This is the Pavilion of Wang Yue. A small lookout post where people can see out over the gardens but not high enough to see over the wall. It is plain and unadorned to keep with the solemn feel of this place. (ALEX MURRAY)
Nestled deep in the heart of Yangzhou is one of the few operating Mosques in the area. There is a garden, a prayer area, a pavilion and the tombs. The most famous of the tombs is that of General Zhang Zhao Yong, given the name Zhang by the Chinese aristocracy for his prowess in battle. An Islamic Military Officer from the Qing Dynasty, Zhao Yong was skilled in horseback riding and archery. He died, but for his heroism in battle the emperor erected a tomb.
Much later a Mosque was built around it. The trail from the gates to his tomb is known as General Zhang Zhao Yong’s Holy Path.
Flash forward to modern times and the mosque is now a center of Islamic influence in the Yangzhou area and the tombs are a tourist attraction. Right outside the gates is a very famous Islamic Restaurant and purveyor of fine noodles, La Mein. We eat lunch there sometimes and have always wanted to explore the grounds behind the gates.
When we arrived the guard ushered us through the doors into the giant courtyard. The apartments of the Chinese Muslims that lived and worked in the area framed the grounds on all sides. It made the area private and managed to block the sounds of traffic.
The guard followed us.
It was either a slow day and he was bored or he had an ongoing mission to make sure foreigners follow the rules while walking the grounds. We are delinquents, after all.
That was how we walked the Holy Path.
Nearly at the end of the three hundred metres is the small pavilion of Wang Yue. You can climb to the top of the pagoda and see out over the grounds where there are usually, trees and flowers. It is winter though. A better time to have come would be in the spring when everything is green and growing.
China waits for no man though and to beat the crowds sometimes you have to go when it is cold. Our experience reflected this. We were able to see the entirety of the compound, the tombs of the Hui and the General and we were the only people walking the path.
It was most worth it.
The guard soon left us behind, finally deciding we were harmless. Once he was out of sight I looked around to find something delinquenty to do, but found nothing. The grounds of a famous Mosque do not exactly lend it itself towards troublemaking. Most likely because they were designed for prayer and circumspection. Oh well.
We finished our tour around the small reflecting pool and passed the empty exercise equipment that was build for the Muslim people and left.
It was time for lunch, and the Hui people of Yangzhou make really good noodles.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 5, 2013