Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Islam in China: Some Scenes from Zhaotong, Yunnan

Previously, I posted some of what I've seen of Christianity in China here and here.

Like my observations of Christianity in China, I was not specifically looking for instances of Islam in China.  However, I've had the opportunity to observe a small slice of of it.  One of China's numerous ethnic groups is the Muslim Hui people.  While Yunnan isn't one of the major regions for the Hui people in China, in Zhaotong it is impossible not to notice their presence.

I'll share a light selection of what I saw in Zhaotong.  Nothing deep here, just providing some color on Muslims in China (see here for more details about the Hui people).

While walking around Zhaotong one day I came across this mosque with a Muslim school and dormitories next to it on the right:

mosque, school, and dormitories

While prayer sessions were ongoing two younger boys invited me into the classroom & dormitory building to chat.  Their dorm room wasn't very different from some college dormitories I've seen in Southwest China:

dormitory room with 9 beds

When the prayers were finished numerous students and teachers came out of the mosque to return to their classrooms and dorms:

men and boys leaving mosque

Hui people can be seen in many other parts of Zhaotong as well, typically doing the same things as other Chinese -- such as working in stores or attending college.  Here is a scene from a shopping street:

several Hui ladies walking down shopping street

Also, there were numerous Hui people selling food in some street markets.  This lady was selling a tofu snack and an assortment of eggs:

Hui woman selling eggs and tofu

I had several very enjoyable conversations with Hui people.  Probably the most memorable was this lady:

Hui lady making a strange face

This was the 3rd photo of her trying to make her best face.

She struck me as someone who had no fear of being different and her strong sense of humor readily displayed itself.  She definitely provided an enjoyable change of pace.

Before I came to Zhaotong I was not aware it had any Muslim influence.  Now, I'll definitely never forget it.


  1. Love the pictures, Brian. And I also love seeing and experiencing the Muslim and minority cultures in China. How did you get into a dorm? I'm amazed at how you talk yourself into (and out of!) things. I'm way too shy!

  2. Thanks!

    I've done a lot on "best research practices" in China -- both at Microsoft and independently. In short, I've explored how to best ask questions, how to make people feel at ease, etc. so I can get closer to people's "real" thoughts and lives. One result is it is not uncommon for me to find myself in complete strangers' homes, dorms, business offices, etc. In fact, it happened today as well. It's extremely valuable to the work I do in guiding the design of technology that truly fits into people's lives. It's hard to answer your question in a single comment but I plan to share more about related issues in later posts.