Islamic tombs

Islamic tombs
Muslims distinguish five types of burial sites: Gumu, tombs of ancient Islamic scholars and historic figures; Gongbei (qubba in Arabic), the burial chamber of the jiaozhu (founder/leader) of an Islamic menhuan (Sufi order); Mazha, Sufi tombs in Xinjiang; Huimingongmu or Muslim graveyards; and family graveyards. Muslims are buried with the head of the deceased oriented to the north, with the face turned to the right in the direction of Mecca.
Most gumu—also known locally as Huihuifen (Muslim tombs), Babamu and Shaihaifen (tombs of prestigious elders, scholars, teachers)—commemorate famous Islamic scholars and Muslim historical figures since the Tang dynasty. The ancient tombs built (or rebuilt) by Muslims in inland China are on the whole plain and without ornamentation. They also lack large plots of land, a feature of more modern times. Ordinary Muslim burial places are even simpler, with only a common gravestone to mark the grave. Nearly all inscriptions on tombstones are in Arabic or Persian. Only a few well-known tombs, usually built on the order of Chinese emperors, are situated in parks, like Chinese mausoleums, with an adjacent hall for prayer, a mosque, pavilions and stone carvings. Many of these famous tombs and graveyards are located in Guangzhou, Quanzhou, Fuzhou, Hangzhou, Yangzhou, Nanjing, Kunming and Hainan Island.
The tomb forms the centre of the Gongbei, the burial sites of menhuan founders and famous Sufi scholars, and most tombs feature a dome in the Arabic style. An attached building is in Chinese style, and includes a prayer chamber, meditation room, living room, bedrooms and a tower. A Gongbei is not only a place of memorial, but also an important centre of religious activity.
In Xinjiang, the tombs of famous Islamic scholars, persons of renown and members of the elite are called Mazah. The architecture is palatial and, as with Gongbei, an array of buildings provide a communal site to congregate, study and worship.
Muslim graveyards in the PRC are called Huimingongmu or, colloquially, Yidi. Most are located in the vicinity of Muslim communities in the cities or towns. Family graveyards, by contrast, are located in the countryside. In either case, only followers of Islam are given the right in the PRC to maintain their own burial sites.
See also: Islamic orders
Dillon, M. (1999). China’s Muslim Hui Community: Migration, Settlement and Sects. Richmond: Curzon.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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