This article discusses how contemporary Chinese Muslims in the city of Xi'an remember a massive conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims that devastated northwest China in the Tongzhi period (1862–74) of the Qing dynasty. Every year on the seventeenth day of the fifth lunar month, local Hui hold a series of mourning rituals for the Muslims who died at that time. They recount stories about these events during the ritual and in other settings. The author uses Bakhtin's concept of “social heteroglossia” to explore the discursive features of three accounts of the violence, arguing that Xi'an Hui memories of this past show the influence of state-sponsored ethnic policies, a religious model of Hui identity, and a less formally articulated collective sentiment (what Raymond Williams calls a “structure of feeling”) based on shared experience. The author discusses how these discourses are disseminated and which factors generate the “structure of feeling” that colors contemporary Muslim accounts of the Tongzhi period, and reflects on the consequences of Xi'an Hui internalization of the state's framework for ethnic identity.

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