Great Mosque of Xi'an

The Great Mosque of Xi’an is located near the Drum Tower on 30 Huajue Lane of Xi'an city. It is the major spot for the religious activities of over 70, 000 Moslems in Xi'an. It is also an important historical monument in Shaanxi Province. Apart from its Islamic taste and style, this mosque possesses much Chinese tradition in both design and artistic outlook. It assumes the striking features of Chinese pavilions, with painted beams and engraved ridgepoles.

Great Mosque Building Xian

Islam was founded in the early 7th century and was introduced to China in the mid-7th century. At that time, some Arabian merchants and travelers came to Northwest China by way of Persia and Afghanistan to establish diplomatic, trade, and military contacts with China. Others started their voyage from the Bangladesh Bay, crossed the Strait of Malacca, and arrived at Guangzhou, Quanzhou, Hangzhou, Yangzhou and other Chinese cities. Later, many of them settled down and married the local women. Their children became the first generation of Chinese Moslems. However, massive immigration of Moslems to China did not take place until, as late as, the early period of the 13th century. As a result of his western expedition, Genghis Khan conquered vast expanses of land from Central Asia to East Europe, including the northern part of Iran. Many of the Moslems in these conquered areas were forced to enlist in the army. Later, they made China their permanent home. Many of them were soldiers, and some were smiths and officials. They were called the Hui people in the history books of the Yuan Dynasty. The Hui people later followed Kublai Khan down to the South, helping him unify China and establish the Yuan Dynasty. In the wake of this conquest, Islam spread all over China and mosques began to appear everywhere. Many Moslems held positions both in the military and civil services in the Yuan Dynasty. A lot of Moslems took part in Zhu Yuanzhang's uprising in the early 14th century and made great contributions to the founding of the Ming Dynasty. Therefore, emperors of the early Ming Dynasty issued mandates to protect Islam and to set up mosques in honor of the Moslems for their great contributions. In the early 16th century, Islam dominated Xinjiang and spread its influence to Gansu, Ningxia and Qinghai. The religion later won domination over such ethnic groups as the Hui, the Uygur, the Kazak, the Kirgiz, the Tajik, the Tartar, the Ozbek, the Dongxiang, the Salar and the Bonan. The Moslems in Xi'an are mainly the Hui people. There are approximately 17 million Moslems in China.

Great Mosque

The Great Mosque of Xi’an is the most sizable of its kind in the city of Xi'an, and also one of the oldest, biggest and best-preserved mosques in China. The Stone Tablet on the Building of the Mosque preserved here say that it was built in 742 in the Tang Dynasty. However, judging from its architectural style, it was possibly built in the Ming Dynasty. Its four courtyards cover an area of more than 12, 000 square meters, with a building area of 4, 000 square meters. The still intact wooden memorial arch in the front yard was built at the turn of the 17th century. With glazed tiles, spectacular corners, and upturned eaves, it stands about nine meters high, and a history of about 360 years.

The stone memorial gateway in the center of the second courtyard is flanked by two tall tablets, with dragons carved on each. They record the details of the repair work ever conducted since the building of the mosque. One tablet bears the characters by the Song master calligrapher Mi Fu:"May Islam Fill the Universe." The other bears the characters by the Ming master calligrapher Dong Qichang, "Royally Bestowed." These characters are typical example of traditional Chinese calligraphy.

The Local Muslims in Xi'an Great Mosque

At the entrance of the third courtyard is a hall built by the order of the Royal Court, where a Crescent Tablet shows the calculation of the Hui Calendar is stored. The calendar was compiled by Xiao Xining, who was in charge of the mosque in the early period of the Qing Dynasty. A three-storied octagonal wooden structure called the Retrospection Tower stands in the center of the courtyard. It functions the same as the minaret in an average Arabian mosque. Orders are often sent from the tower to call the Moslems to come to worship. The five wooden houses, called "water houses" in the southwest section of the mosque, are where the believers bathe themselves before they attend their services.

Great Mosque

Inside the fourth courtyard, there is a structure called the Phoenix Pavilion, a place where worshipers wait for their turn to go to the prayer hall. The 1,300-square-meter prayer hall stands at the back of the Phoenix Pavilion. It can hold over 1,000 worshipers at a time. The ceiling is decorated with over 600 panels. The walls of the hall, the entrance as well as the panels, are decorated with patterns of trailing plants and Arabic letters. The Shrine at the western end of the hall is where the Imam and worshipers chant the Koran and pay homage while facing in the direction of Mecca.

The Moslems in China share much the same customs with their brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world. They worship five times a day: at dawn, at noon, in the afternoon, at dusk, and at night.

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