even if born and raised a Shi'ite, he must have changed his religious affiliation due to the changing political situation.[2]

ʿAlī Akbar is thought to have been a merchant by some authors.[4] He refers to himself as a qalandar (dervish) a few times in his book; however, this may be just a figurative expression, emphasizing his humbleness, rather than a literal description of a membership in a dervish order.[2]

The epithet "Khata'i" in ʿAli Akbar's name means "of China", presumably referring to him having traveled to and lived in China.[3][5] While it is usually thought that at least some of the material in Khataynameh is based on the author's first hand experiences in China, at least one scholar of Khataynameh - Lin Yih-Min, who translated the book into modern Turkish - believes that ʿAlī Akbar (much like Juan González de Mendoza and perhaps Marco Polo) did not actually travel to China, and his work is thus completely based on others' reports.[2][3]

The Khataynameh[]

ʿAlī Akbar's Khataynameh ("The Book of China"), written in Persian, was completed in 1516 in Istanbul, and issued[clarification needed] in 1520.[6]

ʿAlī Akbar's work, also known as Kanun-name, was translated into Ottoman Turkish in 1582. His work was used by later Turkish authors; in particular, it was one of the main sources of information on China used by Katip Çelebi in his Jihān-numā, along with an earlier work by a Ghiyāth al-dīn Naqqāsh. As modern researchers note, Ghiyāth al-dīn's and 'Ali Akbar's accounts, in a way, complemented each other, as the two authors saw Ming China from different aspects: Ghiyāth al-dīn came to the court of the Ming Yongle Emperor as a member of an official delegation from the Timurid ruler Shah Rukh, and much of his report is focused on court and diplomatic events; on the other hand, 'Ali Akbar, who, as Ildikó Bellér-Hann surmises, may have been a merchant, gives a much better view of the country's everyday life.[7] Ali Akbar, in his book The Khataynameh, recorded many policies of the Ming court during Hongzhi and Zhengde reigns.[5][3]

Modern study and translations[]

Three chapters of the Khataynameh were translated into French by Charles Schefer and published in 1883, along with the Persian original.[8]


  1. ^ T. Yazici, ʿAlī Akbar Ḵeṭāʾī at Encyclopædia Iranica
  2. ^ a b c d Ralph Kauz, ʿAlī Akbar Ḵeṭāʾī at Encyclopædia Iranica
  3. ^ a b c d Chen, Yuan Julian (2021-10-11). "Between the Islamic and Chinese Universal Empires: The Ottoman Empire, Ming Dynasty, and Global Age of Explorations". Journal of Early Modern History. 25 (5): 422–456. doi:10.1163/15700658-bja10030. ISSN 1385-3783.
  4. ^ Bellér-Hann 1995, p. 20
  5. ^ a b Hagras, Hamada (2019-12-20). "THE MING COURT AS PATRON OF THE CHINESE ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE: THE CASE STUDY OF THE DAXUEXI MOSQUE IN XI'AN". SHEDET (6): 134–158. doi:10.36816/shedet.006.08.
  6. ^ Ralph Kauz, One of the Last Documents of the Silk Road: The Khataynameh of Ali Akbar
  7. ^ Bellér-Hann 1995, pp. 16–20
  8. ^ (Schefer 1883)