Special Report: Islam in China

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China is frequently seen as a homogenous country. However, there are 55 recognized ethnic minorities that compose approximately 8.41% of the population, a percentage that has most likely increased since this estimate was derived from a 2000 National Census. 

Of these 55 ethnic minorities, 10 are predominantly Muslim with Hui and Uyghurs making up the two largest groups of Muslim ethnic minorities. Near the end of May, my mom and I took a two and a half week trip to China where we visited Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. While it is nice to be back home, it truly was an amazing experience.

It was particularly meaningful to have the opportunity to visit a masjid (mosque) in each city, especially because Ramadan started about a week into our journey.

Aside from the Niujie Mosque, we ended up visiting the other masjids almost by accident, which is why their descriptions are shorter. I think one of the best parts about traveling is finding new places and meeting new people through unplanned serendipities.

I hope the following photos show a different side of China and, more generally speaking, serve as a reminder of the diversity that exists within the country’s borders.

 

Beijing, China: Niujie Mosque

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Constructed in 996 during the Liao Dynasty, it stands as the oldest mosque in Beijing and is characterized by a blend of East Asian and Islamic architecture. 

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The 996 original was demolished after a Mongolian invasion and it was rebuilt in 1442. One of the first things I noticed was that the mosque was not a single building, but instead was constituted by multiple separate buildings centered around a courtyard.

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Shanghai, China – Huxi Mosque

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On Fridays a fairly well-known market sets up outside the masjid. Unfortunately, we weren’t in Shanghai on a Friday, but we had an enjoyable visit nonetheless.

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After receiving an impromptu tour from a friend who lives near the masjid, everyone – a mix of Hui, Uyghur, Han Chinese converts and international students – sat down around picnic tables on the open top floor terrace for iftar (a religious observance during Ramadan, which involves sharing a meal with the community).

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Hong Kong, China –Kowloon Mosque

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While exploring the busy streets of Hong Kong, we stumbled across Kowloon Mosque.

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Meili Criezis

Meili Criezis

I graduated from Southwestern University with Bachelor's degrees in History/French and I am passionate about issues related to the MENA region, progressive interpretations of Islam, women's rights and the Algerian Revolution for Independence. While at Southwestern, my academic advisor and I received a university grant to conduct summer archival research in the Paris archives concerning North African immigration to France and the Algerian 1954 Revolution. It's hard to know where life will take you (especially as a liberal arts major!) but the archival research experience strengthened my desire to pursue a long term career in international relations analysis with a focus on the Middle East North Africa.

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