All posts filed under: Religion

The Art of the Bazaar: A Photo Essay

Every Friday Muslim migrant men fill the streets surrounding the mosque in the Ürümchi neighborhood of Black First Mountain (Heijia Shan). They come to pray. After the noonday (zohr) prayers and straining to hear the weekly message from the imam, they tuck their rugs under their arms and buy their meat for the week. Thousands come, Uyghurs from the countryside who are in the city working as day laborers in demolition sites or hawking goods on the streets, to perform their ritual ablutions and stroll through one of Ürümchi’s last remaining bazaars. For centuries bazaars and mosques have been a linked ritual space for Muslims in Chinese Central Asia. Following the protests and subsequent violence of 2009, this neighborhood was one of the first areas targeted for urban cleansing. The degraded housing of the nearly 10,000 Uyghur migrants in the neighborhood was leveled. Each family was registered or forced to leave. Those who were not expelled from the city were offered partially-subsidized housing in newly built 20-story apartment buildings as compensation for the loss of their …

The Giant Buddhas of the Western Region

The giant 41 meter Buddha faces directly west. It seems to embrace the new construction on the other side of Bright Red Mountain in on the Northeast periphery of Ürümchi.  Behind him the constant ring of hammers and the roar of Bingtuan Construction Engineering Company trucks rises from the still unfinished wing of the brand new Hilton hotel and the alien-looking international expo center. Every few minutes the low industrial roar is punctuated by the “dong” of a giant bell just to the left of the huge gold figure. Chants of “A-mi-tuo-fo” are carried intermittently on the breeze. The temple complex is symmetrical. Gates and bridges; fierce gods of war; giant rock gardens made of plaster; hobbit-style caves made of grape arbors;  opposing ornate temples filled with auspicious jade from Hotan for middle-class consumers; matching rows of elephants bearing Tibetan prayer wheels line the causeway. In the center of the complex is a rotund reclining Buddha covered by dozens of naughty golden children. People place their wishes inscribed on red ribbons here. They light incense …