A 229-member Muslim delegation from northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region left here Friday on their journey to Mecca, Islam's holiest site in Saudi Arabia, to participate in the hajj ritual.
The delegation was composed of farmers of the Hui nationality and imams of mosques. One-third of the group are women, and the oldest member is 70.
By the end of last year, 2,045 Muslims had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. The trip costs at least 30,000 yuan (about US$3,600) per person, a huge sum for people living in a poverty-stricken area, said Yang Shengrui, an official of the regional commission of ethnic affairs.
Before 1978, only seven Hui Muslims from Ningxia traveled to Mecca for the hajj; at that time, the cost of the trip was just 8,000 yuan, said Ma Zhanquan, an imam.
Yang attributed the rise in participants to the sharp increase in per capita income of local farmers.
The Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is home to 1.78 million Hui Muslims, accounting for one-third of the region's total population.
(People's Daily 02/09/2001)