Beneath the Citadels: The Visible Islamic World

Li Ming

2016 - Ongoing

In contemporary time, the Muslim World faces profound and complex situations. In China, the Islamic communities spread mostly in the Northwestern regions, where religious belief is strong in diversified sects. In Gansu and Qinghai areas, where historically the Muslims and Han people have lived together, now they have developed relatively independent Muslim communities. These communities preserve and perform strict Muslim customs and religious belief. At the time of new radical changes, the Muslims reinforce requirements for worshipping, reform ideas and reconstruct their identities, as such, they progressively renovate and transform the Mosques, the spiritual space for gathered worshipping. Unlike ancient mosques built in Fuzhou and Quanzhou in traditional Chinese architecture style with the characteristic East Asian hip-and-gable roof, a wave of building new mosques appeared in the region of Gansu and Qinghai. These new mosques have distinctive features compare to those ancient mosques in inner land China, and differentiate from the local mosques built in classical Chinese architecture style before. Furthermore, because of the growth of different Islamic religion branches in the area, the gathering worship spaces also signify the differences of this development. In recent years, with the improved economic capabilities, the Muslim congregations can raise fund to build mosques with vast dome and citadel, a visible transformation that represents the Muslim’s desire to identify with the Arabic religion roots. Although the outer space of these architectures has a distinctive exotic look, the inner space of these spiritual architectures shows the complexities of the desire to counter and encounter between different cultures, and often has an uncanny look. The Muslim communities in China are living in an unspeakable dominated political, social and cultural environment, they are victims of the clash of global and domestic interests and conflicts. Religious life has become even more crucial for the communities to build identity, support each other and live a meaningful life. Architectures have no words, but these spaces that have been captured by camera and turned to the images will tell histories, stories, and desires more vividly than words.

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