The Muslims established here through trade on the silk route since the eight century. However, during the Ming dynasties that they became more pronounced and the Great Mosque was built. I can only imagine huge sacks and boxes of goods stacked on camels and horse backs plodding through on these narrow alleys and pathways. A narrow, pedestrian only alley, Huajie Lane, lined with an amazing array of nick knacks and goods lead the way to the Great Mosque of Xian. . It was built in 742 during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). We passed several courtyards before arriving at the central tower (or perhaps a minaret – Xingxin Tower). It is interesting as it has both Chinese and Islamic influence. It is a Chinese pagoda style architecture with Islamic interiors. The roof is an intricate wood work. Here, there is serenity, as we walked around the landscaped gardens. This site was already in use during the Tang dynasty but eventually established as a place of worship during the Ming era. A series of add on continued to the present day architecture and structure. A fantastic mix of Arabic and Chinese influence. The minaret, to call for prayers, looked like a pagoda. Bearded men with white hats sat behind stall counters; little whispers as a few gathered at the mosques courtyard. Some even spoke Malay language. Another man had been studying in Malaysia. I met a man selling religious items. He was well travelled. When I asked him if I could take a photo of him agreed. Just I was about to click, he flicked his fan! To exit, I went through the gauntlet of souvenir stalls. A little persuasion but no harassment
On the Huimin Street (Muslin Street), we were handed a pamphlet on a shadow puppet show. This show is very popular in Malaysia, especially in the East Coast. It is called Pi Ying in Chinese. Shadow puppets were invented more than 2,000 years ago in the capital Changan (the historic name of Xian) during the ruling of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. The storied often depict Chinese legends and local village stories such as the one we witnessed. The puppets a skilfully made with intricate designs of characters, brightly coloured and sometimes looks mythical. The shadows of the different characters are cast on a white scree using back lit lights. Music accompanied the lively performances created by the puppet master. Although, I did not understand the dialog, the show was certainly entertaining. It did bring me back to my childhood days. Very nostalgic and it left lasting a memory. Bookmarks of some of the characters make fantastic memorabilia to take home.