A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Chin Part 2|
|06/20/05 at 23:01:49|
I arrived in Xi’an early morning. I had slept a little on the train from Beijing so I was relatively fresh. A quick shower in my Bell Tower Hotel room and I was off to exploring the city. Weather was a bit warmer than Beijing and the air was a little refreshing as well. There were hundreds of people outside flying the Chinese kites. It was just like Basant except that there were no metal strings, electrocution, kids falling off of the roof and bandaged fingers. It seemed like though that there were more kite sellers then the actual people flying kites. Nevertheless, the sky looked pretty with hundreds of kites in it and the Bell and the Drum towers in the background. I was looking for the Muslim quarter. It didn’t take me long to find it. It is one section of the city where all the Muslims live. It has narrow streets and alleys, hundreds of halal restaurants, gift shops, silk and clothing stores, calligraphy stores, tea houses, meat shops, grocery stores and endless street food stalls. It was the best street food in China that I have seen. Most of the things looked foreign to me but I tried them anyway. Small kabobs on skewers, deep fried dough filled with ground meat, small sweet rice cake, stir fried (Chinese) veggie dishes, flat bread, persimmon fried desserts and many others that I neither could recognize nor had the stomach to try. You can imagine I was fed very well in that area. I was searching for the Great mosque of Xi’an, one of the oldest and most historic Chinese Muslim architecture.
After a few minutes of search and running around, I finally arrived at the door. This is the mosque that I saw in the calendar and was my first inspiration to travel to china. They charge some money for non-Muslims to enter so the old man at the door asked for the entering fee. In reply I said,
He looked quite surprised but he let me in. Peaceful was my first impression of this mosque. I was wishing it to be summer as I was walking through the gardens. Imagination had to be at work to visualize the mosque with beautiful flowers and greens. My eyes were searching for that corner with the round door that I saw in the picture. By that time I was thinking of it as the mystery door. I kept looking and found many other inspiring aspects of the mosque, the Chinese style buildings with Quranic Arabic and Chinese inscriptions, fountains, interesting mehrabs but not that corner. I searched everywhere and finally when I got to the very last corner of the mosque, I saw that. It was a mystery door indeed. I did not know why I looked for it. Why was it that I traveled over 6000 miles to see it? I stood there for a little while just staring at it. I knew that if I try to explain it to anyone, no one will see what I see. It will be difficult to comprehend. But as always in my travels, I never cared for what others think.
It was Duhur time and the time to enter the prayer hall. Only Muslims are allowed to enter the prayer hall so once I entered it, I had to go through a few more exercises of ”Assalam Alaikum”, “Muslim” routines. The praying hall was much less decorated compared to the Nujie Mosque. The walls were made of dark wood with Quranic inscriptions carved in it. The colors were very natural looking compared to the red and blue of Nujie mosque. As we all stood up for the jamaat and before the Niyyat, someone tapped on my shoulder. I was thinking here we go again with the “assalam Alikum, Muslim” routine. I turned around and I saw a man offering me a white hat. At that time I realized that everyone in the packed prayer hall was wearing a small white praying hat except for me. I took it with a smile. After the prayer, the guy refused to take it back No one asked me if I was a Muslim after I wore that hat. In fact a few even approached to have a conversation. I could barely tell them that I’m from Pakistan.
“ohh.. Pachishtan? Goooood gooood… Muslim brothers… mushaaf”.
“ohhh Musharaf.. right right”
“pachishtan.. gooood goooood”
That was about the extent of my conversation. I had a great time that Muslim Quarter. It was exactly what I was looking for. People were friendly and welcoming. I bought a few silk scarves from the shop across from the mosque. I also bought original calligraphy of the artist whose work is in some of the greatest mosques in China including Xi’an. It made for great gifts.
At night we saw the Qing dynasty opera. It was an interesting experience but it was really geared for the tourists, actually for rich tourists. I wouldn’t do it again if I were to go back to Xi’an. Walking around on the streets is a lot more fun than watching that dance/opera, even though all the ladies in it were quite beautiful.
I got up very early to go see Museum of Terracotta warriors. This was one emperor’s way of securing his after life. Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 BC), Qin Shi Huang, later the first Emperor of all China, had work begun on his mausoleum. It took 11 years to finish. It is speculated that many buried treasures and sacrificial objects had accompanied the emperor in his after life. Life size terracotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the star features at the museum. They are replicas of what the imperial guard should look like in those days of pomp and vigor. Altogether over 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots, and even weapons have been unearthed from these pits. Most of them have been restored to their former grandeur. The Terracotta Warriors and Horses is a sensational archeological find of all times. It has put Xian on the map for tourists. Historically it was an interesting experience. I could not help think that this emperor thought that all this would help him in the afterlife but we all already know what WILL help us in the afterlife. May be that Qin emperor was mistaken in his thoughts about afterlife but he did everything in his power to make sure that he acts upon what he believes in, sure at the expense of others. But come to think of it, are we doing all we can do make a difference in our afterlife?
