Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford Online
ISSN: 2040-1876 New Series, Volume VIII, no. 3 (2016)
When speaking of t he attributes of p laces , it might be worth not ing that they are not only geophysical, biological, cultu ral and historical , but also religious, spiritual or mystical. N atural phenomena, such as mountains, rocks, fossils, individual trees, grov es, springs, lakes and rivers, are also considered sacred by some cultures . The Abrahamic religions and many other faith systems all at tach spiritual importance to certain places , and millions of people worldwide recognize and value the special significance that is attributed to them.
In the pluralistic cultural landscape of Islam, apart from the annual h ajj pilgrimage, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, mazar visit s , a pilgrimage - like practice, are symbolic of the regional cultural expression of Islam in many Muslim societies , though some such societies may proscribe it . This study is a brief ethnography of sacred sites venerated ( mazur tawuf chaig in the local vernacular ) by the small Shi’i Ismaili community of Tashkurgan, in Xinjiang in the People’s Republic of China (PRC ; see map below ).
This article documents some of the important sacred sites and their relevance today, in an age of economic and social change. Since in Islam the term ‘pilgrimage’ is often associated w ith the annual hajj to Mecca, the term ‘visit’ is used for the local pilgrimage - like tradition being discussed here to avoid confusion. The study is based on data collect ed in the Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County in Xinjiang in the summer of 2011.