Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the largest community of China's Muslims, is a land of longevity.
While there are five centenarians for every 1 million people across China, on average, in Ningxia, a region with a population of 5.8 million, the proportion is 80 per 1 million, with two oldest being 120. The majority of them are people of Hui Nationality.
Na Shengcai, a 96-year-old man in Yinchuan, the regional capital, still has good hearing and eyesight. He cooks for himself when his descendants are busy with farming and goes to Mosque five times a day.
Na said the secret of maintaining a long life is "eating beef and mutton, drinking tea and going to Mosque."
Beef and mutton are believed to be capable of supplying adequate quantity of heat and many kinds of ingredients of high nutritive value during the long period of frigid winter in Ningxia.
Tea, especially the special variety in Ningxia, is also good for health. Local people are indulged in drinking tea containing fruit of Chinese wolfberry, dates, sesame, walnut seeds, raisin and dried longan, which help to enrich vital energy and prevent senility.
People of Hui nationality also follow many dietary rules, such as avoiding smoking, drinking and eating pork.
Ramadan, the month during which Muslims fast, may also play a positive role. During this period, Muslims neither eat nor drink during daylight hours. The month-long fasting will not harm health. On the contrary, the practice will promote digestion, lower high blood pressure and alleviate symptoms of other diseases, a local physician said.
"My religious belief makes me feel calm and tranquil," Na said. "Completing the whole set of movements at a religious ceremony is a kind of exercise as well."
The date of Ramadan coincides with the Double Ninth Festival, a festival for the elderly, on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese lunar calendar.
(Xinhua News Agency October 23, 2004)