This tiny refuge of Muslim culture in China captured my heart and sent me on a journey of the mind.
I recently went on the Jericho High School exchange program which allowed me to visit the wonderful and modern city of Xi’an in China’s Shaanxi Province. On the last day of the trip, I explored popular Xi’an tourist destinations with my new friends from Xi’an. One of the places we visited was a destination known as Muslim Quarter. The second that we arrived at Muslim Quarter, I became enamored by its sights, sounds, and smells. In this wondrous place, my friends and I ate fried squid on a stick, which actually tasted really delicious, and we chatted with Chinese people dressed in traditional Muslim attire. It was so fascinating to see this tiny outcrop of Muslim subculture thriving in a country known for its uniformity. As a result of my obsession with this place, I immediately began doing research about it once I traveled back to America.
Here are some of the interesting facts and stories I found. Enjoy!
Muslim Quarter is actually composed of a couple of different streets with Huimin Street and Beiyuanmen Street being the most famous. Allegedly, the reason for the large Muslim population in Xi’an has to do with its title as beginning of the Silk Road many years ago. Supposedly, merchants, students, and diplomats from Persia and Arabic countries traveled along the Silk Road in ancient times to Xi’an to do business and study in Ancient China. When they came to China, they settled in Muslim Quarter. Over time, as these individuals began to marry and have children, their population in Xi’an increased. Now, there are over 20,000 Muslims living in Xi’an with most residing in Muslim Quarter. To accommodate all of these followers of Islam, there are over 10 mosques in Muslim Quarter. Muslim Quarter’s visual appearance can best be described as eclectic. A wide main street lined with stores that are of the architectural style of Ming and Qing dynasty buildings branches off into stifling alleyways that lead to Mosques and stores selling knock-off products in this unique and unusual cultural destination. Muslim Quarter, in addition to being home to historical stores and 10 mosques, is also home to monuments from the Tang and Ming dynasties and is even home to a Taoist Temple! Locals like to visit Muslim Quarter during the summer for a bite to eat because Muslim Quarter allows visitors to sample its delicacies which include cakes, fruits, breads, and plenty of skewered meats under the shade of tall trees. The Muslim community in Xi’an, although very close-knit, is always welcoming to outsiders and they welcomed me like I was family. So, I highly suggest you pay Muslim Quarter a visit if you ever go to Xi’an. You won’t be sorry.
Here are some awesome sources I found. Check them out!