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Sacrifice in the Muslim Quarter, Xi'an

Entrance to Muslim Quarter

An archway marking the entrance to the Xi'an Muslim Quarter

Busy street

A busy street in the Muslim Quarter (Hui Min Jie) of Xi'an

A sacrificial sheep

The black-faced sheep is considered to be the ideal sacrifice for Korban.

Art on a mosque wall

Art on the wall of a small mosque

A crowd watches the sacrifice

A crowd watches as the devout perform their sacrifices

A solemn sacrifice

A solemn sacrifice

Post-sacrificial animals

Post-sacrificial sheep are sold for the feast

A shopper selects fresh meat

My local friend selects fresh meat for the Korban feast.

Korban is perhaps the biggest holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide, though the way it is celebrated varies from region to region of the world.  Among Chinese Muslims, it’s observed with the same amount of festivity as Christmas in the United States.  Family, friends, and feasting are emphasized.  The big difference is that the feast is in observance of sacrifices to Allah, and there is therefore a bit more blood involved than you’ll find in the typical Christmas celebration.  I ventured into the Muslim quarter of downtown Xi’an during Korban and observed a sacrifice myself.  The ritual of sacrifice was carried out solemnly, but outside of the mosques, there was a great deal of festivity.

For one thing, the streets were bustling with people buying things.  The difference between Christmas and Korban (culturally speaking) is that the purchasing seems to focus mostly on food.  All sorts of fresh meats were on display, primarily beef, but also some mutton, all of which, I presume, came from sacrifices that day.

The sacrifice itself is not an event for those who faint at the sight of blood.  Simply put, there’s lots of it. Even I was amazed at just how much blood is in a bull, and I’m not easily surprised.  Animal lovers might squeal, but it’s hard to deny the gravity of a cultural event that doesn’t celebrate gore so much as observe death as a necessary part of life.  The same couldn’t be said of a typical American horror movie.

Once bled, the animals are skinned, cut up, and sold fresh for the night’s feast.  Whole, fresh livers and skinned animal heads are not an uncommon sight.  One wouldn’t expect animal sacrifice to be a joyous event (and please understand that I am writing this with the greatest respect), but there are many things that make the Korban week quite beautiful, from the ritual devotion, to the time spent enjoying a great meal (or several meals) with loved ones of all sorts and from all generations.

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