This video is amazing because it gives a glimpse of Hui lifestyles as well as their privately owned businesses. I especially love the images of the colourful streets filled with vendors.


This documentary sheds some light on the life of an imam in the city of Xi’an. He is one of 10 imams at the most famous mosque in the city of Xi’an, located in the central province of Shaanxi, the northern root of the famous silk route. This was where the first mosque in China was built. It was the center of Chinese civilization during the Tang dynasty, when Islam was first introduced in 650 AD by some of the prophet’s companions.

Xi’an is home to 60 000 ethnic Chinese Muslims, who are part of the Hui ethnic group. The imam, (Ma Yi ping) who has the Arabic name Yehya Salih, is shown leading the prayers in city’s most famous and largest mosque. A fluent speaker of Arabic, the language of the Quran, the imam is also their hajj leader.

Pilgrims have been making their way to Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage from this city since the 15th century. During the days of the silk road, the city was where all journeys either began or ended.

As it was forbidden for children to learn in the mosque, this imam was sent by his father to an imam’s place where he learned the quran. He studied caligraphy in the university of al medina in 1990. He travelled to egypt to hone his caligraphy skills. In this video, he will be making his fifth trip to Hajj.

Due to political pressures from the “Gang of Four”, all religions were  negatively affected. As things improved,  Ma Yi Ping did not have to study the Quran secretly. He lived inside the great the mosque until he was 6. At 16 he became an imam as mosques were re-opened after being closed by the communists in 1959.

The 1966 cultural revolution led to the destruction of 20,000 mosques across China. 

In the Great mosque of Xiang the imam attempts to educate people about their religion and the rituals of hajj and admits one of the challenges he faces is that people lack of knowledge of the hajj rituals as it is something new to them.

The imam tries to pass on some of his knowledge to his son  in the hope that he one day the son will follow in his father’s footsteps in becoming an imam.