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Crescent Moon Tour

Materials are provided by "Travel China weekly newspaper"
by Zhang Hua

Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province has long been eulogized as a "Little Mecca in China". The 800,000 Muslims belong to ethnic groups of the hui, Dongxiang and Salar, accounting for over 50 percent of the total population in this prefecture. The prefecture has 1,700 mosques. Of these, 100 are located in Linxia City, scattered over its 80 square kilometers of land. Because of this, Linxia has become the prefecture with the most mosques in China. Every year numerous Muslims stream into Linxia to pay homage. Meanwhile, more than over hundred local people go to saudi Arabia on pilgrimages.

When our car entered the Linxia area, we found that every mosque caught our eye. Unlike other places, the people we passed in the streets were dressed differently. The men were wearing white hats and the women were wearing white veils. The roof of each mosque was decorated with treasure vases, one piled on top of another no matter what architectural features the mosques represented. On top of the highest vase was a crescent moon. Hence, the name of the tour.

Bricks with carved designs are used to decorate the walls.
Bricks with carved designs are
used to decorate the walls.
In the Dagongbei Mosque stands a glazed pagoda. Its base is made of large bricks with carved designs that constitutes its unique style. We found that the Chinese wisteria on either side of the hall where religious services are held, were blooming. It is said that the Chinese wisteria has been there for centuries, and is regarded as the guardian of the ancient building.

The famous Nanguan Mosque was constructed in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and was rebuilt in 1997. On top of the palace hall where religious services are held, there are three green dome towers in the distinctive Arabian style. The one in the center is 32 meters high, and is called the Huanxing (Waking-up) Pavilion, or Looking-Moon Pavilion. There are more Muslims here than in other mosques.

Ancient Cultural Arts

The decorative pottery on the mosques in Linxia City reminds me of pottery wares from Linxia displayed in Beijing's Palace Museum. When I was there, I could see the pottery in various shapes in stores and on various buildings. Paying a visit to the Linxia Museum, I was allowed to view the Ma Family Kiln first discovered in the Hehuang region. As early as 5,000 years ago, ancestors of the Chinese people in Gansu Province began constructing their houses with loess earth to make walls and purple grass to make the roofs. They lived and worked in round and rectangular houses.

The Pottery Hall in Linxia Prefecture Museum is the place with the most exhibits. It has various kinds of pottery, covering different periods from the Panshan Culture to Qijia Culture. Whenever visitors enter the hall, they feel as if they
Machine-made pottery.
Machine-made pottery.
are stepping back in time. They are fascinated with the scenes depicting people fishing, cooking, hunting, doing farm work, wearing bone decorations and clothing made from animal skin, pottery making and stone tool polishing.

The museum curator is an experienced pottery maker himself. He showed me to his workshop in his courtyard, where he often receives visitors from far away. I was deeply impressed by the methods our Chinese ancestors used in making pottery while he explained to us the various procedures. When I was about to leave, he gave me a small piece of pottery as a token of my trip to his workshop.

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