A Brief History of Chang'an as China's Old Capital
In mid-December, Thursina's group consisting of 12 students and 2 companions left for China. This trip was titled the introduction of insight into further studies in China and the study of civilizational relics of the Chinese dynasty and the history of Islamic symbols that first entered China. Both of our travel destinations were fully accommodated with a visit to a city in the western part of mainland China. Xi'an, formerly known as Chang'an, was the capital of the Chinese dynasty. Chang'an was the gateway for traders who came from Arabia and Persia via the Silk Road.
This Silk Road since 1000 years ago has been famous as a good trade route between China, Arabia and Persia. Activities in and out of people from outside China affect the social conditions of people who have diverse backgrounds. Ethnicity and religion were fused and stopped in the city of Chang'an. With its role in Chinese civilization for thousands of years, this city and the surrounding area has a lot of historical traces, such as the Terracota Army site, the tomb of the Qin Dynasty Emperor, the Grand Mosque, Daming Palace (Imperial Palace of the Tang Dynasty), and several Emperor graves and sites other history. Even the largest palace that ever existed in the history of the world, Weiyang Palace, was located in this city. Unfortunately, the palace which is 6 times the size of the Forbidden City and 11 times the Vatican City has been destroyed since the destruction of the Tang Dynasty and only a piece of debris remains as a memorial.
Chang'an (Xi'an) is located in the Shaanxi province of China or in Indonesian is defined as the eternal city. This city is known as a city that has the oldest civilization history among other ancient cities in China such as Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Beijing. This is because this city is a silent witness to the dynamics of the central government in China carried out by 13 different dynasties. This wealth of ancient history of Xi'an is what made us interested in choosing it as the first city that we explored among other cities in China to be visited.
A Muslim-Friendly Chinese Campus Story
In the afternoon, around the time of Maghrib local area, we arrived at Xianyang International Airport. It was seen that the group from the campus who collaborated with Thursina had been waiting for us in front of the Arrival Gate of the airport. Mr. James and a number of students from the Shaanxi Polytechnic (SXPI) Institute helped us walk carrying our luggage to the bus to be escorted to a resting place. The warmth of the welcome and the atmosphere of the chat that is trying to be built between each other is very much felt by the students in an effort to bond with each other. The cold temperature that was carried by a sudden gust of wind made us immediately divert our thoughts to how to try as quickly as possible to get to the bus instead of slowing down by talking on the road that we previously enjoyed. A special bus from campus provided with a heating engine took us to enjoy the beautiful views of the city buildings along the way. Although we don't actually know anything about what and what each place or building is for because all the information is written in Hanzi (Chinese script). About 25 minutes of the journey was over when we arrived at the campus to be invited to have dinner first before heading to the hotel. The chefs and waiters in the kitchen were seen wearing hats (kopyah) typical of Chinese Muslims and headscarves for women. This cafeteria is apparently a cafeteria specifically for halal food provided by the campus for Muslim students.
This SXPI campus has quite a lot of Muslim students from Indonesia, Pakistan, the Middle East and some from the local area. We also feel salute and feel relieved that we will not have trouble eating for almost the next week. A form of tolerance and high hospitality is reflected in one of the best state universities in the field of vocational education to also pay attention to the needs of its Muslim students. This halal cafeteria serves a variety of foods ranging from a buffet menu of Chinese specialties, to noodles that we can choose the type of noodle and the filling itself. For six days, Thursina's students participated in on-campus learning processes and cultural exchange programs. One of them is a Public Lecture on Chang'an and Silk Road Culture in Chinese history which also provides insight to students about the history of Islam in China.
The Traces of Da'wah and Islamic Heritage in China
Discussing the history of Islam is indeed incomplete if it does not include a study of the history of Islam in China. Tracing traces of Islam in China is an interesting discussion because this bamboo curtain country has a very wide area and has a strategic role in the map of world civilization, of course including the process of spreading Islam in the world.
