|Chinese Muslims greet holy month of Ramadan|
YINCHUAN, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Millions of Muslims across China greeted the Muslim holy month of Ramadan Saturday, a season of fasting and spiritual reflection.
Forty-eight-year-old farmer Ma Guoxing, a Muslim of Hui ethnic group in Tuanjie Village in Wuzhong, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, got up very early Saturday and went to a local mosque along with thousands of male Muslims to hear preachings given by an imam.
"It is a very important month for us," Ma said. "If we do a good deed in Ramadan, it will mean we do 1,000 good deeds in other periods of time."
"In a whole of a year, we are expecting this month to come to do more good deeds and accumulate merits," he said.
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.
A month later, Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the festival that signals the end of Ramadan.
More than 2.2 million people of Hui ethnic group live in Ningxia, or about one-third of the total population in the region. Like Ma, most of them began the Ramadan fast Saturday.
About 12,000 people in the largest Musilm community of Beijing, the Niujie Street in the southern part of the city, also entered into the month of fast Saturday.
"Ramadan can strengthen our mind, restrain our selfish desires and teach us to lead a life in a healthy way," a young man named Jianming of Hui ethnic group said.
China has now 20 million Muslims, about half of them being from the Hui ethnic group.
Ramadan began Friday in some areas of Ningxia and for millions of other Muslims in the neighboring Gansu, Qinghai provinces and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
To greet the arrival of Ramadan, 43-year-old Abdul'ahat Kurban has prepared a great deal of food for his family in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi. Like many others, he will send some of his food to his friends.
"The country is so prosperous today that few people cannot eat his fill, but we Muslims still keep to the tradition of offering food to others and carry forward the fine virtue Allah taught us," he said.
For Mila, a Muslim resident of Uzbek ethnic group in Urumqi, this year's Ramadan has a special meaning as the city is still recovering from last month's deadly riot that left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 others injured.
"We went through unprecedented agony more than a month ago. May all the deceased rest in peace and the injured recover soon," she said.
"I wish all people chastened by Ramadan will become more kind to others and achieve a tranquil and harmonious state of mind, andI also wish people of all ethnic groups in the country are united as one forever," she said.