Next Stop: Huaqing Hot Springs. It’s a peaceful place. Using of the hot springs was never in my game plan though as it was freezing at that time. It is a palace mostly built by Tang dynasty (with other dynasties) as a resort I presume. I think emperors used to spend their time with their famous concubines here. Lifestyle of rich and famous I guess. The place and the surroundings are beautiful as it is located 35 miles south of Xi’an at the foot of the Lishan Mountain. Very romantic place I would think, that is if you were to have a romantic partner.
Next, I was off to Guilin by air. I arrived in the afternoon. I had just enough time before dark to check into my hotel and go see the Reed Flute cave. Its an amazing series of caves. You go ½ km into the mountains through an illuminated path. Using your imagination, you can see the most bizarre structures that might remind you of other things. Every formation is given some sort of poetic name. The most astonishing part is to see how water makes its way into the caves. Light reflecting off of the small pond inside creates a magical view. At night, I was able to find couple of Muslim owned restaurants even in Guilin. I even saw an interesting local cultural show that night.
I went to the Li river boat trip today. This is an 83 km trip that takes you all the way to southern town of Yangshuo. The river flows through the beautiful limestone peaks of strange forms. Scenery along the riverbank isn’t less fascinating with feathery Bamboo trees lined up against the shore, forming huge cascades of greens. Life around the river is also very interesting as you see the improvised ferry boats, people selling variety of fruits in their bamboo rafts and they come quickly upon the sight of the tour boats, line themselves against the tour boats and offer their fruits to the tourists. You see captive cormorant birds with their necks ringed so they don’t swallow their catch, waiting for orders to go fishing from their bamboo rafts. As beautiful as the scenery was, 5 hrs was a little too long for my taste to be on a boat and do nothing but just take pictures, as much as I like photography.
The boat arrived at the small town of Yangshuo in early afternoon. Walking around in that town was interesting. The town was surrounded by beautiful limestone peaks but to my disappointment, there was a section that was completely westernized. I should have known that with all the hips of the world going there for backpacking and cycling. I went back to Guilin that night by bus and spent a long time just walking around I Guilin as that was my last night in China.
Next morning I was off to Beijing and then back to Chicago on a very long 14 hr flight.
|06/20/05 at 23:13:12|
|by the way.. silk road starts in Xi'an so I thought this would be an appropriate subject for this forum...|
attached picture - a tucked up muslim girl in Xi'an
|06/20/05 at 23:16:40|
|and of course - speaking of silk, a muslim woman selling silk scarf in front of the great mosque of Xi'an... |
|06/22/05 at 12:43:44|
There have this thing in india too, where a man cant pray in the masjid without a cap. My bro told me of this incident when he was in the masjid about a lil schoolboy who came 2 the masjid during his recess 2 pray dhuhr and the imam sent him back cause he didnt have a cap. He said somethin like, dont u wear a uniform at school, well u need a uniform at the masjid too... :o
my bro always gets crap for being well... muslim enough 2 grow a beard but not muslim enough 2 wear a skull cap. The three-fold appearance of the good muslim man - beard, cap and pants riding above the ankles.
its really sad when ppl cant distinguish between fard and sunnah.
|06/28/05 at 01:23:54|
that little girls picture is sooooooooo adorable mashallah :)
i find it so interesting that the picture of that door on a calendar was your original inspiration in going.. i've always been fascinated by that door too!! i was going to make the clue for Amazing Race game we were playing : Travel to this mosque (http://www.jannah.org/board/attachments/question.gif) and find out what color its door is. But then i thought people would get all confused between the outer door and then the door to the inner mosque building.
anyhow jazaks for posting the travelogues.. it's almost like being there.. well not quite... but it makes for interesting reading anyhow ;)
btw have you taken any photography classes? i'd highly suggest you take it up as more than a hobby!!
|06/28/05 at 22:24:36|
|salam safa.. |
i agree. we get so hung up on rituals that we lose the spirit of the farz or even sunnah. sometimes though.. its about respect. to those hui muslims, its more respectable to be wearing the cap in the mosque and i can understand that.
|06/28/05 at 22:36:11|
|wasalam jannah.. |
thanks! appreciate your comments about the photography.. usually ppl are running away from my pictures.. not because they are bad or anything but from the quantity of them. actually my quality comes from the quantity. I'd literally take thousands of pictures on a given trip (thx to digital photography).
the door? yes.. visual ispiration is very strong i suppose
btw.. were you able to see the yahoo ones?
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