Jasmine Yeshan Zhang was born and raised in Xinjiang, China and is now based in New York City. As a Han Chinese, growing up in a region where a majority of the population is Muslim, she developed interests in other religions and subcultures. Her...
I was born and raised in a small town in Xinjiang, northwest China, where a majority of the population is Muslim. As a non-religious Han Chinese, I have never been to a mosque. Being aware that the mosque is a religious place only permitting believers in China, I was always curious about the stories inside the religious sites.
Due to the intense situation in Xinjiang, more mosques are being torn down. While some historical mosques remain open to the public, they are only keeping open as tourist attractions. Last year, when I took a tour of Id Kah mosque, the largest mosque in China, I felt that the empty space had already lost its spirit.
I was not able to document Muslim community in the mosques in China because of the strict supervision, so I expanded my idea in the United States. Knowing that people in the United States have more religious freedom, my photographs document people's life inside the mosque, showing the complexity of Islam in the United States. These photographs were taken in New York and New Jersey. What I discovered was that people see the mosque more than a place to worship in: they see it as their second home.