Day 6: Meeting The Ahong
Today Mr. Yang, the owner of an antique shop in Si Fang Jie, took Mr. Tafel, Ivy, Vincent, Hannah, and I to the local mosque. It is a five minute walk away from Si Fang Jie, and it is called "San Qing Zhen Si", which means simply, the third mosque. We got to the mosque about half an hour before midday prayers, and during that time I was able to ask the Ahong some questions using Mr. Tafel, Ivy, and Vincent as translators. Ahong is the Chinese word for Imam, which is the leader of a mosque, and the Ahong has a similar role to a priest or preacher in a Christian church. The Ahong at this mosque is actually quite young, and at 25 years old, he has been Ahong for four years. We asked him some questions about what his job entails, and he said that he basically just lead the five daily prayers, and held a midday service on Fridays. After we had been talking to him for 20 minutes or so, he had to go into the mosque to start the call to prayer. For the call to prayer, he sings in Arabic into a speaker system to let everyone who is Muslim in the surrounding area know that it is time to pray. Soon after he finished the call to prayer, around 30 or so old men showed up to start their daily prayer. We watched them do their da prayers for around 20 minutes or so, until the praying finished and they all shuffled out of the mosque. All of these men were retired, and most of them were over 70. We talked to a group of them outside the doors, and they told us that they all went to the Mosque five times a day, but most people prayed at home or not at all because they were working during the day. We talked to these old men for a good ten minutes before they all went back home. I learned a lot about what daily prayer is like for Muslims here, and I was also told by the Ahong that I could come to the mosque whenever I felt like it.
Later that day, some musicians and dancers gave us a performance in the courtyard. It was really cool watching them dance and play their traditional instruments, and I got a pretty good picture of the Er Hu player, which you can see above. Mr. Yang also came to watch, and I sat down next to him to have a conversation. While the dancers were teaching the rest of the group how to do the dance, I had good chat with Mr. Yang (Mr. T translating) about his faith and beliefs. When we started talking about different religions, I noticed that he liked to point out the similarities between them, unlike how most people like talk about the differences between their religions. At the end of the talk, he invited me to go watch the Friday service tomorrow, which is when most people go to the mosque once a week. Overall, today was a great day for my inquiry project work, and I am really exited about going to the mosque tomorrow.