The Great Mosque

Xi'an's Great Mosque is China's oldest, largest and most famous mosque. Located on Huajue (change feeling) Lane in the city, the mosque was originally built in 742 AD during Emperor Xuanzong's reign in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Islam was first introduced to China about this time by merchants and traders coming from Persia and Afghanistan. Many of these people settled and mixed with the local community, bringing their religion with them and the mosque was built in their honour.

Xi'an's great mosque is well known for its unique architecture which is traditional Chinese mixed with Islamic art and design. Changes and additions during the Song (960-1279), Yuan (1271-1638), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties have all contributed their own features to the complex. Covering over 6000 square meters, the mosque is divided into four courtyards.

In the first stands a beautifully designed nine meter tall wooden arch with three chambers by its side containing Ming and Qing dynasty furniture. The second contains a stone arch with two steles inscribed by the famous calligraphers Mi Fu and Dong Qichang. A wooden three-storey minaret type tower standing inside the Honoured Prayer Hall is in the third courtyard. The fourth is the most important and contains such sights as the Phoenix Pavilion, a fish pool and the Main Worship Hall. This hall holds over 1000 people and is covered in about 600 panels of pictures and designs.

Although the main hall is not open to non-Muslims, the mosque is still a nice place to visit to wander around admiring its design and specific type of culture.