September 22, 2009

‘Id Kah’ means ‘a place of praying and celebrating in festivals’. The Id Kah Mosque is located on the central square in Kashgar City, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. As the biggest mosque in China, it is a group of old Islamic constructions with strong ethnic style and religious features.

The whole complex occupies 16,800 square meters (about 4 acres) and consists of the courtyard, the Hall of Prayer, and the gate tower and as well as some other attached structures.

The mosque has a light greenish color with delicately carved flowery patterns. The entrance of the Etigar Mosque was made into a 12-squaremeter archway, which is giant as tall as 17 meters but delicately decorated. For example, on top of the archway there ingeniously carved a crescent moon. At dawn, Islamic monks living in the temple would climb up and down the tower exactly 5 times and summon all Muslims to pray. There are 15 beautiful frescos along the walls of the archway. The clusters of temples stretch out 140 meters north to south, and 120 meters west to east.

The prominent Etigar Mosque takes its fame from not only its amazing scale but more importantly its ability to serve special religious purposes. Everyday thousands of Muslims traveled miles from all over Xinjiang to pray here. In the afternoon of a typical “Juma Day” (a service day for prayers, and is usually on a Friday), an estimated six to seven thousand Muslim males would participate in the service. The annual “Juma Day” is an even grander occasion for prayer service where there will usually be around twenty to thirty thousand participants. After the ceremony the crowds would gather outside the temple, and music is always best choice for celebration: drums, singing and dancing. They will carry on the Saman Dance throughout the entire night. Yet quite unfortunately as a tradition of Muslim, women are restricted to participate in this dance.

As a pivot preserved cultural relic of Xinjiang Municipality, Id Kah Mosque continues to serve as an important location for religious services and activities, and increasingly become a significant and popular scenic and tourism spot in Kashgar area. During the busy holiday seasons thousands of Islamic people would gather in and around the prayer temple or at the big courtyard. Uygur young men would wear handsome festal costume and dance Saman creating quite an exciting and joyful atmosphere.