Great Mosque of Xi’an… Islamic worship the Chinese way…
Xian was the beginning of a journey I made along the Silk Road and whilst there I visited an unusual building – the Xi’an Great Mosque.
Later in that journey I would see many grand mosques as I travelled through central Asia and the Middle East, so I was curious about this one in Xi’an. I’d heard it was one of the oldest and most renowned mosques in China, and that it was not what you’d normally expect to see. I was not disappointed.
The Great Mosque of Xi’an is pretty unique as it is an incredible fusion of Islamic mosque and Chinese temple. The mosque was first set up in 742 AD, but the current mosque dates back to the 13th or 14th century and was built in an east to west rectangle and is divided into four courtyards.
It’s original purpose was as a religious centre for Arab merchants who were trading in China, then later, in the 13th century muslims from central Asia resettled in China mixing with the Chinese to create the Hui ethnic group who use the mosque today.
Unlike most Middle Eastern mosques, the Great Mosque of Xi’an is almost completely Chinese in its construction and architectural style. There are no domes or minarets – a two-story pagoda serves as minaret. It is hard to tell it is a mosque at all until you spot the Arabic lettering and verses from the Koran on stone tablets, walls and archways.
I’d recommend a visit to the Great Mosue of Xi’an if you are ever that way…
The church at Dali is another example of the Chinese knack for putting their own spin on things… it reminded me of the mosque I’d seen in Xi’an, so I felt compelled to share this post as another example of the extraordinary things you’ll see if you travel around China.
Here are some more photographs of the Great Mosque of Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China: