Ningxia is known as the home to the Hui ethnic minority people, traditionally Muslim in culture and religion, but in reality, only 40% of the entire population of Ningxia is Hui. Living in Guyuan, the Hui population is noticeable but still very much a Han dominated city. However, in the small town of Tongxin, located in the center of the province, over 80% of the population is Hui Muslim! Entering into the city is an entirely different feel; all men and women cover their heads, a mosque rises up on every corner, and every restaurant is qing zhen (halal).
I was honored to be able to travel to Tongxin with one of my students to celebrate the Corban festival, also know as Al-Adha, which is a festival of sacrifice. Men of the community will worship together in the mosque then return home to slay a blessed sheep that will be eaten by the family along with other dishes.
Waking up on the morning of the first day of the festival, the skies were blue and the Muslim call to prayer drifted through the city. There are so many mosques that the speakers can’t project in unison, but create a choir of prayers rising up. How beautiful!
I rose with the women of the house, as the men were at the mosque, to prepare yo bing zi. This traditional fried bread would be given as gifts to friends and neighbors along with the cooked sheep. I was taken aback with emotion watched my student’s mother and two grandmothers work together kneading, rolling, and frying the dough. What a beautiful sight! What tradition passed on! I was definitely missing my own mother! :)
Finally the men returned home, a sheep in the back of the truck. All over the city sheep could be seen tied near the house, roped together on the side of the road, and loaded into the backs of trucks. The family slaughtered the sheep and proceeded to deftly skin and dissect it. Again, what skill! I was amazed to see husband and wife work together to skin the sheep with ease, then observe the grandmothers clean out the inner organs. These people were skilled butchers by culture, how cool!
It was a wonderful event to experience among such warm people who care about their heritage –and an overall beautiful place to see!