Tuesday, September 10, 2013

#SeeMyMosque in Beijing.

Preston to Beijing. 

A collection of images over three journeys to the Niujie Mosque, Also know as Cow/Ox Mosque is an online Zine that offers an insight to the Mosque and some of its people.

Every time I mentioned Muslims and China side by side, a sudden twist in ones neck would occur, their forehead scrunched up in layers, their eyes narrowed and the moment of realization would take place, that indeed there are Chinese muslims. For at least one thousand four-hundred years there have been Chinese muslims so why are we so shocked when we hear about it? Why have we not heard about it? And why has it never crossed our mind?

Every footstep, a sin vanishes, a deed created; as one sets off to the mosque. Imagine the millions of people, thousands of years, step by step towards one direction since 996 in Liao Dynasty when such beauty was created. Said to be built by an Arabian scholar, Nasurutan. It has had extensions and refits due to it being destroyed by Genghis Khan and his armies.  

 The old traditional structure of a Chinese wooden palace remains,with layers of accumulated history of Arab and Islamic journeys unveiled, that speak through the prayers of a thousand voices and see through the walls with narrow eyes. The prominent Chinese blues and reds screen the walls, overlapped with gold arabic poetry and scripts from the Quran.  

 The call to prayer echoes through the hot, humid streets meandering its way through the arabic signs on shops, past the halal butchers, sitting at the park where age has grown and innocence is present, past the islamic school, and to the ears of muslims all alike. The muslim community, known as the Hui, live side by side to each other in the area of the Niujie Mosque.

 Stepping through the gates, a wave of tranquillity overflows. Behind the green door a family, and the next and the next and the next, rows of numbered green doors, a plaque written in passion ‘Imam’. A small community within the walls of the Mosque, the ancient brittle voices chanting heard through the gap of the classroom door, an artist of only four in Beijing sitting detached from the world, painting animals with letters, the little children peeking through the shadowy curtains watching the foreign faces gaze at their home with amazement.

 The prayer hall full of prayers and arabic from the mouths that confidently speak Chinese, but the hearts that have been touched by Islam. People from all around the world visit the mosque as muslims or curious tourists. The curious tourists handed over skirts and long overalls to enter, the Chinese sign translated naively into english, misunderstood by the modern.

Fatima was her name, a smile that started from one side of Beijing to another, the heart of a child and a voice that could not utter a word of english, so we spoke through signs and smiles, we spoke through Islam. She held my hand tightly and continuously, like a mother would to a child venturing out to the unknown. Every day she would come to the mosque to look after the women's area, guiding others to the wash room and prayer hall, telling the little children to stop playing on the steps and running like lunatics before they'd hurt them selves, pointing to the slippers available for one to wear and holding the scarfs of some so water would not soak, offering juicy watermelon to the children and women who came for Jum’a and spreading her smile to those that glanced at her.

And so the moon aligns in the sky with the star, and the call to prayer thickens the air and all that remains are the bodies shoulder to shoulder whispering peace upon each other.

See you soon my lovely readers! 
Frozen Vanity xox

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