XINING - Waking up early in the morning, tens of thousands of Muslims in northwest China's Qinghai Province flocked to mosques on Saturday, August 18, to celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
"This is one of the most sacred and honorable festivals for our Muslims," Ma Guoqing, a villager of Taerwan Village in the Hui-Tu Autonomous County of Datong in northwest China's Qinghai Province, told Xinhua news agency.
Like thousands of Chinese Muslims in the province, Ma, 57, got up at 6 am, washed himself and cleaned his house for the celebration of `Eid Al-Fitr.
He also donned his new festival outfits and joined over 4,200 others at the local mosque to welcome the first day of fast-breaking festival.
Elsewhere in Dongguan Mosque, located in the provincial capital of Xining, more than 150,000 Muslims filed into to attend the fast-breaking service and hear imams preach.
Due to different religious sects, Qinghai starts `Eid celebrations on Saturday.
Other Muslim-populated regions, including Xinjiang and Ningxia, will celebrate the festival on Sunday.
`Eid Al-Fitr is one the two main Islamic religious festivals along with `Eid Al-Adha.
During `Eid days, families and friends exchange visits to express well wishes and children, wearing new clothes bought especially for `Eid, enjoy going out in parks and open fields.
After special prayers to mark `Eid Al-Fitr, festivities and merriment start with visits to the homes of friends and relatives.
Traditionally, everyone wears new clothes for `Eid, and the children look forward to gifts and the traditional `ediya (cash).
Engaging the poor in `Eid festivities, Dongguan mosque has set up three donation sites to collect zakat money for the poor.
"Giving to charity is a merit for Muslims," said Ma Yong'an, who is in charge of one donation site in Dongguan Mosque, adding that his site can collect about 1,000 yuan (157 US dollars) every day.
The Zakat should be given during the holy fasting month of Ramadan any time but before the `Eid prayer.
"Ramadan and the fast-breaking festival can purify the souls of the Muslims and strengthen their respect for Allah," said Mian Weizhong, a professor at Qinghai Normal University.
Atheist China recognizes five religions Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism and Buddhism and tightly regulates their administration and practice.
According to official data, China has 22 million Muslims, most of them are concentrated in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, and Qinghai regions and provinces.
Smaller Muslim communities can also be found throughout interior China.
Unofficially, Muslim groups say the number is even higher, stating that there are from 65-100 million Muslims in China up to 7.5 percent of the population.