Crusaders would be stunned at amiability between "heresies" in this small mountainous town in southwest China's Sichuan Province, whose name means "peace-stability."
It amazes Zhang Jianquan's to see permanent peace between differing religions over the last century in Kangding, the capital county of Ganzi prefecture, where the majority ethnicity is Tibetan.
"I've worked here for 15 years, and amazingly have never seen any conflict or spat between different religious communities," said Zhang, deputy head of Kangding's religion bureau.
Buddhists, Christians and Muslims have lived peacefully together in this 1.45-sq-km town, which has a population of 30,000, since the 1860s. "The government now calls for building a harmonious society. Here you see we already have it," Zhang laughed.
Ma Shenghua, 85 and a Muslim, and his Tibetan Buddhist wife Rinzin Lhamo, 77, married 40 years ago. Ma goes to the mosque once a week and the wife pays regular visits to the Anjue Temple, the biggest of four Buddhist temples in Kangding.
"We respect each other's beliefs and care about each other in life. We are happy," Ma, of Hui ethnic origin, said. Most Hui people believe in Islam. There are about 400 Muslims in the town.
Hui people first moved to the town in 1646 and the first mosque emerged in the 18th century. Less than 100 meters from the mosque is the church for 300 Catholics. Two thirds of them are Tibetans.
Ma Zezhi, the 38-year-old imam in charge of the mosque, said he has a vivid memory of Priest Li Lun's inaugural ceremony two and half years ago, when people from all religious groups made it a public joy. "In Kangding, we respect each other's religion and no interferences. We cherish this sort of historic tradition and nobody would like to break it," the imam said.
The government rebuilt three Tibetan Buddhist temples, the mosque, the Catholic church and a Protestant one in early 1980s, following the destructive decade of the Cultural Revolution.
Some 150 meters from the church is the Anjue Temple, which dates back 380 years. "If people of different religions come in, we will give warm recommendations. We won't force others to follow our doctrines," Lama Wanggyai said. China's new constitution, adopted in 1980s, promises and protects freedom of religion.
Ma Shijie, a Muslim businessman from Gansu Province, came in and asked Wanggyai about the temple's history. Ma had just finished his prayers in the mosque and came on purpose to visit the famous temple.
Kangding used to be a prosperous trading center where Tibetan businessmen brought rare herbs and horses and bartered for tea and silk from other parts of China. It became a key link connecting Tibet and inland regions, some 700 years ago, through which Tibetan senior lamas and officials went to Beijing to pay their tributes to the central government.
"Most people here follow Tibetan Buddhism, while minorities have other beliefs. We have government support and it helps build a healthy environment for religious freedom," Priest Li said.
(Xinhua News Agency October 28, 2005)