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Two Million Visit China's Oldest Hand-written Koran

updated: 2012-04-01

Xinhua, March 30, 2012  
Nearly two million people from all over the world have watched China's oldest hand-written copy of the Koran in the museum in which it has been housed since 2009, according to figures newly released to Xinhua.
Guarded day and night by an elder of Salar ethnicity, the historic multi-volume religious work is found in the Hand-written Koran Museum in Jiezi Mosque in Salar autonomous county of Xunhua, China's only Salar autonomous county.
"This is our treasure, one of the world's most well-preserved hand-written copies of the Koran," said Nurimani, the prized exhibit's 60-year-old guard, whose Muslim ethnic group is credited with bringing this copy of the Koran, the central religious text of Islam, to the region around China's Yellow River.
The hand-written Koran in 30 volumes is tangible evidence for the study of Salar history, said Nurimani.
Its 860-odd pages were filled during the 8th to 13th century, according to experts with China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
Salar people are Muslims and descendants of the western Turkic tribes, who used to live in today's Turkmenistan. Their ancestors left middle Asia 700 years ago, carrying the hand-written Koran, and finally settled around the Yellow River.
The religious work is bound to a beautiful legend by the Salar people. It is said the Koran was carried by a white camel during the migration. The Salars lost the animal when they arrived in Xunhua by the Yellow River, according to Nurimani.
On the second day, they found a fresh spring in Jiezi. The camel was found lying by the spring, having become a big white stone. The water in the spring tasted just like the water back home for the Salars, so they decided to settle around the waterway, naming it Camel Spring, he said.
After that, the Koran was stored in the small town guarded by Salars, more recently managed for preservation by cultural authorities and occasionally exhibited.
The volumes excited the Muslim world when they were shown at an international exhibition in Syria 70 year ago, Nurimani said. But the years took their toll, and the Koran's long-term preservation was only ensured when a project began to repair it and put it on regular display to the public.
"The volumes were kept in a coffer, and damaged during their long history. They got wet, dented, and some paper broke off," Nurimani said.
They were taken out of the safebox in 2006 for repair by Xi Sancai, an expert in paper heritage and director of the culture protection technology institute of Nanjing Museum in eastern Jiangsu Province. After the work, the volumes were listed as a National Precious Ancient Book by Chinese authorities.
In 2009, the Hand-written Koran Museum was built to protect the volumes in a more scientific way, with just a few held in glass cases and the rest placed in specially designed storage away from public eyes. The attraction has registered more than 600,000 visitors each year since then, according to Nurimani.
The elder said, "As a Muslim Salar, to guard the Koran is our honored responsibility."

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