China's Muslims celebrate Ramadan fast-breaking
Millions of Muslims across China Monday celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the festival that signals the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan -- a season of fasting and spiritual reflection, Xinhua reported.
Early Monday, Muslims of different ethnic groups in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region as well as in other Muslim-populated areas donned festive costumes and swarmed into mosques to hear imams preach.
In Ningxia, the regional government pronounced Monday a public holiday to enable Muslims to visit relatives and friends as Ramadan concluded.
Sumptuous food was prepared at the family of 70-year-old Yang Jingxue, a Muslim of the Hui ethnic group in Yinchuan, regional capital of Ningxia.
"Our religious belief has long been well respected. Some officials from the regional government came to my neighborhood this morning to express congratulations to us," said Yang, a retired doctor.
More than 2.2 million people of the Hui ethnic group live in Ningxia, or about one-third of the total population of the region.
About 12,000 people in the largest Muslim community of Beijing, Niujie Street in the southern part of the city, greeted the fast-breaking festival Monday.
The street was decorated with national flags and red lanterns, and thronged by tens of thousands of Muslims issuing from mosques or standing in long queues to buy Muslim food at outdoor stalls.
An exhibition was unveiled in Beijing Monday to showcase the Niujie Street neighborhood's history, architecture, cultural relics, religious customs and interaction with the outside world.
"I am very happy today, not only for the festival, but also for an opportunity I have been given to participate in the civilian parade for the National Day celebrations at Tian'anmen Square on Oct. 1," said Ma Yanbing, an imam of the Niujie Mosque.
During Ramadan, the ninth month of the year in the Muslim calendar, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset. But children, elderly people and the weak do not have to observe the fast.
China has now 20 million Muslims, about half of them from the Hui ethnic group.