"Do not over-dry your footwear and never forget the past," says an Uighur inscription painstakingly transcribed in an ethereal script on the gable over the mosque entrance. It was a merchant of the first guild called Valibay-akhun Yuldashev who decided to build this incredible construction, and these are his words that adorn the gable. The story goes that when the merchant decided to build this mosque on the Great Silk Road and began searching for craftsmen, there was no-one willing to take the work on, because Yuldashev set one daunting stipulation: use no nails. A wandering dervish who visited the merchant told him about an architect in China named Khun Pit, who he said might be willing to do it. Such was the merchants enthusiasm for the project that he joined the next caravan leaving for China and went in search of the architect. When he finally tracked the man down, the merchants offer was so tempting that the craftsman turned down a few profitable contracts to build temples and set off for Zharkent instead.
The construction of the mosque started in 1887, and Yuldashev spent what was at the time the enormous sum of 300,000 gold roubles on it, making him a considerable patron of the arts as well as a successful merchant. The mosque - a meeting point for Central Asian and Chinese architecture - is most unusual. The main material used in the construction was wood - beams made of Tian Shan firs which arrived in Zharkent from the Aksu and Ketmen mountains, travelling 200 kilometres on bullock carts. When the clay for the foundations was brought in, the whole populations of Zharkent and nearby villages were drafted in to knead it. Only after the clay became as hard as rock was it laid as the foundations of the mosque.
Wisely steered by the Chinese architect, 75 carpenters worked tirelessly for several years. We can still admire the results today: the mosques frame consists of 122 wooden posts linked via a special system of joints and beams. No nails or iron bolts were used in the building, just as Yuldashev had stipulated.
It took only one summer to build and assemble the main wooden frame of the mosque, but it wasn't until 1892 that construction was completed and the mosque opened. The exterior boasts features such as a soaring roof with upturned edges and a gallery surrounding the building with cylindrical columns. There are large cornices richly decorated with woodcarving and multi-coloured designs, and the surfaces of the arches and walls are covered with the finest painting and carving.
Over 100 years after it was built, the building is still striking for its originality and elegance. This harmonious combination of Islamic architecture and classical Chinese style is a marvellous sight, and it makes you realise that nothing is impossible for a real craftsman. The soaring minarets and the fence surrounding the mosque make it look like a pagoda so that you really feel as if you're in the Celestial Kingdom. However, the main doorway was made in the Central Asian style: its surface is covered with white glazed tiles with a blue ornamental pattern and inscriptions in Arabic. The mosques finishing touches - which include arabesque designs, stylised floral patterns, decorated panels and the most skilful filigree carving on alabaster so fine that it looks like lace
- are particularly stunning, and the bright colours interlaced into superb designs make the mosque look like something out of an Oriental fairytale. The Chinese craftsmen used just four colours in 120 designs, each of which is unique: green - the colour of Islam; blue - the colour of the sky; yellow
- the colour of the sun; and white - the colour of the human soul. It was thought that combining these four colours would bring peace and wellbeing.
There are very few mosques like this in the world. One similar construction was destroyed by the Communists in Shanghai; another was burnt down in Kulja (Yining).
One place not to be missed when visiting Zharkent mosque is a tree known as Aulie-Agash and thought to be over 700 years old. It's said that your fondest wishes will come true if you make them under this tree. This mighty old elm has a huge trunk; in order to encircle it, seven people would have to join hands. Its mighty twisting branches bend down to the earth, and the roots spread out for a whole hectare. There are said to be only three such trees in the world, with the other two growing in China and Turkey.
Young elms bend their tops to the senior tree, and if you stand in the middle of the grove near Aulie-Agash, the twisted branches look like the shanyrak, the top of the yurt and - to Kazakhs - a symbol of the home and hearth.
There is a steady flow of pilgrims to Aulie-Agash: some ask their ancestral spirits to heal their illnesses, other ask to be blessed with children and others ask simply for luck and happiness. This place is full of legends, and if you're lucky the guardians of the mosque will share some of them with you.
In Soviet times this place of worship was used as a warehouse, and later on it became a chaykhana (tea house), then for several years a barracks for border guards serving on the Chinese frontier. This beautiful building has also been used as a cinema and as a place to billet officials on business trips. The mosque was severely damaged in a powerful earthquake in 1910. Some years later, in 1949, it was taken into the care of the state. Its revival started in 1969, when engineering surveys were done and the construction and decor were studied. Restoration work in 1975-1978 ended with a museum being set up here, unusually for that time since religion was frowned upon by the Soviets. Renovation was carried out in 2001-2004, when the roof was repaired and the main doorway restored. Now visitors can really appreciate the glory of this mosque, which has had such a fascinating and chequered past.

  • Комментарии отсутствуют