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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Back after the Hajj, Muslims reminisce (3)

By Li Yao (China Daily)

08:46, December 05, 2011

Liu also experienced rising international status and better treatment as a Chinese national. "People recognized we were from China and offered handshakes and hugs," he said, choked with deep emotion.

About 2 million people worldwide make the pilgrimage to Mecca every year.

As one of Islam's five pillars, the Hajj is required of all Muslims who are physically able to perform it at least once in their lives.

The five-day Hajj lasted from Nov 4 to 8 this year.

China is home to about 22 million Muslims, 70 percent of whom are concentrated in the western provinces, according to the 2000 census.

Muslims can apply online or through local Islamic associations for the trip. Every Hajj paid 31,000 yuan ($4,875) this year to the organizing team under China's Islamic Association, which covered transportation and hotel expenses.

Yao Yixia, 70, completed the pilgrimage in 2007. At 3 am on Sunday, she and another 50 Muslims left their community mosque in Beijing to wait for the returning Hajjs at the airport.

Yao's only son died of a sudden illness in 1998 at the age of 19, and her mother died in 2005.

Since their deaths, she has taken comfort in doing good deeds for the community and fellow Muslims. She is considering a second pilgrimage in her mother's honor.

Ma Lizhou, 39, packed his extended family in three cars and drove from Tianjin to Beijing on Saturday, to welcome his 66-year-old aunt back. Ma said the family was liberal with traditional Muslim rules, and did not wear caps or head scarves.

"The elderly are in a better position to make the pilgrimage and apply strict discipline. People of my age still have a lot of responsibilities to worry about, so my time will come some years later," he said.

Ma's 12-year-old son, Ma Ding, volunteered to join the welcome team. The sixth-grader is the only Muslim among his 47 classmates.

"I expect a great-aunt very different from the last time I saw her, a stricter and more principled Hajj," he said.

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