History records that the entry of Islam to mainland China for the first time took place during the Caliphate of Ustman bin Affan and was brought by an Islamic delegation led by Sa'ad bin Abi Waqash as the official envoy of Amirul believers. This da'wah began around the year 615 AD or 20 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Meanwhile, China was under the golden age of the Tang Dynasty under the leadership of Emperor Yong Hui. In the book History of China, it is said that the Muslim group was well received by the Emperor and even showed his tolerance for the Muslim group not to worship the Emperor because they knew that Islamic teachings forbade the tradition. Not only that, they are also allowed to build places of worship. So a mosque called Huaisheng was established or known as the Sa'ad bin Abi Waqqash Mosque in Guanzhou Province. It was in this province that the Prophet's uncle, Sa'ad bin Abi Waqash was buried. But another version states that he was buried in baqi' about 18 miles from Medina.
Besides the official envoys, Arab and Persian traders who traveled to China started from Persia and then crossed China's Xinjiang region, and finally ended up in Chinese cities such as Chang'an which is now called Xi'an city. This route is known as the Silk Road. This is where the rapid development of Islam in China began, where trade contacts and social interactions such as marriage with the local community played an important role in spreading Islam in China and eventually gave rise to the Hui ethnic group that spread throughout China.
Speaking of the spread of Islam in China can not be separated from the city of Xi'an which is the initial route of the silk route, the route of Arab and Persian traders. In Xi'an itself there is the Muslim Quarter, which is the center of Muslim community activities which consists of blocks and is inhabited by almost 70,000 Muslims. In this city there are 10 mosques and the famous one is called The Great Mosque of Xi'an or in Indonesia it is called the Great Mosque of Xi'an.
The Great Mosque of Xi'an was historically founded by Admiral Cheng Ho and was founded around the 8th century AD in the city of Xi'an which is the capital of Shaanxi Province. At that time was the heyday of trade traffic on the Silk Road. In addition to trading, they also preached to spread Islamic teachings and even asked the Emperor to bring teachers from Arabia to teach the Qur'an. And this mosque is a witness to the history of Islamic da'wah activities in the city of Xi'an.
This mosque which stands on an elongated ground measuring 48 x 248 meters has a different architectural style as mosques in general, to be more precise it resembles a pagoda in Indonesia or an ancient Chinese temple complex consisting of several pavilions and surrounded by a large wall and divided into four sections where each section is connected by a high gate. The Great Mosque of Xi'an has mainly Chinese architectural features, including a glazed roof, a phoenix-style statue and a Chinese pagoda-style roof. The nuances of Islam can be seen in various parts of the mosque with a touch of calligraphy and carvings of the Koran on one wall of the mosque. In addition, in the courtyard of this mosque, precisely in the third area complex, there is a tower called the Introspection Minaret (Menara Introspection / Supervisor) as a place to call the call to prayer for the muezzins. and in the last area there is a room for praying which can accommodate up to 1000 worshipers. Please note that this mosque has undergone several reconstructions, but it has not lost the original architecture of the mosque.
The city of Xian is a very busy area, has its own Islamic character and energy which is full of history. Not only as a place of silk trade traffic in ancient times, but also the assimilation of Arab and Chinese culture and brought a new religion to Chinese society. The civilization that started how the city of Xi'an was formed to this day. In 1998 UNESCO designated the Great Mosque of Xi'an as part of the Islamic Heritage.
Until now, the Xi'an Mosque is still busy for worship activities of the local community and is used as an object for Muslim and non-Muslim tourists. Generally, tourists come to visit to tread the history of this Old China city which was very famous in its time as a trading city. Around this mosque, tourists will be treated to lined up with souvenir traders, hawker vendors and food restaurants typical of the city of Xi'an.
After leaving the city of Xi'an, Thursina's group continued on to the capital city of modern China, namely Bejing. In Beijing, we visited several mandatory tourist spots as proof of having been to China, including the Great Wall of China, the Bird Nest Stadium. The journey from Xi'an to Beijing is taken by the Chinese version of the "Shinkansen" train. This train was able to carry us with a maximum speed of 320 km/hour. There is so much progress in various sectors in this country that it is no wonder why China has become one of the great powers that the world is paying attention to. Apart from some social aspects such as communism and discrimination among Muslim brothers in the Uighurs, it is fitting that young people who are future successors of the nation should not turn a blind eye to choosing China as their learning destination to build Indonesia. As recommended by the Prophet "Uthlubul Ilma even though it's Bish Shin".