April 12, 2011

Islam is very much alive in the world’s most populous country

Location: Kuqa Grand Mosque, Xinjiang, China (41°43'11"N, 82°55'27"E)
Date: 22 May 1999; 2.30pm
Camera: (analogue) Canon 500N with negatives and scanned

Only 2.5% of China’s population is Muslim, however she has the 9th largest Muslim population in the world. China’s Muslim broadly fall into 2 large groups:

  • the bigger grouping of Muslim population of the Uighurs and other Central Asian ethnic groups concentrated in the western provinces of Xinjiang and Gansu
  • the Hui minority who are descendants of centuries-old inter-marriage between Arab settlers and Chinese, spread all over China.

The former still retain very strong Muslim traditions and practices that are similar to those in Central Asian and other Muslim-majority countries while the Hui minority has incorporated many aspects of Chinese culture. Example of the subtle differences can be found in their mosque architecture- while the former’s mosque are simple and “strong” to withstand the elements, similar to those of Central Asian countries, the Hui’s mosque are sometimes indistinguishable from a Chinese pagoda.

A fine example of the former is the Kuqa Mosque, the second largest mosque in Xinjiang.

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